For professional services firms, success is based not so much on “selling” to your clients, but on becoming a trusted advisor. You want to position yourself as an expert in your field and be the advisor clients and prospects turn to when they need to make a decision. One way to build such relationships through marketing is by creating a library of great “content.” Though content marketing has become an integral part of the marketing mix for professional services firms, I personally find the term so vague that it would seem there’s plenty of room for error.
So what is content marketing and what does it do for your firm?
“Content” refers to information, tools, or resources available on the internet (specifically — articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, recorded webinars, etc.). Think of the collection of content resources as a virtual library where your ideal client can turn when he/she has a need or just wants an industry update on what’s hot and newsworthy. With a content marketing strategy, your firm’s website becomes less of a virtual brochure and more of a virtual hub of resources and consistently updated information. Thus, your clients begin to turn to your firm’s resources for their information. This hub of valuable information, in combination with personal outreach, positions your firm as a trusted advisor rather than a company that sells ‘x’ services.
It’s not about you – it’s about them!
Clients want to feel that the content they read identifies with their needs and with their specific goals and challenges. They want to feel that they are understood and that your firm can possibly solve a problem for them. Great content is not about showcasing your knowledge, and it’s not about you being a thought leader – it’s about your clients. When your content is in tune with their needs and pain areas, then it becomes valuable to them.
Create individual “personas.”
In order to satisfy your ideal clients’ needs, you first need to fully understand who would make a perfect client for you. You need to identify specific personas of your ideal clients and then gear your content toward them, because it takes more than just a broad cookie-cutter approach to attract these people. Below are steps to develop client personas that will help align your content with your ideal client’s actual needs and boost value and effectiveness:
- Review your current client base. Start with what you know by taking a look at your current base of top clients. Take note of which current clients most positively impact your business, financially or otherwise, and research why that might be. For example, one of your best clients might have multiple needs, and thus, opportunities to advise and cross sell. Alternatively, they may be especially valuable because they have a shorter buying cycle, a level of consistency, or may simply be easy and enjoyable to work with.
- Interview key clients. Ask these clients if you can spend about 30 – 45 minutes with you to get a sense of their wants and needs.
- Ask the right questions. Find out what makes each key client tick. Questions may vary depending on the industry or service area. There may be opportunities to dig deeper depending on answers you receive, but here are some good questions to start with:
- What is their role in the decision making process?
- How do they search for information?
- In what format do they prefer to receive information?
- What does their buying cycle look like?
- What influences their decision making process?
- What are their major concerns, worries or pain areas?
- Create a profile. Now, choose a few of your ideal client types and humanize them a bit more. Give each type a name and state their overall goals, as well as the following specifics: age, gender, role within their firm, who are their main influencers, what associations are they members of, what challenges do they face, how do they prefer to receive information, and what actions you’d want this person to take.
- Plan content targeted at each profile. Remember, when you write a blog post or host a webinar, consider that it’s being read or attended by specific people with clearly defined preferences and issues. Marketing to particular personas may get a smaller overall readership, but it promotes more personalized engagement, higher response rates and more leads. Some ways to gear content toward specific roles to keep readers’ interests and preferences are:
- Develop case studies aimed at a particular challenge that one of your ideal client personas faces.
- Target your article or blog topics toward a specific role within a firm.
- Share your content in a format that your ideal client would most likely read. Are they active on social media, do they tend to search the Internet for information, or maybe they prefer snail mail?
It’s more effective to reach a smaller audience in a big way, than reach a larger audience with information that doesn’t matter so much to them. Once you have a better understanding of who your ideal client is as a “person” rather than a “target audience” you can better plan your content around his or her preferences and challenges.