Building a content factory requires the right attitude in addition to an effective system for generating authentic stories that focus on the problems of customers and clients. That’s how AJ Huisman (@AJHuisman), Marketing Director from Kennedy Van der Laan, a legal firm headquartered in Amsterdam, led off his presentation near the end of the first day of Content Marketing World 2011 in Cleveland.
AJ distilled his experience generating targeted thought leadership content over the past 17 years working for large and small companies into 10 key lessons:
- There are content marketers working for you right now, take a good look and find them.
With his current firm for just six months, AJ noted that he found a legal secretary on staff who has written plays and who teaches drama. She’s now on his marketing staff. Other staff members offered similar skills for both generating content and providing technical support.
- Be very clear whom you want to reach and visualize your target audience as buyer personas.
Content creators often want to blast out material to a firm’s entire client base when it should be targeted at specific audiences, based on buyer personas. Articles and other content shouldn’t be written to impress peers, but to address the specific issues facing particular client segments.
- Permanent market research is the backbone of every great content marketing strategy.
Do everything you can to understand and learn about the top issues of your buyer personas. Feedback on training, events and other material should always ask about what the next seminar or event should be about.
- Begin with the end in mind.
AJ provides a template that makes content creators consider some key questions:
- What’s the core idea/message?
- What channels do our personas use?
- What can we create for those channels?
- Make the most of every piece of content!
- Always ask: What else can we do with this?
- Leave no stone unturned in your internal search for content. You have more than you think.
Look out for hidden content gems: articles, editorials, blog contributions, client newsletters, workshops, speaking engagements, training courses (internal and external).
- The internal organization structure should not automatically drive external communication.
Like any company, professional service firms work in silos. Each area of expertise has its own kingdom to protect. Don’t try to work across these silos at first. Improve the content in each silo then focus on more horizontal issues based on the audiences that are being targeted.
- Start, try, test, measure, tweak, learn and repeat.
It doesn’t matter if you put out the best newsletter in the industry if it’s always six weeks late. Start small if necessary. Get the content out quickly, and expand from there. Test new material on clients with whom you already have a good relationship.
- Tap into existing committees, teams, structures and transform them into your content factory.
There are teams within any organization that meet regularly to talk about client issues and problems, as well as the solutions that your firm can provide. Tap into those groups to prioritize and develop content marketing material.
- Work with your clients, suppliers and other stakeholders, and hire an intern!
A client advisory board can further refine your focus on key issues. AJ described his experience with a client board that included 10-20 clients and 20-40 lawyers. The lawyers had to listen and couldn’t talk for 30-40 minutes when the clients were presenting their top concerns. In addition to an extra set of hands to get projects done, interns also provide an extra set of eyes and can be a great source of new ideas.
- Marketers are becoming directors and journalists. They must manage the content creation process and facilitate production.
Marketers must take charge of the entire content generation process and find creative ways to facilitate the creation of new content. Make it easy for internal subject matter experts to contribute by having quick meetings and extracting key points from existing presentation material.
AJ closed his presentation with a challenge. Professional service firms tend to be cautious when it comes to content, not wanting to offend current clients or potential clients, or out of fear of revealing intellectual property. AJ challenged marketers to stop bending over backward to put out boring content, “Be bold, be original, and be different.”