Show Your Expertise Through Content Marketing.

How to develop content that gets results -- using ‘fear’ and ‘greed’

You may have been told that to build a professional profile, your firm's members need to publish articles in client-read publications, give speeches to industry groups, have a YouTube channel, build their Twitter followers and maybe maintain a blog too.

That’s a tall order, and for many it’s daunting. It helps to have a clear goal in mind for your content marketing work.

In creating content, remember that you are writing with two purposes.

1. To inform -- that’s the ‘content’ part of content marketing. It has to be useful, relevant information.

2. To persuade -- that’s the ‘marketing’ part of content marketing. Your articles must motivate the reader to take action -- which will likely involve getting in touch with you, or another action such as downloading your white paper, signing up for your online class, or following you on Twitter.

But there are only two ways to motivate anyone to do anything:

  • Persuade them that they have a problem that they need to solve, and soon.
  • Convince them that they have an opportunity to benefit, and unless they take action soon, they’ll miss out.

In other words, we motivate through ‘fear’ and ‘greed.’ Your firm's content must contain one of these elements or the other, and if possible, both.

Helping your clients avoid problems

Let’s start with ‘fear’-oriented content. Fear content must be truly scary. The more terrifying the better. You need to demonstrate conclusively that the problem you’re describing is real, relevant and with painful consequences. So, sit back and think about a problem that your firm helps its clients solve.

For example, let’s consider an air quality engineer who helps clients meet regulatory limits for emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, sulfur oxides, heavy metals and other contaminants.

Much of this is about helping organizations avoid problems -- not just regulatory orders, fines and other sanctions, but concern from members of the public living and working near the plant, as well as the company’s employees. In many jurisdictions, allowable levels of emissions are gradually declining, with more strict enforcement.

Three points to effective 'fear' content

1 Describe the problem and its consequences -- the changes in allowable emissions levels, and the possible sanctions. Indicate where the problem comes from, how it may have changed recently or over time, and that it’s real. Describe the effects of the situation for those who do not take action on this, now -- fines, public protests, perhaps resignation of key employees.

2 Consider the ‘objections’ that someone might have -- reasons why they might believe it isn’t a problem for them. These can come in two varieties -- the “no problem” indicates that the consequences won’t be all that bad, and the “not me” indicates that the problem won’t affect them specifically, or at least not in a significant way. In our air-quality example, this would include the idea that “regulators don’t check, and the fines aren’t material.” You’ll need to list some anecdotes, maybe recent news stories, to support your point that it is a serious problem for companies found out of compliance.

3 Provide your recommendations for actions that they can take to avoid the problem. These should not focus on “hire me” but should provide steps that they can implement. Remember, it’s not a sales pitch. This can include researching inputs and components that do not contain hazardous materials, reducing energy consumption (which reduces greenhouse gas emissions) and installing better scrubbers in the emission stacks.

Helping your firm's clients access benefits

Perhaps your area of expertise is more around helping your firm's clients gain access to benefits -- earn more money (or lose less money), move a process ahead faster, or provide peace of mind.  I call this a ‘greed’ oriented practice.

In our emissions example, there are plenty of benefits to this practice -- less energy consumption means greater profitability, employees confident that the air they breathe makes them more satisfied and productive, and well-disposed neighbors are less likely to oppose the company’s expansion plans.

So as you can see, ‘fear’ and ‘greed’ are really flip sides of each other -- almost any factor of a professional practice can be presented as either a problem or an opportunity. Good content points out both aspects.

Greed-oriented content is structured in a way similar to the other kind. It starts with discussing an opportunity that the reader can access. It points to why the reader needs to take action soon, either to get those benefits sooner, or because the opportunity may disappear. Like ‘fear’ content, it deals with objections, generally around ‘it doesn’t apply to me’ or ‘we tried that, and it doesn’t work.’  Then, discuss the ways to access the benefit.

To think about:

  • Is your firm's service mostly around helping your clients avoid problems (“fear”) or access benefits (“greed”)?
  • Have there been any changes such as new laws, regulations or disruptive technologies that either sharpen the problem or brighten the opportunity?
  • How will you grab the attention of a potential client?
  • What recommendations can you make, that don’t include “hire me”, that they can implement themselves?

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