It’s easier than you might think to lose sight of a brand that looks good on paper – especially for technology firms. Quality of work, demonstrable expertise, and relationships with clients are all paramount, of course. But even when these reputational stars are all aligned, your online strategy is exerting a profound impact on your brand reputation. Audiences make judgment calls on the legitimacy of your brand based on how effectively you operate online.

Technology firms that join the conversation online are building their brand reputation and dramatically expanding their audiences. The vast world of thriving, education-hungry online tech communities means tremendous opportunity to build your reputation through content. But here’s the key: the most effective content is genuinely educational, not salesy or promotional.

So how do you as a technology services firm optimize your content to the benefit of your brand reputation?

1. Build a website that performs.
Help your visitors find their way around the house with appropriate pathing, callouts, and offers. Keep a careful eye on your web analytics to understand what works and what doesn’t. Design offers that promote the right kind of content on the right kind of pages and you’ll add credible visibility to your brand reputation.

2.  Offer content that’s actually educational.
Create content that works to teach, not sell. This could take any number of forms: blogs, guides, whitepapers, webinars, videos, or ebooks. It’s all right to repurpose your content – efficient for you and useful for audiences who may consume content in different forms. But that means you have to get the strategy right from the beginning. As far as distribution is concerned, some large companies have platforms that function as online publications or content hubs. But for most professional services firms, a blog and/or content library is usually sufficient, as long as it’s supported by a solid offer strategy.

3. Give away the secret sauce – at least some of it!
If you don’t educate your prospects, someone else will. So don’t worry about making yourself redundant. If a potential client is looking online to learn how to accomplish a given task themselves, they were never going to be your client in the first place. But the more useful your information, the more prospects will respect you — and the more likely they are to hire you when they have a problem they can’t handle themselves.

4. Staff your content marketing initiatives adequately and appropriately.
Inconsistency is one of the fastest ways to kill hard-earned credibility, so give your content the support it needs. There are at least four distinct roles involved in content production: (1) high-level strategic guidance, (2) content production, (3) editorial guidance and (4) promotion (often involving social media). Skimp on any of these and it’s tough to succeed. The good news is that tech firms are already familiar with the outsourced services model and successfully outsource one or more of these functions.

5. Leverage your employees and partners to create content.
You likely have some smart experts on your team. If they have the time and inclination to create content, this can be a fantastic opportunity to cultivate status as a Visible Expert. If not, a skilled writer can conduct a brief interview with an expert and turn it into useful, easily digestible content that potential clients want to read.

6. Build a community of influencers.
Share your content on LinkedIn, Twitter, or another platform. As you run across quality content from others, share that too. Joe Pulizzi, a well-known content marketing strategist, recommends a 4-1-1 formula. For every four pieces of other people’s content that you share, you can promote one of your own educational pieces and one promotion.

7. Have content at different levels.
Try to make most of your content readily available and easy for search engines to discover. That means you won’t want to put the majority of your content behind registration forms. Think blog posts, videos, infographics and the like. You may want to require some information to download some of your more valuable and lengthy material, like a comprehensive article or an ebook. Just keep in mind that the more information you require, the fewer downloads you are likely to get. And when you require registration, make sure the follow up content you deliver is not superficial or self-serving. That would destroy the trust and hard-earned brand reputation you’ve worked to build.

Keep these points in mind as you draw up your content strategy. Content marketing works because people who buy technology services often search online to educate themselves before they buy (and sometimes long before they’re ready to buy). When they find a firm that provides a wealth of valuable educational content that addresses their company’s challenges, these people begin to trust that firm. And when they are ready to buy, they prefer that firm – and your brand reputation flourishes.

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Elizabeth Harr