What's the purpose of the content your firm produces?
Many professional services marketers would reply with vague concepts like "build awareness," or "to position our firm's members as thought-leaders."
I'm going to ask you to think that your firm's content has just one purpose, and it's to support the sales process of the firm. To understand this, it helps to determine the difference between sales and marketing. Here it is:
- "Sales" can be defined as "the process of supporting a prospective client as they make a decision on buying your product or service."
- "Marketing" can be defined as "Anything that supports the sales effort."
If we bear that definition of marketing in mind, our job as professional services marketers becomes much more clear, and stripped right down to the essentials. Our job is to support the members of the firm who engage with prospective clients, and give them the tools that help make this more effective. To put a sharper point on this, it's good to bear two established adages of business in mind:
- "Nothing happens until somebody sells something," and
- "Production minus sales equals scrap."
As an analogy, let's say you're planning a back-country hiking trip for a week. This may be quite outside your usual idea of a fun thing to do, but bear with me. On such a trip, you're not likely to pack anything that you are not certain you'll need. You'll want to think long and hard about every item you put into your pack at the start of the hike, because you'll be carrying it a long way.
Likewise in your content, be sure to prune away anything that doesn't meet the overall objective, which is to support the sales effort of your firm. Here are three pointers on how to do that.
What are the pain points and opportunities facing the market?
Your content must address the real issues your firm's prospects and clients are facing. In other words, their pain points and their opportunities. This could be a new environmental regulation, a new source of competition, a new technology or other such development.
To learn about those pain points and opportunities, one of your best sources of information is the people in your firm who frequently have contact with prospects and clients -- likely, people in BD as well as the senior people in the firm. They will likely be delighted if you approach them with something like, "I want to be sure that our firm's content matches the clients' situations. What issues does our firm solve for them?"
Look through their business and trade media to see what topics seem to be trending --their magazines, association websites, blogs and LinkedIn groups. Check the speaker lineups at their conferences and industry luncheons.
In short: be sure that your firm's content addresses real, current issues and concerns.
Which formats will work best for the prospect?
Think of the many possible forms your firm's content can take -- a white paper, a slide show, a video, a blog, a newsletter, an article in their professional website or magazine.
In some cases, it's best to be in electronic form; in others, some physical form such as a printed reprint, USB key, or even a CD (remember those?). Again, you're best to ask your firm's client-facing professionals which medium they'd prefer; maybe more than one. Just be sure that the content is available in the format that meets the sales cycle needs of the firm - maybe a video or slide show for the early stages of the process, with white papers and case studies for later in the process.
How can you get your firm's content in front of decision-makers?
Having good content in the right format is part of the puzzle -- but it's not the whole puzzle unless you're able to get your firm's relevant, appropriate content in front of the right eyeballs. That means choosing appropriate delivery methods.
In some cases, that might mean getting the content into media already relied upon and trusted by prospects and clients. In others, it might mean putting into a format that can be e-mailed to people your firm wants to reach. In others, it should be in a slide deck that your firm' BD people can bring up on their tablets and show in a face-to-face meeting with a client.
To understand this, you need to know the actual sales process followed by the people who meet with clients. The best way to do this is to ask them.