Content marketing is fast becoming the approach of choice for branding and marketing professional services. There are several key reasons that this is the case and judging by current trends it's importance is not likely to diminish any time soon.
Since it is a topic we write about and advocate with some frequency I thought it might be a good idea to lay out the case for a branded content marketing strategy as an approach to growing your professional services firm.
Branded Content Marketing Defined
Content marketing is a strategy based on producing and distributing material that is valuable and interesting to your target audience. That content can come in many formats. Common examples include blog posts, articles, white papers, webinars, videos and books. But whatever its format, content should be educational, useful or entertaining rather than promotional or sales oriented. This sort if content can be very useful in establishing and building your firm's brand by giving potential clients a taste of how your firm can help them and what it may be like to work with you. Do you come across as authoritative and formal or friendly and approachable?
If your content is useful and engaging, potential clients are more likely to be attracted to your firm, remember you and — when they have a relevant need — contact you. Because prospects are finding you, content marketing is considered a “pull” or inbound strategy as opposed to a “push” or outbound strategy. (There are exceptions, however: content can easily be distributed or pushed out to prospects.)
You may recognize branded content marketing as a decendent of traditioinal “thought leadership” strategies. But the emergence of the Internet and social media has helped transform it into a much more powerful force in the new world of professional services marketing.
The Case for Branded Content Marketing
- Branded content marketing is a natural fit with professional services. Professional services brands are driven by expertise and client relationships. What better way to demonstrate expertise and let potential clients sample your thinking and approach? If people like what they see and hear, they are likely to include your firm in their pool of potential service providers.
- Search engines love content. As a matter of fact, the whole purpose of search is to help people find what they are looking for. Nothing greases the skids better that appealing content. If you are savvy enough to build your content around well researched key word phrases, Google will beat a path to your online door. In short, the right people will find you for the right reasons.
- High quality, relevant content helps qualify and nurture leads and build your brand. Once a potential client has found you, your stream of content will help educate and qualify the prospect as they gain an understanding of your brand. They will either appreciate your value or determine that you are not a good fit. Either way, this is something they will do on their own. You don't need to convince them. They will educate themselves, saving you considerable time and expense.
- It is less expensive. A recent study by Hubspot revealed that the average cost of a lead generated by inbound marketing techniques (those driven by content marketing) was 60% less ($134 vs. $332) than leads generated from more traditional outbound marketing tactics. Now there is a reason you can take right down to the accounting department!
- Content marketing works around the clock and around the globe. There is no better feeling than to come into the office to find a brand new, well qualified lead waiting for you. Yum, yum. Sure beats endless hours at boring, uncomfortable networking events. Equally important, content marketing attracts prospects based on interest and affinity, not just geography. This is key in a world where geography is steadily becoming less important. It is a fast track to becoming a national or international firm.
It's easy to see the appeal of branded content marketing for professional services. But what about the dark side?
The Case Against Branded Content Marketing
- It's not easy. Developing great content is not always easy. Most content marketing is poorly executed and can easily turn into client repellent and a brand spoiler.
- It takes time to build up a stock of valuable content. It can take months of steady work to begin seeing results. Folks sometimes get discouraged and give up too soon.
- You have to keep at it. Just like any other marketing approach, if you stop doing it, it will eventually stop working. The need to keep producing over time can be a big challenge for some firms. But then again I suppose that is true for most marketing approaches.
- Competition is increasing. As the benefits of branded content marketing become more visible to professional services firms, more of them are jumping on the bandwagon. The inevitable result is increased competition for potential clients' attention. Upping the bar inevitably increases costs. This forces firms to become more creative and explore new strategies and techniques.
Is content marketing right for your professional services firm? What will work best for your situation? Here are some additional resources to consider.