Some of the most successful professional services firms today are laser-tight in their business focus.
They have a clear idea of their market and how they serve its needs -- whether it’s helping post-secondary institutions manage their environmental footprint, finding ways for hospitals to manage contagion, building theme-park rides, or something else.
This tight business purpose means that the content they generate needs to be equally narrow in its message, if it is to show the firm’s abilities to get results for their market. In my experience, such firms are good at developing relevant content.
But the question remains -- how to get this information in front of people in the designated markets. I see two main ways to do this:
1. Accepted content marketing wisdom: Google rules
Perhaps five years ago, the idea of “content marketing” sprang upon the marketing world as a “new” idea -- even though many people (including me) had been using information as a marketing tool for far longer. Conventional content marketing preaches the following:
- Find out what information people in your market want to know (such as how to improve energy efficiency in old university buildings)
- Develop informative content around that, without trying to “sell” through that content
- Make the content available online, and if it has the right keywords and other aspects of SEO, the people in your market -- senior university administrators -- will seek it out
- Your firm becomes seen as a thought-leader in its field, and the natural choice when a building needs to be renovated
2. Get your firm's content into media your market already trusts
Ever since targeted business magazines began, business professional firms have been trying to show their expertise to the publications’ readers. Often, this meant writing informative articles that the editor would accept because they were tailored to the magazine’s readership. It was one of the few ways to reach a targeted market.
While there has been a lot of talk about the “death of print,” trade magazines steadfastly refuse to die. In an age of tablets, phablets and employing homeless people to act as mobile, sidewalk-based Wi-Fi hot spots (really!), print magazines still thrive in some surprisingly narrow categories.
It’s not just the print version of these publications, either -- many have websites that are a high-traffic crossroads of niche news specifically targeted at their market. They have videos, audio podcasts, Twitter feeds and blogs.
Is it still worth the effort to reach niche publications?
So, we have two competing visions of how to get content in front of niche markets: (1) if you build it, Google will come, and (2) find out what your market reads, and then go there. And I can argue both ways.
No, it matters less and less: it’s called Google
One side of the issue holds that with improved search engines, apparently able to divine what you want even before you type it into that ubiquitous search box, mean that firms should focus their efforts on developing good content and good SEO. Relax, Google will find it.
And there are merits to having your firm’s content on your own website, where you can update it as needed, and remove outdated content. Also, by bringing people to your site, they may well root around inside your site some more, and be convinced of your firm’s mastery of its niche.
Okay, I get that.
That’s why a content-rich website with good SEO is important -- and we like to think that the Global Reach website walks that talk. But there are some strong trends happening in the market that make the second option increasingly relevant.
Yes, reaching niche publications is increasingly important
One of the biggest trends pushing niche-oriented firms to publish in niche-oriented publications is, well, Google. There’s been such an explosion of content available, so that every business seems obligated to generate “content” -- much of it apparently generated by monkeys paid in bananas. Some of it’s plagiarized, ripped off the Web without acknowledgement, irrelevant, badly written and out of date.
Having been online since 1992, I remember how digging through Usenet, FTP sites, Freenets, Alt groups and Gopher sites felt like drinking from a firehose. Search engines like AltaVista and Mosaic tamed the flow somewhat. But since then, the explosion of content makes it difficult even for the geniuses at Google to deliver relevant results on niche topics. And increasingly, the lack of quality control means that “I read it on the Internet” is a byword for questionable information.
This means that senior people -- with decision-making ability -- won’t be spending their time Googling for information. They’ll go to media that they already rely on and trust, and for publications that match their narrow interests.
From the point of view of the reader (ie. potential client), well-managed niche publications offer several advantages that make them attractive to professional services firms:
- They’re edited by trained journalists -- which means that the content in them will be current, relevant to the market, and free of overt marketing messages.
- The information is reliable -- Editors are strongly motivated to guard the truth and accuracy of the content they publish, because readers are paying for it and also because advertisers want to be associated with accurate information.
- Information is well presented -- while bloggers and people contributing to LinkedIn groups may be well informed on their subject matter, they probably aren’t trained writers -- and so they may be limited in their ability to convey information well. Commercial publications have editors to improve the way information gets presented.
- Good visibility on Google -- trade publication websites are high-traffic, with good credibility with search engines partly because of their many inbound and outbound links. This SEO credibility usually pushes content on these sites higher in search results -- higher than it would be on the author’s blog, or probably -- your firm’s website.
Going back to the example of a firm seeking to reach university administrators, I’ve worked with two clients to help them get their ideas into “University Business,” for the people who manage higher-education institutions. One article was on how universities can gain competitive advantage through reducing their carbon footprint, and the other helps universities cut their water use through recycling and reusing water.
Getting your firm’s content published into credible industry-read media such as this, both print and online, can be a lot of work. Success is not guaranteed. Some thoughts on that:
There’s a wide range of articles in the Global Reach website’s “Wiki” to help you. The book, “Your Expertise Edge” accessible through the Global Reach home page, will give you some practical ideas on how to build your firm’s credibility in targeted media.
And of course, we’re always open to a discussion of whether we can help your firm reach its goals.