Most small to medium-sized estate planning law firms don’t have the budget to create, produce, edit and run a large-scale media advertising campaign. Newspaper advertising rates in many markets are very expensive, even as readership declines. Television advertising, likewise, is both expensive and fragmented.
Yet, in today’s experience economy, content is king. In past columns, I’ve harped on the necessity of creating a valuable educational experience to promote your practice. Many people are both mystified and intimidated by the thought of sitting down with an attorney to create a good estate plan. While you might guess that wealthier individuals have much experience dealing with professionals, and consequently would be comfortable discussing complex estate planning issues, the reality is that no one wishes to discuss their own demise.
Death, taxes and complex family relationships aren’t at the top of our “what we should talk about today” lists. Somehow, we need to impress upon our potential clients the need, then demonstrate that we provide a uniquely positive client experience.
Before reviewing distribution channels, you need deliverables. Since you’re striving for an educational experience, you need to educate your clients as to why they need your services. But keep this in mind: It’s not about you—it’s about them. Begin by considering why most clients employ you. Is it because they’ve heard recent tax law changes require an update to their plan? Have they relocated to a new state and wonder whether their existing wills or trusts remain valid? Did their family or financial situation recently change?
Once you’ve narrowed that list, you can begin strategizing how best to answer the common questions. This is the first step to creating educational content that will attract clients just like the ones you typically serve. I suggest starting by writing out the common questions you hear and the answers that you typically give.
Determine Distribution Channels
Now comes the tough part. In today’s marketplace, there are a thousand ways to get your content out, but that also means that your target market is constantly bombarded with marketing. How do you cut through the clutter?
Your website is an obvious starting point. If you haven’t yet invested dollars and time in a good website, now’s the time. Websites are today’s calling cards. If yours is out of date, lacking information or just plain boring, you’re losing business. It’s also your very own advertising space to create and post the educational content that you should be creating to attract A+ clients.
You can highlight your expertise by authoring articles in professional and trade journals. When I was a young attorney breaking into my local market, I published an article in The Practical Tax Lawyer and then sponsored several continuing education presentations to local attorneys, CPAs and financial advisors. In fact, those presentations led me to the firm I’ve been practicing in for the past 24 years, as the senior partner here saw me and lured me away from another local firm. I’ve since published in Trusts & Estates magazine, The Florida Bar Journal and similar publications. In those days, no one had a website to publish their brilliance. Today, when you publish in professional journals, you can link your wisdom for the world to see.
Newspaper/Magazine Columns and Blogs
Local periodicals are always looking for content. If you can land a continuing column on your practice area, you’ll be creating content that you can recycle as a blog on your website and post on Facebook and Twitter. If you can’t secure a continuing column, become a guest contributor when legal and tax developments warrant.
Podcasts & Videos
It’s inexpensive to purchase prosumer podcast equipment to house right in your own office. I created a soundproof media room complete with podcast and video capabilities out of an old file room that’s no more than 32 square feet. You can find the results of my media room here, and I’m always adding to it.
Podcasts are valuable in that many people don’t take the time to read your lengthy letters or posts on your website. But they’ll take five minutes to listen to something interesting. To that end, make sure that your podcasts are short and to a very specific point or subject.
The world of publishing on demand, including e-books, makes creating your own easier than ever. Amazon’s Createspace, Outskirts Press and Archway Publishing are just three of a plethora of self-publishing choices available. You can become an expert in your field by authoring your own book or series of books.
A word of caution: Do it right. Take the time to consider your book’s subject. Hire an editor to tighten up your content and grammar. A good graphic design artist can create both an enticing cover and make the insides look as if your work is the product of a major publishing house. My most recent book has color illustrations throughout, which add pizzazz to what could be an otherwise dry subject.
Don’t just wait for your audience to buy your book. Quite frankly, that won’t happen. You’ll need to purchase it in quantity and distribute it for free to your existing clients and centers of influence. If you happen to earn some income selling it on amazon.com or some other website, all the better, but your efforts shouldn’t be on becoming the next Ed Slott. Focus instead on using your book as a great educational tool for your clients, which in turn will peg you as the expert.
Creating an educational experience through content isn’t easy. It takes a commitment both of time and money. I like to consider it an investment in my future and that of my firm. I hope that this article sparked some thoughts that will help you become a media superstar.
Until next time.