Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Content Marketing Lessons Taught by an Extreme Body Modifier, Christine Kane, and K.T. Vandyke

Content Marketing, 
the "Long Tail," 
Your Legal "Tribe"

Last spring, I helped teach our law students about starting a solo practice.  I taught the session on marketing a law practice.  One thing I tried to do was update the so-called "old-fashioned" legal marketing techniques for a more web-based/technology-based strategy.

Christine Kane, Gold Mastermind, and Up Level Your Business

If we offer it again this spring, I could provide even more valuable advice for 3Ls because of the path I've been on this past year as a member of the Gold Mastermind training offered by Christine Kane through her Up Level Your Business coaching programs.

One thing I said last year, that I would repeat this year is this.  We now have cheap ways to find our "tribe" and then provide members of that tribe with high quality content that does several things:
  • Positions you as an expert in an area of law;
  • Let's you tell your story in a meaningful way;
  • Builds trust; and then,
  • Encourages clients to come to you for paid legal services. 
In a later posting, I will put together a list of books and other resources that will help you explore this topic more.

So, let me share the non-legal example I shared last year.  Then let me explain why this approach holds so much potential.

Content Marketing and an Extreme Body Modifier

On March, 15, 2013, Shannon Larrett died.  A Wikipedia page describes him as:

the creator, former editor and publisher of BMEzine, an online magazine noted for coverage of extreme body modifications. He published several books, including ModCon: The Secret World Of Extreme Body Modification. He was also an artist, computer programmer, film producer, and business owner.
This was his tribe -- extreme body modifiers.  If you watched the episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit called Strange Beauty, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

In any event, this guy found a niche, created a business, and found success simply by appealing to a tiny number of the 2 billion people that live on this planet and have internet access.

For the First Time Ever

For the first time ever, each one of us has the tools available to reach our tribes through low-cost, content-rich means: blogs, websites, Facebook postings, tweets, Pinterest boards, Instagram portfolios, iTunes inventories, Etsy offerings, Youtube videos, Vine clips, Snapchat ephemera, and Google +, LinkedIn and Tumbler accounts.  All these web-based platforms give us the opportunity to reach people who follow very narrow topics of interest -- but they are passionate and engaged when it comes to those topics.

In a December 2, 2013 issue of The New Yorker magazine, Kelefa Sanneh reviews the book Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment.  In it she describes the shift that record company executives did not foresee and then, when it was upon them, dismissed.  It was the move from big hits to obscure downloads from iTunes.

The Long Tail

She explains:
Chris Anderson, who was then the editor of Wired . . . published The Long Tail, which celebrated the coming demise of "the hit-driven mindset" and the growing importance of online distribution [of music].  Using Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes, you could browse what Anderson called "the infinite aisle," where vast inventories and smart suggestions software made it easy to shun blockbusters and follow your own passions, no matter how obscure.  He argued that retailers, too had been freed from the tyranny of the hit.  Technology made it possible for businesses to profit by "selling less of more," catering to an explosion of niche markets that, taken together, rivalled the size of the mainstream. Consumers were traveling down the demand curve, away from the head, where the most popular products lived, and out onto the tail, home of the miscellany, which was growing longer (as variety increased) and fatter (as sales of non-hits increased).  The new popular culture would be more interesting and more efficient, catering to the ever more diverse tastes of a general public . . . .
K.T. Vandyke and Driftin' Westward

So, let me give you a specific example of exploiting the long tail. My favorite local band is Driftin' Westward, whose lead singer is K.T. Vandyke.  Besides being charming, talented, award-winning, and a Jude Law doppleganger, he is building a devoted following of musical fans and an inventory of original songs.

He could, if he applies the long tail theory, build a successful musical career simply by creating, recording, and posting songs that his fans can download for a small price.  No big dollar split with the recording company or with a middle man.

If he sells 100,000 downloads for $.99 each,  he could make an attractive living.  He might only need 1,000 dedicated fans who download ten songs each, every year, for the next 40 years -- the equivalent of one CD per year for life.

In contrast, the recording industry would ignore him. 100,000 downloads a year simply did not (and does not) support the economic model that the industry created based on a few megastars who could sell millions of albums.

But that model discouraged talented musicians to keep producing wonderful music, and it denied fans a chance to explore music that fell on the long tail and outside the big-hit pop, rock, or rap mainstream musical offerings.

Legal Marketing

Lawyers can use the same tools to create engagement with potential clients.  Yes, lawyers tend to be cautious adopters of new marketing tools, and the bar association regulators are still trying to figure out how rules governing traditional advertising apply to these new web-based options.  But, those lawyers who do adopt these tools -- not at the exclusion of traditional approaches, but as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy -- will do well in an increasingly competitive legal market.

I have seen several of our alumni, including Jeremy Burnside and David Johnson, using Facebook effectively to market themselves.  They could be doing so much more with additional web-based platforms.

January 21, 2014 Update:  Nice discussion of niche marketing and whether we have content "overload" or an enthusiastic ability to find what we need in the sea of ever-increasing information.


  1. Good post - - and good points. I have a marketing strategy that I'm developing through trial-and-error. I keep stats on all of my potential clients - - I monitor where they heard of me, type of case, and city where calling from. Using a client/potential client database system I've developed over a period of ten years, I also enter in the disposition of the potential call as well as the name and email address of the caller. I use this to show trends in my market(s) as well monitor which of my techniques are working/not working.
    If you don't have an effective marketing plan, your potential clients won't be able to find you - - unless you are very well-known in your community. More importantly, if you are not willing to spend money in trial-and-error of your plans A, B & C, you will eventually throw money away.

    One of the biggest drawbacks of this type of marketing is the negative stigma many of the older, already established attorneys attach - - especially if you are in a small town and are working hard at your marketing strategies. But in today's day and age, if you are not engaged online, and you want sophisticated clients, you're allowing business to go elsewhere - - even to out-of-town attorneys who have a good web presence. Yes, an attorney's reputation means everything in getting new clients. But even if you have a solid word-of-mouth reputation, many millennials will trust what they read online more than what they hear from their buddy or family member.

    I will say that I have made a lot of money and helped a lot of people through the use of social media. I also use it to educate the public and my potential jurors on issues important to my clients. But I use it for other things - - and am weary of its use by my clients.
    Probably the biggest pitfall for attorneys who use social media is the temptation to misuse it. For example, attorneys are ethically and legally restricted from disguising themselves when gathering potential evidence from a witness/party page. Attorneys are also not permitted to instruct their client to "delete” anything that could possibly be used as evidence in a case involving the client’s interests. These two issues have already gotten several attorneys in a lot of trouble throughout the country.

    Attorneys also have an ethical obligation to know not only the rules about social media, but also take a proactive role in describing parameters of use for clients. For example, in a trial a few years ago, the opposing party was careless with her Facebook page. As such, I used it to effectively attack her credibility on the stand. Her friend printed off and provided me the content of her posts = perfectly fine. However, if I (or one of my staff members through my direction) created a fake name and asked permission to be her friend, that would have been improper. An attorney should always instruct his/her clients not to post anything remotely related to the client’s case in social media. I advise my clients to not post anything at all and wait until litigation is over and their case is totally concluded.
    Also, an attorney also needs to request social media posts from the opposing parties in discovery. This can be an invaluable tool in litigation and some attorneys would argue that it would be negligence not to request such material in discovery.

    In conclusion, regardless of whether an attorney uses social media to advertise his or her business or uses it for his/her own personal use, attorneys need to know the pros and pitfalls to effectively represent his/her clients. Don’t get beat by social media.

    1. Thanks for that long and informative comment. I wish I got more like it. AVVO, the attorney rating platform, also offers webinars that address the ethical issues surrounding lawyer websites and other web-based marketing tools, including social media. The ABA also has some resources to help lawyers step into these platforms.

      Yes, lawyers must engage in this form of marketing, but they need to make sure they act ethically. This area evolves so quickly, the lawyers with hustle will do well.

  2. This was truly an interesting read. I read this entire book just in a single day. Being a lawyer by profession, I realized that how marketing can yield me some of the most concrete results. I will surely recommend it in my circle as one of the best books when it comes to marketing for lawyers.

    1. Thanks, Kylie. Come back and tell us how you apply the lessons you've learned.