Developing Your Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing is being rapidly adopted by professional services firms. It's a natural fit.

A steady flow of valuable content not only allows you to build your brand and generate new leads, it also allows you to nurture them so that they can blossom into long term clients. But how do you develop your content marketing strategy?

What should you write about? What topics will resonate? Will it be basic or advanced? Should you share your proprietary approach? Oh so many questions.

Here are some answers to help you get your content marketing strategy started down the right track.

  1. Your content must be audience specific. Your content strategy should always start with your audience in mind. Who do you want to influence? But what if you have multiple audiences? You will have to develop multiple streams of content if the audiences have fundamentally different interests and priorities. For example, if your firm works with clients in the health care and civil engineering industries, you will likely need two content streams as their issues and concerns are quite divergent.
  2. It should be driven by empathy for your audience. Start with an understanding of the issues facing your audience on a day to day basis. If you are not clear what those issues are, you need to step back and do some research. Your goal should be to demonstrate that you understand their situation and then to be genuinely helpful. This will help build trust. Too many writers try to scare potential clients or talk down to them. Fear or arrogance are not good foundations to build a content marketing strategy upon.
  3. It should target a range of stages in the buying process. Most folks focus first on late stage leads and target topics directly related to their service. This is genuinely a bad idea. By then it is often too late to influence their selection. Your relation to the potential client will be limited. Your emphasis should also include content aimed at identifying and diagnosing a problem, considering alternative solutions, as well as selecting a service provider. This allows you to reach a much broader audience and develop a level of trust well before a specific solution is being considered.
  4. Topics should be covered at various levels of depth. You will need content that covers topics at a superficial level (such as blog posts or brief videos), an intermediate level (such as guides, white papers or webinars) and more in depth (such as e-books, consultations, or workshops). This allows the audience members to start where they are and become more engaged over time. They are likely at different places on different topics. Don’t force them into a higher or lower level of engagement than they currently are.
  5. The content should be relevant to your services. There are various schools of thought on this point. Some folks believe that your content can be about anything of interest to your audience. Our experience is somewhat different. We find that keeping it related to your services produces better results. For example, an accounting firm can safely talk about cost saving measures or issues related to regulatory compliance. But when it comes to sales and marketing tips, not so much. Perhaps a topic about measuring ROI on marketing investments will work, but not a discussion of how to market more effectively. While the topic may be of interest to your audience, you are not building your reputation.
  6. It should never promote your services directly. The flip side of the previous point is that your content should not stray into direct self-promotion. Do not turn it into marketing copy. This will kill trust faster than just about anything else you can do. Your goal should be to educate, inform, and even challenge conventional wisdom. You are developing credibility and sharing expertise, not pitching specific services. The potential client will ask you for a proposal when the time is right. Don’t try to force it.
  7. Don’t be afraid to give away some secret sauce. The more value you deliver, the stronger the bond you forge. Don’t be afraid to share some special sauce. Here’s a little secret: the more you share, the more potential clients assume you have. Yes, I know your intellectual property attorney is having a fit about now, but your special knowledge doesn’t do you much good if potential clients don’t know it exists. Besides, if they take that information and do it themselves, they were never a real prospect in the first place. They will get the information somewhere else.
  8. Content should be developed in multiple formats. Just like your content should exist at different levels of coverage, it should also exist in different formats. Some people like to read it, others like to hear it. One format does not fit all consumers of content. This will make developing a robust library of content much easier and faster. A helpful insight can and should be communicated in many ways.
  9. It should be optimized for search engines. Useful content must be found to be consumed. Optimizing it to be easily found on search engines is perhaps the easiest and most effective approach to getting the word out. Sharing it on social media is also a great strategy.
  10. Always provide a next step. As you are developing your content marketing strategy, don’t forget that you are doing this to increase trust and engagement. Each piece of content should include a next step. What should the reader or listener do next? Avoid creating content cul-de-sacs that lead nowhere. Include offers that lead to a higher level of engagement whenever possible. But don’t overreach. A blog post can easily offer a guide, research report, or white paper but probably not a request a proposal offer.

If your content stays within these parameters, it has a great chance to not only attract new leads, but also nurture them until they become clients. Also, don’t forget your existing clients. They need nurturing too! Find out ways to nurture audiences in our (free!) Lead Nurturing Guide.

Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. Who wears the boots in our office? That would be Lee, our managing partner, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day and drives strategy and research for our clients. With a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, Lee is a former researcher and tenured professor at Virginia Tech, where he became a national authority on organizational behavior management and marketing. He left academia to start up and run three high-growth companies, including an $80 million runaway success story.

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