In the 1st four parts of this series we learned to look at content marketing from the client’s view; how to write in the shoes of your client; the need to move to interact with clients and prospective clients; and analytics, audits, and the ways we can manipulate content to our needs. Now we look at sending your words beyond your website, and how to fill an ideas bank to keep the content flowing.
Strategy Twenty-Eight – Start a Blog Series
Google loves series articles. Once you begin to write an article, you may be surprised how quickly it turns into a longer piece suitable for a “series”. For instance, let’s say as a financial adviser you want to write an article about the advantages of managed funds as a retirement vehicle. In planning the article you break down the topic into the following:
- Investment flexibility
- Tax advantages
- Comparison to real property investment
- Tax penalties to watch out for
- Self sustainable investment decision making
- A cohesive investment strategy
- Define your asset weighting
And there will be much more. In fact each is worthy of a blog in its own right. What you discover in the course of your research, and using your experience, is that there is a lot to cover, and the topics are of course interconnected. Interestingly, once you plant the idea of a series in your mind, you will increasingly find more issues you want to address – call it the “Blogging Law Of Attraction”. If you are using WordPress, there are many plugins that will arrange the series for you – I use the Organize Series plugin.
Strategy Twenty-Nine – Consider a redesign
Look around the web for designs you like that showcase a firm in a similar profession – the name of the designer will nearly always be mentioned (usually at the bottom of the home page). Are you satisfied with the design you have for your firm’s website? If not, show it to a good web designer and ask for an assessment. Check out the portfolio of any prospective designer, and ring a few you like to ask for an obligation free quote with some ideas. Many will sketch something for you.
Web design can be quite daunting, though it need not be. In fact, there are many aspects you can undertake yourself, though it will be a cost-benefit issue, and part of that cost is the time to learn the basics. However, before you begin to look at a redesign, do the following:
- Do some research. Why do you like some websites of fellow professionals? What about the colour scheme (will a lighter tone make it easier for content to be read?). Make a list of the five you like the most. What about their navigation, is it straightforward?
- Carefully read every line of your content. What is good (especially in retrospect), what is not?
- Is your bio and/or About Us page up to date? Are you happy with each section? If not, can you rewrite it yourself, or do you think you need professional help.
- Have your goals changed since the launch of the site? Has the firm identity changed? Has the ideal client persona changed? Has the website kept pace with these changes?
- Is the website “responsive?” That means it changes its functionality depending on the device from which it is viewed. Many older websites do not have this, which makes viewing on mobile devices a frustrating experience for clients and prospective clients.
- Is it too cluttered? Do your clients really need the bells and whistles that may detract from the information you want them to read?
Strategy Thirty – Create strict deadlines
Do you remember how you reacted to strict work deadlines at school or university? Yes, you managed to get there, even if it meant cramming at the last minute, and often you were surprised by the quality you were able to achieve given your limited time.
Deadlines galvanize the mind. A posting schedule can achieve the same for a blog. Know what days you intend to post and stick to them, no matter what. Soon you will be amazed how you have managed to accumulate a large archive of content.
Strategy Thirty-One – Join Feedly
Yes, as a busy professional you have plenty to read already, but to pursue a content marketing strategy you really need to keep track of what other professionals in your field are writing. And it’s easy to do.
Feedly is a news aggregator that has blossomed on the back of the demise of the best known aggregator, Google Reader. Sometimes called a “feed aggregator”, these are web applications that collect syndicated internet content, including blog posts, podcasts, news reports etc.
Let’s say there are twenty website blogs you want to follow on a regular basis. This is especially helpful if you want to know what topics other professionals in your field have covered. It is also invaluable if you want to get ideas and accumulate research for your own online content. You can imagine how much time you would waste if you undertook a manual search of these blogs every day. Instead an aggregator notes the blogs you wish to follow, and when a new article is posted, places it in your account, where it can be retrieved and read the next time you visit.
There are many aggregators available on the internet for free download. Feedly is the one I like. It’s also very easy to use.
Strategy Thirty-Two – Use Twitter strategically
Whether or not you choose to be on Twitter is a decision that requires thought and research. It’s not as straightforward as many suggest, especially if you want to use it as a marketing tool for your firm. The New York Times ran an article that addressed this issue with its typical journalistic panache:
Using Twitter sounds so simple. Type out no more than 140 characters — the maximum allowed in a single tweet — and hit send. That’s all, right? Not quite. Twitter’s interface may look simple, but it is not, and its complexity has turned off many people who tried the service.
I think this is the reason so many professionals discard Twitter before it a has a chance to prove itself. You will quickly become frustrated if you begin with the expectation that it is a simple tool. Instead start slowly, don’t expect it to be straightforward, and read a good guide (I like The Tao Of Twitter by Mark W. Schaefer).
If you choose to join Twitter, then use it as a two-way resource. Follow other professionals whose work you admire; check out the links of content they tweet; make regular retweets or comments on their work; after a while, send them a request to join your LinkedIn network, mentioning that you follow their Twitter account – usually they will be prompted to follow your Twitter account too, and that will give you access to all the people who follow them. Look for leaders in your field who are active in blogging and online content, these are the people with whom you should seek to build alliances and networks. If they have a comments facility, then leave some!
Strategy Thirty-Three – Create an ideas bank
You are not going to find enough content ideas from a single source to maintain a blog. Yes, it will be fine at the start, but soon enough the ideas will dry up (at least the ones that are interesting to clients) and your output will inevitably diminish.
The exception might be if you are a business analyst who assiduously reads the business pages of the newspapers nationally and in your city. In that case you are in luck, because the business sections of newspapers appear to be one of their few growth areas, and of course you can read many more newspapers online (I subscribe to the New York Times and read it daily).
Use Feedly or another content aggregator to find articles that may be useful to create your own content. Twitter is also a good source for articles to feed your content ideas bank. Carry a small notebook (or whatever capture tool works for you – yes, okay, your smart phone) and write down ideas. There are programs like Evernote that make this easy, though an aggregator, social media and a dedicated Word file will also do the job.
And don’t ignore your clients and colleagues as a resource for your content ideas bank. For instance, how many questions do you get asked a day? Not just from clients, but from colleagues too? If you are a busy professional, the answer is likely “plenty”. Can you remember those question two weeks later? Probably not. Instead learn how to mine and preserve that database of collected wisdom. When asked something, take just a moment to place the question in a file, perhaps labeled “Questions for Content Ideas Bank” or whatever. And believe me, because the source is part of a back and forth discussion, the resulting article will follow quickly and easily.
On the other hand, don’t rely solely on industry magazines or blogs, some are better than others. Many professional journals are written for fellow professionals and drafted in a stilted (believed to be “professional”) style. They also tend to focus on technical detail. Your aim should be to explain technical issues to your clients in a discursive manner, ideally by telling a compelling story.
Strategy Thirty-Four – Practice multiple posting
Post blogs and articles on social media more than once. Marketing guru Guy Kawasaki is famous for this strategy, and tweets material four times in different time zones. Why do this?
- Perhaps it’s obvious, but you will get more traffic.
- You can make your mark in different time zones – let’s say you tweet a link to your latest post – as Kawasaki writes, “The reason for repeated tweets is to maximize traffic and therefore advertising sales. I’ve found that each tweet gets approximately the same amount of clickthroughs. Why get 600 page views when you can get 2,400?”
- Content that remains relevant i.e. it’s not tied to a current issue, can be usefully sent out a number of times. Each time you hope to attract new readers, or jog the memory of current clients who may decide to pass it on, adding to your “word of mouth”.
There is of course a limit to this. Don’t repost the same link over and over again so that it is perceived as spam.
Strategy Thirty- Five – Aim for useful
Of course most professionals are ambitious – a positive attribute in the right context. Harness that ambition to produce the best content you can given the resources available to you, but remember you may not be able to compete with a much larger firm and its unlimited marketing resources. But within these limitations, aim to be useful to your clients, really useful. That’s what counts in online content marketing, especially for professionals. It is the marketing of helping people. Set attainable goals.
Strategy Thirty-Six – Play to your strengths
Is there anything worse than forcing yourself to do something you hate? Yes, we all do plenty we don’t like to fulfill our responsibilities, but it should not extend to your content production, which should have a strong element of creativity. It should not be drudgery.
If you really can’t write anything apart from a financial plan, letters, briefs or whatever is the mainstay of your professional output, then don’t. However, be wary this is not a golden oldie you may have learned back in your schooldays, accompanied by the hackneyed refrain, “I’m just not creative”. You’re older now, and though it’s indeed hard to pick at the scab of wounds suffered at school, you need to remind yourself that content optimisation is business all the way. As the brilliant Seth Godin writes, “We are all artists now, and the connection economy we’re living in relentlessly rewards those who do work that matters.”
But if you are unable to write useful content that reaches clients and serves their needs, then ask yourself, “what are my strengths?” What do people say about you? That you are a good speaker and communicator? Then a webinar might be a better form of content marketing for you. Do you have a talent for diagrams, is the whiteboard your favourite tool when explaining complex issues to clients? Then try an infographic or a SlideShare presentation. Are you a master of backyard videos that enthrall your family and friends? Then try aYouTube post, it’s not hard at all.
To be honest, its not that difficult to write a blog post if you follow a few straightforward rules, but if you really hate to write then don’t. But first at least make an honest try.
Strategy Thirty-Seven – Fact check your content
There will be many topics you can broach with complete confidence. If you are an estate lawyer, you know exactly how an estate is distributed when the primary beneficiary has predeceased the willmaker; if you are a financial planner, you know the differences between a conservative and speculative investment; if you are an accountant, you know why a particular expense can only be partly claimed as a business deduction; if you are a retirement fund expert, you know whether an investment is suitable for this long-term purpose.
However, be certain about it. And if you are unsure to any degree, then fact check what you have written. For professionals who want to protect their reputations, this is a no brainer.
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