How is my/our work doing?
I hear the question (or some similar version of it) frequently when clients are ready to access analytics generated by their content on JD Supra.
Within that one question are many others that can give meaning, insight, and value to your metrics.
You should regularly look at analytics with specific questions informed by your understanding of behavior within the marketing & business development funnel and how published thought leadership matches to it.
Here's what I mean by that.
Background: "The Funnel" 101
Forgive me if this is obvious: for people tasked with marketing and business development (or, dare I say, sales), the idea of a funnel is helpful. It enables us to understand and organize the behaviors of people who might become our clients and it helps us match our activities, set our priorities, based on those behaviors. (More on this below.)
Every stage of what so many call "the client journey" matters greatly — you can't have one without the other. McDonald's doesn't wait until you are hungry (read: interested) to start marketing to you. Like all of the most successful corporations, they're constantly maintaining awareness to be sure we never forget. Their solution remains top of mind. Would you like fries with that?
Although professional services are decidedly more complex than a cheeseburger with fries, this concept of the funnel also pertains — and is the source of some of the most important questions you can bring to your thought leadership analytics. For example:
Awareness - Establishing Credibility of Your Firm & Authors
At the top of the funnel, your activities (in this case, writing and disseminating insights and analysis) generate visibility within the largest pool of people, extending the brand, reputation, experience, and credibility of the firm and the professionals who created the content. (Every piece of content is branded to the firm and bylined to a person.)
Among this large pool of visibility we find clients, prospective clients, members of the media, referral sources, colleagues, and others whose importance may emerge downstream. So, important, big picture question:
- How many people have we reached during this period? The answer is a number: the total count of reads of your work. (Another way of phrasing this question so that it means something to the firm: how many people know what we are good at, what we offer?)
Next, break down that broad visibility, matching it to the strategic direction of the firm or specific practice groups:
- In which industries are we generating the most visibility?
- In which companies do we see the most engagement with our work?
- Which content (and subjects) generated the most attention?
The answers to these questions (all available within your JD Supra analytics), lead to important follow-up questions that might inform your overall content plan, and/or highlight BD opportunities you didn't see before:
- Are we being read by people in the industries and companies we serve? If yes, great. Keep doing it. If no, time to evaluate. More questions:
- Does this represent a growth opportunity we hadn't seen before? What else can we learn about these companies and/or sectors where we appear to be gaining traction? Or, maybe, how might we alter our content to reach the people we want to reach (is it a question of framing/titles? Or finding the subjects they actually care about?)
- Are we being read by our clients? If yes, terrific — and this places your activities much further down the funnel, in Retention. Your insights give existing clients the confidence that they chose well when deciding to work with you. Sometimes, they also lead to new work, expanded relationships.
- Are we being read by prospective clients? By companies/teams we have pitched? (For more, watch this short video tip on reader data and RFP teams.)
In this digital age of mass, quickly shared information, often awareness can generate even more awareness. So:
- Did we earn any media attention or blog mentions with our work? How did that extend our reach into particular sectors or industries? Often the answer here might be in the form of mainstream, regional, or niche media visibility.
- Who shared our work (on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc)? Clients? Prospective clients? Referral sources? Others?
These questions (of which there are plenty more in the awareness phase) begin to take us to the next stage, a smaller set of that larger, vital whole:
Interest - The Beginning of a Relationship
Some of the people made aware of you by reading your thought leadership begin to develop, now or later, a deeper interest in what you have to say, and often their behavior exhibits this interest. They re-read your content; share it internally with colleagues, or externally with their own networks; follow your firm and/or individual authors to receive additional insights from you; and so on. With this in mind, questions to root out interest:
- Did readers from a specific company return to a particular post again and again?
In your JD Supra analytics you can find examples of this critically important question when you see a higher count of individual reads within a specific company. It likely indicates that your content has spurred conversation within a team, or requires frequent reference. When a reader returns to your insights again and again, take this not merely as awareness. This is interest. Additional:
- Are our clients reading about matters for which we do not serve them?
No brainer: your serve a company on an IP matter but they return again and again to something written by your Labor & Employment group about employee benefit plans, or cybersecurity, or remote work, or... A handful of well-placed questions in your next client call (what Clinton Gary calls Meaningful Facetime) can help to uncover if this is a new opportunity for you. And, if read actively by people at a prospective company, not yet a client, you are now armed with additional insight regarding what they care about most.
- How many people jumped from an article to view our firm profile, or the individual profiles of authors? Keep track of that ratio: content views/profile views. Does it alter much? If yes, try to uncover why...
- How many people followed our firm and authors during this period? Exhibits the interest in hearing more insights from you, going forward. Do you suggest that people follow you at the end of your posts? You should.
- How many invitations did I/we receive to: speak on webinars; write follow-up posts in industry news outlets; grant re-print permissions; and so on. This important interest by key people leads to even further awareness/visibility in strategically important sectors. You should be monitoring it, considering how to increase it.
Within the shares by individual readers reported in your analytics, certain notable people will stand out. So, ask:
- What might we learn about those key people who shared our work?
Look at what else they are sharing, read their updates, consider their BIOs (all available on the public, social networks in which sharing occurs, or on their blogs, as well as in your analytics dashboard). What insights can you derive from their activities and shares? Often the answer is an idea for your next writing assignment ("Thank you for sharing my post. In response to a question you asked in the share, I also wrote...")
At the spot where interest morphs into engagement, there is an additional key question to ask of your social content, which can also be answered by your JD Supra analytics:
- Who liked or commented on my/our content shared on the social platforms? And what did they say in response? Those targeted readers discussing your content on LinkedIn ... pay attention to them.
Engagement - The Beginning of a BD Conversation
Attorney coach Mike O'Horo once wrote that it is only business development if you are having a conversation with someone about their problem and how you are able to solve it. The rest is marketing.
I like this way of conceiving of behavior (yours and your prospects) and how it alters meaning in the funnel. While you can and should derive many strategically important business development insights from aggregate data higher up in the funnel (like an understanding of industry and company visibility), typically, most business development conversations begin during engagement. So look at:
- How many contacts/questions did we receive via our content during this period?
Follow-up questions include:
- Which posts/topics generated the most outreach by our audience? The answers to those questions can be a goldmine for new writing and content ideas.
Engagement happens when those interested in what you are saying — and, ultimately, in what you are offering — engage with you because you address an issue they face, a question they have, a problem that needs a solution. But the best marketers don't wait around for the engagement to begin from across the table. They often use data to force engagement, with great success. (I am thinking here of a client of ours who realized that her firm's clients were deeply interested in an emerging topic around which the firm was building resources. She developed a direct campaign just to those clients, communicating that attorneys were available to answer questions around that topic. She forced the engagement; it lead to new work. And I am thinking also of Clinton Gary's proactive approach, mentioned earlier, of arming attorneys with the right questions in meaningful facetime with existing clients, based on reader data.)
Retention - Building Trust, Loyalty, and Advocacy
The marketing and business development funnel doesn't end when someone once made aware of you eventually becomes a client. Now, your focus, and the meaning of your activities, shifts once more. Goals include: keeping your clients; earning more work from them; serving them with an excellence that turns them into loyal advocates, willing to sing your praises publicly.
Here, all questions lead from one:
- Did our clients read our work?
And, as I mentioned above: are they reading about the matters for which we serve them, or something else? Which content do they return to again and again? Is this an opportunity for meaningful facetime? Are they sharing our work? All of these questions, and others, while mapped at the intersection of the marketing funnel and your content efforts, are the types of questions you are already asking (or should be): do our clients trust us? Are they happy with our work? Are they getting what they need from us?
The answers, like many others, are in your reader data. Bring your questions.
Paul Ryplewski is VP of Client Service at JD Supra