New Zealand Law Society - It’s time to tell the world you’re an expert

It’s time to tell the world you’re an expert

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The concept of a visible expert or thought leader is not new. The term “thought leadership” was coined over 20 years ago by Joel Kurtzman, when as editor of the Strategy + Business magazine, he interviewed a number of executives and academics whose ideas he considered worth discussing.

A thought leader is someone who demonstrates leadership within their particular industry through sharing compelling intellectual capital.

Positioning oneself as a thought leader is an ideal marketing strategy for lawyers. By their very nature lawyers have specialist expertise. The key is to share that knowledge with more than just colleagues or a few clients and in doing so become visible. In other words, start telling the world you are an expert.

Powerful benefits

Actively adopting a thought leadership strategy that positions you or your firm as experts will require time, drive, planning and the commitment to step outside your comfort zone. Warren Buffet, Jim Collins, Seth Godin and Sheryl Sandberg didn’t become go-to people overnight. It took real expertise and effort. The payback of a thought leadership position offers powerful benefits:

It demonstrates your intellectual horsepower. By publishing your unique perspective on topics relevant to your area of practice, you provide potential clients with tangible evidence that you know what you are doing. And your intriguing, insightful pieces also provide affirmation for your existing clients.

It makes it easier for potential clients to choose you. Clients take a risk when they engage a law firm and naturally do all they can to mitigate that risk – consider how much of your new business is referral-based. By offering written proof of your expertise, logic and ability to simplify complex matters via a topical article on your website, you have taken the first step in turning a website hit into a prospect.

It allows you to stand out. What better way to position yourself as a specialist and differentiate your firm from your competitors than by establishing yourself as a thought leader in your chosen area of law.

It will help potential clients find you. Google rates websites that have regular, relevant content. If your articles are updated on your website on a regular basis, you will rank well with Google, making it easy for potential clients to find your website when they search for law firms. Additionally, if your articles are on specific areas of law, such as IT Security, and are written with “key words” in mind, those googling “specialists in IT security” will be directed to your site.

Research shows those regarded as thought leaders within their fields command higher fees. Recent American research from the Hinge Research Institute, revealed clients will pay over 13 times more for a visible expert than a regular professional.

Becoming a thought leader is a strategic, planned, cumulative activity that starts with defining your areas of expertise.

No matter what area of law you practise in, what’s important is whether you are perceived as an expert within your chosen field. Having decided your specific area of focus and checked out how your competition stacks up, you then need to identify your audience. You don’t actually have to tell the world you are an expert, just a defined group within it.

Key influencers

Defining who you are trying to influence will then drive your strategy, as it will determine where and how you communicate your knowledge. Potential clients are an obvious target as your goal is to raise your profile, and inclusion of key influencers is also critical.

Knowing where your expertise lies and who’s radar you want to be on is just the start. The real key to being a thought leader is how you make that audience feel smarter.

You will need to start generating unique and original ideas that solve seemingly complex issues within your chosen area, followed by dissemination of those ideas in a planned and structured way. The exact method used to get the word out will be determined by where your target audience gathers to communicate and seek information. It will be a combination of blogging, social media and speaking engagements that drive your visibility.

While this may sound daunting, the reality is you have probably already generated much of the content, which could be hidden in a client newsletter deep within your website or in an obscure publication your actual audience doesn’t see.

Speaking engagements, keynote presentations and white papers are not new concepts. What is new is the idea of a planned strategic approach to refining and sharing your expertise, to ensure real return on the time you invest.

The advent of social media, particularly in the form of LinkedIn and Twitter, has provided experts with a new arsenal of tools to reach their audience and cultivate a following.

But remember, sharing everything you know is not thought leadership. Think insight – not information. Your aim is to provide compelling intellectual capital whatever the forum.

Sarah McGregor and Anna Lundon established The Marketing Loft in 2014. This boutique marketing consultancy offers law firms experienced, energetic and business-savvy marketers who genuinely understand the needs of legal practice. For more information contact Sarah McGregor, sarah@themarketingloft.co.nz.

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