The perspective of the lawyer was clear; “My time is far too valuable to be spent writing advertising copy or blogging.”

Notwithstanding the fact that his comment belies complete disdain for what he believes professional services marketing and business development to represent, his pronouncement points to a critical way the marketplace has shifted.

The marketing message of yesterday was largely one-way, built around what we do, and how well we do it.

And while that approach might have served in the past, things have changed. A new model has emerged.

This thing we throw the “marketing” label over is increasingly built around a multi-dimensional experience. Clients and savvy prospects not only have more options; they have questions, feedback and an expectation of dialogue.

At its best, marketing instigates and nurtures relationship. It is listening as well as messaging. And while it often includes what and how; it is built on a foundation of why.  Why we do what we do; and why our audience should care.

In its most productive form it delivers value.

It occurs in the content you produce; but it is also in the context of every touch point with clients and constituent audiences.

And if you’re not having on-going conversations with your market, it may be time to rethink your view of and approach to marketing and business development.

This Is Decidedly Not Old-Shcool Advertising. But It Is Marketing.

Anyone in the professional services arena who views content — whether on a web site or in a practice description — as the advertising of yesterday’s firm has not awakened to the expectations of the new marketplace. Or the opportunity afforded by tools like blogging, social media, and all things interactive.

In the process, mark it down — opportunities to connect with targets are being missed.

More to the point, if social media is scorned or scoffed at, you may be working with a dialogue-deficient strategy. If you wonder whether a blog is worth your time and energy, don’t be shocked when your audience is not engaged.  In a post last week, LexBlog’s Kevin O’Keefe noted that 80% of the largest law firms in America are now blogging.

Content marketing is not about catchy-copy created in a subject-matter vacuum.  Or turning a phrase. Or inventing an unforgettable tagline. While some of these stereotypes may sneak in, today’s investment is about coming to the market with open ears, listening to input, offering value, and instigating the kind of dialogue that is the fabric of relationships.

The Intersection of Messaging and Experience

In the old marketplace it may have been enough to produce one-dimensional attention getting messages.  In today’s reality, enduring companies, firms and brands understand that value and on-going conversation are central to differentiation.

If you don’t need to build or nurture relationships, you should avoid content marketing. If deeper dialogue with clients and targets isn’t viewed as a strategic investment, avoid any thought of a blog; it is hard work.

If you have a brand that transcends the changes in the current market, you might be able to put off an investment in thought leadership.

But if you believe conversations will differentiate you from the competition, investing in the fodder of dialogue just might be worth your time.