In the 1st five parts of this series we learned to look at content marketing from the clients’ view; how to write in the shoes of your client; the need to move to interact with clients and prospective clients; analytics, audits, and the ways we can manipulate content to our needs; and how to fill an ideas bank to keep the content flowing. Now, in our final installment, we look at putting your individual stamp on your website content to create a great marketing strategy for your firm.
Strategy Thirty-Eight – Find your voice, tone and style
Do you speak to every client in the same way? Of course not, you make determinations based on their needs, your face to face interviews, your experience and intuition. A family lawyer does not adopt the same tone with a distraught recently separated client as a Certified Practising Accountant seated across the table from a seasoned businessperson.
But how do you find the right voice in an anonymous online world? First, you should always write content that is helpful, straightforward, and uses plain English. That’s universal for all professionals who produce content for their websites. To do this consider the following:
- Write with authority but without hubris.
- Be clear, using Plain English techniques.
- Write as though you are speaking to a single client – imagine yourself in a client interview.
- Promote your services, not the firm, except as it clarifies the worth of those services (e.g. you can emphasize your expertise).
- Always sell the benefits of your service, not the service on its own.
- Don’t sacrifice grammar for informality, and never adopt a false persona. Don’t try to “sound intelligent”.
- Be prepared to offer a balanced judgement, just as you would to a client in an interview, though online it may need to be more generalized.
- If possible, teach your clients as you go. Clients and prospective clients are far more likely to deal with a firm that offers generous advice that has lasting value.
Strategy Thirty-Nine – Find the content strategy within marketing
Strategy is not the same as marketing – unfortunately people often use the terms as effectively interchangeable. They are not. You market your firm when you tell its story and draw the larger picture for your clients or prospective clients. That’s why you prepare all the content in the first place, because you want to have a relationship that goes beyond advertising. That’s the marketing side – its aim is to build relationships that add trust and word of mouth.
Strategy is about the framework, and it is (generally) the same for all your information provision. Canadian content strategist Rahel Anne Bailie describes it this way:
Content strategy deals with the planning aspects of managing content throughout its lifecycle, and includes aligning content to business goals, analysis, and modeling, and influences the development, production, presentation, evaluation, measurement, and sunsetting of content, including governance. What content strategy is not is the implementation side. The actual content development, management, and delivery is the tactical outcomes of the strategy that need to be carried out for the strategy to be effective.
Bestselling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin once famously noted:
If people aren’t talking about you, they’re not talking about you for a reason. And the reason isn’t that they dislike you. They’re not talking about you because you’re boring.
In a content marketing sense, the antidote to this is to tell a great story about your firm. But in a strategic sense, ask yourself where your content lies in terms of your goals and the type of client you want to attract to the firm. You should as much as possible try to align these factors. Remember, content works to further a content strategy, not for its own sake.
Strategy Forty – Always look at readability
I used to lecture about using the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease formula. I thought it was quite a nifty tool, but though I have long not used it on a daily basis, the thinking behind it remains valid. It was developed in 1948, so it’s passed the test of time, but in relation to the online world it generally favours text that has shorter words and sentences, which is always a good writing habit. Anyway, play around with it, there’s some worthwhile lessons.
Woops! Just entered this paragraph into a Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease test tool and it was judged “difficult”!
Strategy Forty-One – Don’t over commit
As I know from my own experience, we all start our content strategy with grand aims. Often the higher the aim, the greater the fall. And after that? Never to be heard from again. For professionals, one of the main problems is a commitment to too many platforms, or the desire to use every aspect a platform has to offer.
As a professional you don’t need to take advantage of every opportunity afforded by the internet. I focus on blogging, a website, an active Twitter account and (less so) LinkedIn. I am certainly interested in Google + and its authorship benefits. For reasons not relevant here, I do not have a professional Facebook account, suffice to say I do not subscribe to it as a foundational strategy for smaller professional firms.
Take what will be to the best advantage of your firm and your clients. That’s the criteria that matters.
Strategy Forty-Two – Get Buffer
Buffer is a brilliant tool that once tried (it’s free in its more limited but still useful version) is hard to avoid. Basically, it shares content with your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. As a bonus it tracks the results of your sharing. Once installed, you only have to click the Buffer button to automatically send a post or other information to those who follow your account. The other benefit is that it queues these messages according to a schedule you have set, for example to send a tweet every two hours, or ten times a weekday and five time on weekends.
The Buffer extension is integrated into Twitter and Facebook, and for me the best feature is that it is partnered with a number of aggregators. So when I find a find an article on Feedly that I want to share, all I have to do is click on the Buffer icon and it automatically configures a tweet that I can send or first edit. For instance, if I open the first post in this series as it appears in Feedly, and then click the Buffer button, the following appears:
‘50 Website Content Strategies For Professionals – Part 1 http://bit.ly/1gb7CUG’
I can add to this if I want and change it to:
’50 Website Content Strategies For Professionals Part 1 – #content#marketing for mature professionals http://bit.ly/1gb7CUG’
This means you can use your aggregator (like Feedly) as both a means to learn more about your professional area, and as a tool to send out content to those who subscribe to your Twitter (and other social media) accounts.
Strategy Forty-Three – Get your firm’s buy-in
It is important to get the whole of the firm to buy into the plan. This can be done with a plain English guide that explains the strategy, our own MatureMedia Guides should suffice, especially the first three. A buy-in is sometimes a difficult task, made moreso because some partners, associates and co-workers will be resistant to change or any reallocation of resources. One time-tested way to get a buy-in is to do a dummy run of the intended content, perhaps a few blog post drafts and a mission statement for the website. Highlight the activities of competitors and independent third party articles by peers and industry experts.
An initial buy-in should not be too difficult. Content marketing has now penetrated every level of every profession, and there is no doubt that in the future the vast majority of professional firms will allocate greater resources because the arguments in its favour are compelling. Then there is the straightforward imperative that it is becoming pervasive – the earlier you start, the earlier you can join an inevitable marketing trend.
Remember, all professionals want to engage with clients, and especially for smaller firms, all rely on word of mouth referrals. As Andy Sernovitz has noted in his excellent book Word of Mouth Marketing, to gain these referrals you ought to:
- give people a reason to talk about you; and
- make it easier for that conversation to take place.
Professionals know that client referrals work. A happy client will generally share that experience with others (they’ll share the bad ones, too). As he so often does, marketing expert Seth Godin captured this perfectly: “Before advertising, there was word of mouth. Products and services that could solve problems got talked about and eventually got purchased.”
Strategy Forty-Four – Feed Google’s content habit
A lot has been written about the way Google is changing its search parameters. But here’s the bottom line – Google wants to see high quality content. Ask these questions to make an honest assessment of whether you have quality content that makes both your clients and Google happy:
- Can you find a deeper analysis for your clients?
- Does it contain stories and facts that are relevant to your clients?
- Is it original information or largely copied from elsewhere?
- Is it trustworthy?
- Is it free of grammatical and spelling mistakes?
- If it reflects a personal opinion, have you made that clear?
- Have you anticipated questions from clients and answered them?
Strategy Forty-Five – Invite reciprocity
There are many communities, online and off, that actively look for members to bolster their ranks. Professional are fortunate to have well established representative associations, and without exception they are featured on the web. LinkedIn also supports many (many) groups for all professions, each with almost limitless opportunities to initiate or join discussions.
When you join an online group you establish a personality within it, just as you do in any real world association. Don’t neglect Twitter as a “group”. Twitter users love to receive a retweet or a “mention”, and though these tactics may begin with self-serving motives, you will quickly find yourself in a reciprocal arrangement with fellow professionals that grows organically.
Strategy Forty-Six – Create evergreen content
There is nothing wrong with topical content, especially if you have an expert professional view, but it is best to focus on content that will pass the test of time. If you follow your website’s analytics, the articles that have highest traffic returns will be the ones that are not topical (unless you are professionally associated with a “hot” story) but instead deal with “evergreen” topics. You will also be able to identify which articles are most helpful to clients and will remain so. You can use social media (e.g. Twitter) to regularly post links to these evergreen articles.
Strategy Forty-Seven – Create your own methodology
We mostly want someone to tell us the how of every new venture we undertake. Yes, there are many rules you can follow to produce content, and strategies galore, but at the end of the day you should develop your own methodology.
It must be your own voice that speaks to your firm’s clients and prospective clients. The problem with every commentary on the subject – and that includes the one you are now reading – is that at some point you have to take a leap into your own online adventure. To do this you should integrate others’ notions of content optimisation into a methodology that evolves into your own brand. Don’t worry, it will happen over time, but you must make a start.
It’s best to think of an expert’s methodology as a cheat sheet, something to reference when you are stuck or need some guidance, but not a rigid roadmap.
Strategy Forty-Eight – Do something unexpected
This strategy gets the biggest blowback from professionals. What can you offer that is surprising about your firm, your services, or your clientele? What is against type for you? Can you be disarming? If you write down a list of attributes of your firm, what can you come up with that showcases your services but goes (at first glance) against the grain?
I once saw a television report that featured an interview with an estate lawyer who spoke about Will provisions that are available to clients who want to secure the future of their pets. It was disarming in the sense that the lawyer, dressed in a conservative blue suit and surrounded by the classic bookshelf backdrop of legal texts, approached the issue with grim determination. Not for him snide comments about treating our pets as humans, nor a hint of anything derogatory to suggest that a client might be lacking a sense of proportion in wanting to include a beloved pet in a Will. If I had been a prospective client who wanted to achieve a secure “inheritance” for my beloved pet, this was precisely the approach that would give me the confidence to make initial contact with that lawyer. The interview was against type and successfully disarming for that very reason.
Strategy Forty-Nine – Avoid ambiguous links
Internal and external links in your content should make sense. If you want a client or prospective clients to contact your firm, it should be clear to the reader that this will be the result when they click on that link. So if you write “you can contact us to make an appointmemt for a free first interview”, but the link takes the reader to the home page (where they must then navigate to the contact details on the Contact Page) it will be frustrate the prospective client. Worse, it will reflect badly on the firm and you may lose a prospective client.
It’s also important to use action words – the link is better to read “make an appointment” than “click for an appointment”; “See my bio” is better than “Bio”.
Don’t be afraid to use longer links. “Read my blog post 50 Website Content Strategies Professionals Can Use Right Now” is better than “Read my post about website content strategy”.
Finally, never (never) use “Click here”.
Strategy Fifty – You have done so well…let’s hear it for you!
If you’ve read this far you are clearly an intelligent, efficient, high-achieving and wonderful professional who has garnered much kudos from clients. So tell us about it! Invite satisfied clients to offer a testimonial to your excellent services, and then share it on your website in a prominent location. Remember, you have no obligation to publish each one, so you can pick and choose wisely. For clients you know well, you can even send back a lightly edited version for their approval.
If at all possible, include a full name and location. “Bob from Smithville” doesn’t inspire much trust or attention. If you use direct quotes (“Geoffrey was really there for us when our son was injured”) all the better. Quotes work best when they are specific and believable (“Langdon and Rogers are the reason we were able to retire rich” is not believable).
Your online marketing begins with the 50 strategies we have canvassed. What niche do your clients want you to establish? What are their challenges, their pain points, the anxieties or unfulfilled dreams that keep them awake at night? Do they read what your firm sends them, and if not, why? What topics are they interested in that are directly and peripherally relevant to your firm’s activities? Do they want you to tell them about services from allied professionals they may need? What are the connections between your clients that provide an opportunity to create a community? Is there scope to educate your clients through a patient and compelling content strategy? What will hold their attention that they will perceive is in their best interests? Of the myriad of issues that concern your clients, what are the commonalities that allow you to focus your content strategy? Given your time and resource constraints, what issues should you prioritise in the order that best serves your clients’ needs?
Be assured, your website will become a far more useful tool in your marketing to clients and prospective clients if you utilize these strategies. Not all will be relevant to your needs, but on the whole, you will see a marked improvement in your online marketing. Good luck.
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