The State of Content
At its core, your content should help clients, prospects and referral sources understand who you are, who you help, and how you help.
For many professional services providers, content serves to vet a referral from a trusted source. For example, if an energy attorney wants to be strongly positioned for winning referrals on energy work, she needs to have content that demonstrates her expertise in the field. She can get further ahead of the pack by including an introductory video on her site to show people who she is and what it would be like to work with her.
Until recently, this type of in-depth content was not necessarily pulling double duty for SEO. Guides and white papers were often gated for lead generation purposes. But now we need to consider ungating that content for two reasons: 1) Search engines are moving away from rewarding surface-level content based on keywords, and 2) Ungating content can enhance the user experience for clients, prospects and centers of influence, and meet their growing demands for more compelling thought leadership.
In fact, 75% of executives have become selective about the thought leadership they consume.
Why Next Level Content?
Recent research from The Economist Group and Hill+Knowlton Strategies shows the volume of marketing content available has driven a race to the bottom. Professional services firms often are quick to break news on laws or regulations but offer little in terms of impact or analysis.
The Economist Group survey respondents noted that they prefer compelling thought leadership that is “innovative,” “big picture,” “credible” and “transformative.”
SEO Tactics are Changing
Couple these findings with the shift in SEO strategy advocated by Hubspot, a marketing software provider, and you can see why more in-depth marketing content is necessary to support business development for professional services firms.
According to Hubspot, people are using conversational questions to search for information online, rather than just keywords. 5 (Ask Jeeves was right all along.)
To serve up relevant results for these conversational questions, search engines have adapted their algorithms to reward expert-level, in-depth content.
Professional services firms can reap the rewards of this shift by ungating their in-depth guides, white papers and other long-format content. In doing so, they make it easier for referral sources and centers of influence to share their content with clients and prospects.
Content serves as the core of an integrated marketing campaign, and you need to make sure that content has a wide reach in order to gain as many new clients from your target audience as possible. How do you do that? By providing your content in various formats for people to share.
Let’s say you’ve created a guide to address an issue for a specific industry. What do you do with that guide? How do you encourage people to read it? By providing content from that guide through multiple channels.
Once the guide is posted to your website, you create a banner or button on your home page directing people to it. You push out the link to the guide on social media. On your company blog, you break out key issues into separate posts and embed links and call to actions to download the full guide. You write a brief note on the guide to run in your company newsletter and link back to the guide.
SNAPSHOT | CALL TO ACTION
Whatever way you choose to reach your future clients, you must have a call to action, something that encourages them to take the next step toward buying your services. According to a recent article on Entrepreneur.com, an experiment found that the button language “Find Your Gym and Get Membership” received a 213% higher conversion rate than the language “Get Your Membership.” The article also reinforces the idea that using words in your copy that create a sense of urgency, such as “today” or “now,” tends to lead to higher conversion rates.14
When Time is Money, Turn to White Label Content
Partners or members in professional services firms wear so many hats (owner, service provider, client relationship manager, sales and business development, etc.) that they often don’t have capacity to generate the content that they need.
What alternatives are there for generating content?
Large firms can make a collective effort to create an industry-leading guide or share cross-disciplinary stories through video.
But when time is money, consider white label content. This custom content is generated for you. It can be produced on demand or purchased off-the-shelf. Look for providers with a strong handle on your industry, and as importantly, a deep understanding of why the content is important to your marketing and business development effort.
Subject matter experts are not always the best writers. For long-format pieces, create a blend of expertise and style to meet your needs. You may have a junior service provider who can work with an outsourced content marketer to create meaningful guides or white papers. Perhaps you have a seasoned parter who can give 20 minutes for an interview with a professional content developer who can glean the insights that set your firm apart and bring those to life in your content.
Regardless of where you source your content, make sure that the final product reflects your brand and aligns with your business development objectives.
Align Marketing with Business Development
Relevant content can be a powerful tool for your sales team. Having content available to share with potential clients empowers your team to show off the firm’s expertise and experience on demand.
How can content align with sales? First, make sure that your marketers are talking to your business development team. Too many times, we have seen excellent follow-up content sit on a firm’s website, used only by the marketing team. When a piece of content is deployed, it is essential for the marketers involved to share that content with the sales team, and to help them quickly and easily see how to use that content for touch points.
For example, if your firm develops a piece of thought leadership on changes to the tax code, then it needs to be shared with the partners. The briefing should also include 2-3 key pain points addressed in the marketing content.
If your sales team is also providing client service, then make sure that you are leveraging every possible method to automate or ease the use of the marketing material. For example, if you have a CRM, build branded emails within it that the sales and business development team can send out on demand. These are great to use as follow-ups after in-person meetings or conferences.
Why Content Matters
Still not convinced that you need content to support business development? Consider these recent findings from The Economist Group and Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
After consuming compelling thought leadership…