5 tips to help you develop great blog post topics

One of the toughest aspects of blogging is coming up with topics. It’s even worse when you feel under pressure to produce something. The better way to go is to sit down periodically (alone or with staff members) and brainstorm ideas. Ideally, you can develop a bunch of topics at once, so you don’t have to go through this exercise very often. Here are a few tips to help get your brainstorming session started: (more…)

7 things to do this summer to improve your marketing

It’s summer, and for many, work-related activities slow down. For others, summer may offer access to additional help because of interns or the opportunity to hire part-time students. In any event, your marketing efforts should not be put on hold. This can be a good time to do things that often get put off. (more…)

How to maximize your email newsletter

Email newsletters are a valuable marketing tool with numerous benefits. Yet there are many firms that don’t send one out or, if they do, fail to leverage it in the right ways. Often firms think that no one really pays attention to emails anymore. However, despite the fact that we all get lots of emails, studies still show that email newsletters are an effective marketing channel. (more…)

6 things you need to know for more successful blogging

Do you have a blog or want to start one? Blogging has many proven benefits as an integral part of your marketing strategy. However, if you want to be more successful at it (no matter how you define success), you need to consider these 6 fundamental questions. (more…)

No time for content marketing? 7 tips for successfully repurposing your content-Part 2

Content Marketing Word 3D Collage Digital Business Communication

It’s hard to find time to market your firm. Writing and speaking are wonderful tools to showcase your expertise and help you build your credibility, but they are time-consuming. So you want to get the maximum value out of everything you do. Repurposing your content is the key to success. For every piece of content you create ask yourself – What else can I do with this? How could it be repackaged? In our last post, we covered the first 4 tips. Here are 3 more ideas to ensure you save time and money marketing yourself.

5. Convert written formats to spoken and spoken to written. Informally record yourself speaking about a topic you’ve written about. Then turn it into webinars or short video/audio clips. Or develop it into a seminar that you can present to a group of people. On the other hand, if you’ve spoken on a topic but don’t have it in written form, get it recorded, then transcribe the recordings to turn into articles and blog posts.

6. Change the tone. Content that was written for a particular audience can be revised for a new audience by changing the tone. For example, professionals typically communicate differently to other professionals than they do to their clients. You want to have a more conversational tone with clients. You also want to use the same terminology that your audience uses so you may need to change or explain things when you are speaking to a different group.

7. Simplify or enhance. This is related to tip #6. If you have content that was written for a peer and is very technical, you should simplify it if you want to direct it to an audience that lacks that level of expertise or isn’t interested in those issues. Similarly you may want to take a basic overview of a topic and provide a more sophisticated or in-depth treatment to match your audience. Even among potential clients, different groups have different levels of understanding – for example, CFO vs general counsel vs HR manager. You should also think about a simplified version as a way to help you draw people in. It’s the teaser and those who are more interested in the topic, can be directed to the enhanced version.

Creating content that showcases your expertise and successfully attracts clients is hard work. Hopefully these tips will help you to repurpose all of your content and get the most value out of your investment of time and money.

Do you need help with your own content marketing? Contact us for a free consultation.

No time for content marketing? 7 tips for successfully repurposing your content-Part 1

Content Marketing Website Online Articles Information Video Comm

Content marketing is a proven way to attract and retain clients, but it’s also time-consuming. Fortunately, there are tactics that can help you make the most of every piece of content you create. You can repurpose and repackage your information in myriad ways in order to get more value from it. And best of all, not only will these methods save you time (and money), but they will help you expand your reach and better promote your firm.

The first step is to gather all the content you already have – old presentations, articles, newsletters, blog posts, internal and client memos, research, etc. Then use the tips below to help you revise your existing content to create new material. And going forward, remember to do the same thing with each new piece you create. You should always be thinking – What else can I do with this material? Here are 4 tips to get your started:

1. Slice and dice. Break up your content so that it is easier to read and also more engaging when it’s distributed via social media and email. For example, a longer article can be turned into several blog posts. Edit an audio or video recording into a series of short clips. Take the written portion of a presentation (ex. PowerPoint) and post (in whole or part) on your website as well as share it via social media channels such as LinkedIn and SlideShare.

2. Expand and combine. It is a lot faster to create short pieces of content. But eventually, you should look at merging them into a more in-depth piece. Several related blog posts can be turned into an article, white paper, eBook or presentation giving you a whole new marketing opportunity.

3. Update and revise. Is your older content still current? How much updating does it need? Is the information still helpful to an audience you want to attract? Previously published content can be updated with new developments, citations to more recent sources, case studies, examples, and other commentary to create something new and compelling without having to start from scratch.

4. Create visuals. Develop charts, graphs, images, infographics and video. You can add these components to written content to add impact to the text. However, they can also be used alone to attract interest on your website, social media and emails. A great visual can tell a story in a more engaging way than text and it’s also a way to entice people to want to read more. One study found that articles containing relevant images got 94% more total views than articles without them.

In our next post, we’ll cover 3 more tips to help you get more value out of your content.

Do you need help with your own content marketing? Contact us for a free consultation.

5 musts for being a thought leader

Being a thought leaderYour clients and prospects are inundated with information online to help them solve their problems. Some of the information is genuinely educational; most of it though is self-promotional or generic. How do you stand out and get noticed as the one they should turn to for help? One way to break through the clutter is to focus on thought leadership.

What is a thought leader and why do you want to be one? There are lots of definitions, but I like this one from Forbes:

A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise[and thereby] significantly profit[ing] from being recognized as such.

As the go-to expert, you’re likely to profit in many ways. Regardless of whether it directly brings in new business, thought leadership helps to differentiate you from competitors, expand your reach, and build relationships and trust with your audience. You’re also educating people and promoting deeper and more informative discussions, which is a public service.

That all sounds great, but how can you be a thought leader?

1. Understand your sweet spotIn his book, Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi defines the sweet spot as “the intersection between your customers’ pain points and where you have the most authority with your stories.” Take the time to really research your audience’s needs and concerns. Then consider what expertise and insights you can offer to help them. Don’t spend time talking about areas where you are not well-informed and don’t have much value to add. Focus on what you know best that can assist your clients.

2. Differentiate your message. Your strongest competitors will be trying to do the same thing you are doing – providing valuable content. Know what they are saying and doing and look for ways to be even better or different. For example, focus on a narrow niche, survey the industry and share research, have an opinion, identify trends, and provide insights. Give specific and actionable strategies taking into account whatever new developments are occurring. The point is to go beyond sending out a typical client alert that sounds just like the ones from every other firm. The Forbes article mentioned above provides a great example, but we’ve all seen examples of thought leadership. We know who is going above and beyond.

3. Have a strategy and goals and align the two. Being a thought leader is a lot of work and you want to be clear about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what you hope to get out of it. Seems pretty obvious, but the reality is too many firms start down a path without thinking it through. For example, you have an attorney who happens to be a prolific writer and speaker in a specific area of the law. The problem is that area is not very profitable or high priority for the law firm. How much effort do you want to put behind promoting expertise that isn’t a good fit for the firm? Or maybe the thought leadership is great and would be good for the firm, but it’s not being seen by the right niche audiences. Sometimes firms focus on getting the content piece right, but spend less time making sure the promotion and distribution is getting to their target market. You need to bring both parts together in a strategic way otherwise how are you going to profit from being a thought leader.

4. Write, speak and share information consistently. You can’t be a thought leader if you don’t put your thoughts out there. Write articles, blog posts, whitepapers, and books. Curate and comment on other people’s content. Speak at online and live events. Create video. Use social media. You don’t have to do them all, but put out content in different formats to maximize your reach and appeal to different audiences. And do this regularly. Thought leadership is a long-term strategy. People have to hear from you on a consistent basis. An occasional article or speech isn’t enough, even if it’s really great. Of course, there are lots of ways to repackage that great content to get more life out of it, but make sure you’re doing that. You must be visible on a regular basis.

5. Cultivate relationships with other experts, influencers, industry professionals, and media. As you develop your thought leadership, reach out to other authorities. Gather and share their insights with your audience, make introductions and give referrals, and offer to help them with their content. By assisting others, you’re getting your name out to key contacts in your field, developing deeper relationships, and it’s likely at least some people will reciprocate by helping you. It will also make your thought leadership better informed because you’re incorporating insights from others.

Becoming a thought leader is a long-term commitment and a lot of work. However, successful firms know the investment is worth it in order to not only survive, but thrive against the competition.

Is there a place for “canned” content in your firm’s marketing?

empty tin canAre you using canned content? On one level, I’m surprised how often I see professional services firms relying heavily on content from third party providers for their content marketing. I understand why firms choose to use this content. They appreciate the value of providing regular information to their clients and prospects, but they don’t feel they can do that work themselves. As a content marketer, I try to convince them they can and should produce their own original content. However, is canned content all bad?

The first issue is defining canned content. The term itself has a negative connotation, but encompasses a wide-range of information from different quality sources. This is content created by various publishing, website and marketing companies to be licensed for firms to use on their websites and in newsletters. These companies often focus on providing content to specialized and regulated professions. The material is not custom content developed for a particular client and it is not licensed content republished from premium publications (think NY Times, Reuters, etc.).

What are the pros and cons of using this content?

Pros:

1. Regularly delivered, solid information. It’s important to stay top of mind with clients and prospects and constantly sending them promotional material will just annoy them. These services allow you to provide some useful information on a regular basis. Assuming your source is top-notch, the content should be well-written and accurate.

2. Specialized content may be available. As mentioned above, you can often find providers who specialize in content for your profession or subject area, such as accounting, finance, tax or employment law. In the case of some regulated industries, like the financial industry, the material may even meet strict compliance requirements and be pre-approved for use.

3. Less investment. It takes less time, money and staff to license third party content, than to create it yourself. However, pricing does vary greatly.

4. Copyright is not a concern. If you want to republish all or substantial portions of third party content, then licensing is the ways to go. You don’t have to worry about fair use, getting permissions or other rights issues. The information can also reside on your own website so you’re not linking off to other sites and sending readers elsewhere.

5. Other benefits. Some of these services provide everything from design templates, to email platforms and tracking.

Cons:

1. Generic content. By its nature, canned content is meant to appeal to a wide-range of people. Therefore it tends to be very generalized, providing information that is more of an overview for a broad audience. It’s less likely to be targeted or relevant to your audience’s needs and wants. So it will be less interesting and thus, probably not very effective as a tool to attract and retain business.

2. Impersonal. Since the material is written by someone else, it won’t have your “voice.” It also won’t reflect your unique message and help build your personal brand. Most likely your audience will recognize your content as canned and wonder why you sent it. People are inundated with too much information as it is. Providing them with something they could get elsewhere and you didn’t put any personal effort into, won’t make them feel you really want to engage with them.

3. Not a differentiator. Since the content is generic and impersonal, it won’t differentiate you from your competitors. Some of those competitors may even have the identical content on their site. Worse, they may have great content and yours is canned. You will miss an opportunity to stand out and position yourself as a true expert, thought leader and trusted advisor.

4. No SEO benefit. This is duplicate content that appears on multiple sites so it won’t help you be found online by search engines. Google rewards sites with original content and penalizes low quality sites with duplicate content.

5. Limited rights. It’s likely you have restricted rights to edit or modify the content. This means you can’t repurpose and leverage the material in different ways to get more value out it.

Is there a role for canned content?

I believe firms that use such content realize there is value to content marketing, but need to fully appreciate how important it is to be different when there is already an overwhelming amount of information available to people.

If you want to use some canned content to help get your content marketing off the ground, then use it selectively and in combination with your own material. First, look closely at what your vendor is providing to you. Make sure the material has some value for your particular audience and then consider how you can make it more useful. Is it basic introductory content? Then organize and label it that way so those who are interested can easily find it. Then look at ways to enhance it. Write up your own commentary and takeaways. Provide related checklists, tips and case studies. Use the canned content as inspiration for writing your own pieces that take the subject matter to a new level. Think about how it applies to your specific audience and your own expertise.

The point is you can start small. You can bring in original, personal and targeted content a little at a time while you phase out the use of canned content. In the end, you’ll do a much better job of differentiating yourself and building stronger relationships with your audience. And that will drive your business success.

Why you should give away the secret sauce

Secret ingredient with chain and padlock isolated on whiteMany professional services firms I have worked with tout their superior experience and knowledge as the reason they should be hired over their competitors. Yet those same firms are concerned about truly demonstrating their expertise through public writing and speaking because they would be giving away their “secret sauce” for free. The end result is they put out a lot of bland generic information that sounds like everyone else, instead of specific helpful content that would differentiate them from the pack.

Now I agree you don’t want to give away proprietary information. However, before you produce another mediocre piece of content (or don’t produce any content at all), ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Is it really your secret sauce?

Everything you know is not proprietary. Just because you provide some helpful advice, tips, or other information doesn’t mean you’ve given it all away. For years I recruited attorneys and accountants to author 500+ page tomes, yet I never heard anyone complain they lost potential clients because they wrote a book and clients didn’t need them anymore. There are plenty of ways to provide meaningful insights without solving every potential problem your audience might have.

Your real secret sauce is being able to understand and analyze your client’s specific issues as well as the big picture. It’s putting together and implementing a plan of action to help them. Those skills are harder than you think to translate into articles or presentations. Don’t worry about giving it away for free. Focus on showcasing the underlying knowledge and unique value you bring to your clients.

2. What are prospects really going to do with your content?

Professionals fear people will take their advice, do it themselves and they will lose business. But if it was that easy for others to do it themselves, then why did you need all that extra education, training and years of experience? Okay you know they can’t handle it, but they think they can do it themselves and so now you lost the client. But did you really want that client? The one who thinks they can figure out what you do by googling their problem. Do you think they were genuine prospects for you? Most likely they wouldn’t have hired you to do the work anyway. However, when it becomes too much to handle or if they have a future problem, they may remember the useful information you provided them for free.

Educating your audience is a good thing even if it doesn’t result in immediate business. This is the essence of content marketing. Consistently producing and delivering practical and informative content is an excellent way to gain visibility and engage and retain your prospect’s attention. In the professional services world the sales cycle can be very long or very short. Either way you want to become a trusted resource so that when prospects are looking for help, you are top of mind.

3. Can your content help you bring in or solidify new business?

Publishing useful and targeted content is an excellent way to get found by search engines. In fact, content creation is the most effective tactic for search engine optimization (SEO) and B2B marketers rank SEO as one of the top lead generation tactics. (Source: MarketingSherpa) Websites with lots of real content show up higher in organic search rankings so it make sense to put out information that will help bring prospects to you.

What about where someone already knows about you? Maybe they were referred to you or met you at an event or even worked with you on another matter. Word of mouth, referrals, and networking are top lead sources. However, it’s very likely those prospects will also google you and look at your website and LinkedIn profile. Showcasing high-quality valuable information helps give you credibility, enhances your reputation and establishes you as uniquely knowledgeable, trustworthy and client-centric. The reverse is also true. In a recent Hinge survey, 52% of respondents ruled out referrals to professional services firms before even speaking with them. Many of their top reasons focused on the fact that the firm didn’t demonstrate online how they could help clients. Unclear marketing materials that were too sales-oriented and poor quality content all contributed to keeping a referral from following up with a firm.

When you’re thinking about preparing that next article or speech, ask yourself these 3 questions. Hopefully your answers will lead you towards producing the kind of content that will get you noticed and grow your business.