Professionals are always content producers
“I can’t write a blog”. “I can’t write an eBook”. “I can’t write my own content for our firm’s website”. “I can’t…” Well, you get the idea.
Why is it that so many service professionals – lawyers, accountants and superannuation, insurance and finance professionals – apparently believe they cannot write beyond the usual parameters of their profession? I don’t get it, and that’s not because I am a professional who has published written material for decades. In fact that only adds to the mystery.
But I do know three things for certain: one, it’s not that hard to write website content that will be relevant and useful to your clients; two, you already understand pretty much most of what you need to know to write that content; and three, content marketing is essential if you want to be found online. As I have previously written in my eBook The Ultimate Guide To Website Content For Professional Firms (downloadable from the subscriber form at the end of this post and in the right hand margin):
You may have heard the story of the sign that adorned the wall of the so-called War Room in the campaign headquarters of Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential run against then incumbent George H. W. Bush. At one time following the Gulf War, with stratospheric approval ratings, Bush was considered unbeatable. Clinton’s chief strategist James Carville hung a sign to keep the campaign team on message – “It’s the economy, stupid”. His motive was not to berate the team that it lacked intelligence, in fact they were the best and the brightest, he placed it there to emphasize the obvious. Sometimes, in business as well as politics, we need to remind ourselves of what is right before our eyes. For a professional firm that wants to be found online, it’s the content.
Professionals don’t know what they already know
How long did it take to finish your professional studies? In my case it was five years full time at the University of Melbourne. Let me assure you, the basics of writing content for your firm’s website are elementary compared to those years of formal education. And what have you been doing since you graduated (no, not the mandatory trip to Nepal, after that)? In all likelihood you have been out in the real world, where know it or not you have undertaken rigorous training to be a …. content producer! Now all you need do is add a few simple rules – that’s 90% of what you need to know right there.
The other 10%? Just write…then write some more. Look, if there’s one rule to follow with content marketing, it’s this: produce quality content, and then more quality content, and then more. That’s it.
Changes to Google’s search engine rankings algorithms, introduced over the last few years, have ensured that quality content is now an imperative. Google’s response to the many objections to its algorithm changes, usually from those who previously relied on artificial means to boost rankings, has been the same for a while now – stop complaining and just create great content. Google will help new clients find your firm if you create ongoing original and useful content, and happily for you this is well within your reach.
Your firm is a content factory
We erroneously tend to think of content as that function of our firm that conveys something of value in writing to our clients, but that’s way off the mark. Putting aside Google and it’s voracious appetite for content, as a professional you are essentially in the content business, and that’s from the moment you greet a client in the waiting area to the final letter you send to finalize the engagement. Everything you say or produce for clients is either a content product, a piece of advice that easily translates into content, or an asset from your knowledge bank that that is already in writing or can be readily transcribed. In the end it’s all content, and for professionals it’s ubiquitous. That’s very good news for you.
Professionals know all about the rules of content (yes, you do). It’s encompassed in the way you explain arcane concepts to your clients, using techniques you have honed for years. As a lawyer, I used to do a lot of appearance work in courts. Often clients would tell me that they did not comprehend much of the courtroom interaction, complaining that they felt more like spectators than participants. But they never said that about my conversations with them when we were in my office or on the phone. That’s because, like the vast majority of professionals, I had learned to explain complicated issues in plain English. And this is the essence of good content marketing as well.
Just remember that writing content for your firm’s website is like a client interview. What is it that clients inevitably tell to begin a first interview? They tell a story. If you are a family lawyer, it might be a chronicle of a philandering partner or years of neglect. If you are a financial planner, it might be a tale of an investment opportunity that went south, or a dream to plan for a tertiary education for children, reflecting opportunities the client never had in their own family. A retirement expert might hear about the struggle to build a business, and the hoped for reward of a seachange to a coastal paradise.
And how do you respond? Usually with a story of your own, or stories of other clients who have trodden the same path. All service professionals know that listening is an essential skill. You probe for the right questions to clarify your client’s problem, and choose a way to explain their situation in its professional context, framed in the tones and language you have discerned from your client’s words. It’s the same with website content. Yes, you know many, many big words. But resist the temptation. The goal is communication, not self-aggrandisement (yes, that’s a very big word!)
Management consultant Ted Dwyer has noted:
…we know that clients view relationships as having multiple components, technical expertise being just one. The other components of quality relationships appear to be the same as those that exist in our personal relationships – trust; responsiveness; empathy; transparency; likeability; honesty; and, above all, genuine caring based on demonstrable actions.
What website content should professionals create?
It’s not the “what” that matters – it’s what the content achieves. Does it educate clients and prospective clients? Does it create an empathetic relationship with the client? Does it anticipate or alleviate pain points in their service transactions?
This is a different model than the traditional online “brochure” advertising of many professional firms. It requires an understanding of your clients’ wider needs. For instance, nowadays it is no longer enough to tell clients they require adequate house insurance. To properly address those needs, and to encourage engagement with your content, you need to show them you have anticipated their underlying anxieties about the best strategies to protect their assets and their families. It’s precisely the same way you handle client inquiries every working day.
That’s real content marketing.
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