Everybody’s talking about it. It’s changing the way professional services are purchased, marketed and sold. Consultants are tripping over themselves to advise you on how to do it. Heck, a Content Marketing Institute has even popped up to bring together topical experts and advisors to discuss and share best practices. Whether yours is an engineering, a consulting, an accounting, or a law firm there are almost certainly hundreds of advisors in the market telling you to commit resources to it right now, if you haven’t already. We devoted a majority of the insight in our professional services website benchmarking handbook to it. What it is, of course, is content marketing. But, regardless of what you do, is it actually right for your firm?
While a case could probably made for a content-driven marketing approach in any business that is predominantly offering the collective knowledge, wisdom, expertise and advice of its people to the marketplace in exchange for a fee, the fact remains that content marketing may not be right for every firm. In all our time spent on the topic, we tend to believe that firms with the following characteristics stand to gain the most value from a content marketing approach:
#1 – Not Geographically Constrained
Whether your firm is actually doing business across geographies is irrelevant. The question really is whether your service is one that can be marketed and sold across geographies and what the hindrances are to doing so. Are there regulatory burdens that stand in the way? Market dynamics? If a firm’s market is inherently local, there’s no reason to assume that a traditional relationship-oriented marketing approach can’tcontinue to work. That said, it’s important to clarify that here we’re talking about real hindrances to doing business across geographies: not perceived ones. The old adage of “clients buy from people they like” is not always a simple truth.
#2 – Serving Private Markets
This is not to say that a firm which predominantly works with governmental entities can’t have success with a content marketing initiative, but the fact remains that public markets tend to have complex purchasing processes that separate buyers and sellers. It is difficult to bypass the traditional, expensive RFP/proposal process in the public arena. This fact, significantly reduces one of the biggest values from a content marketing program – the ability to establish the firm as an expert in such a way that it can often bypass traditional, competitive buying situations to directly establish business relationships.
#3 – Narrowly Focused
It is very difficult for a midsized firm to produce a steady, flow of high value content for 6, 8, or 10 markets. While it’s possible to string the needs of a few markets together and produce meaningful content, it’s really hard to be relevant for many types of buyers in many types of industries simultaneously unless you’re able to produce concurrent streams of content. We’ve written about positioning and focus frequently in the past. If your firm is not willing to do the hardwork of narrowing your business focus to one or two industries, you’ll at least need to focus your content efforts on just a few to see meaningful success.
#4 – Committed to Content
Successful content marketing initiatives generally require some amount of cultural change. Senior consultants need to be held accountable to produce content. Firm leaders need to reward consultants who contribute to the development of high value content. Also, they need to be willing to fund the initiative itself. Good content requires good packaging and effective systems to derive value from it. The firm may need to hire internal folks to steward the content development process, partner with agencies to make the content interesting, and implement new forms of marketing automation software and staff training to see the value from their efforts. This is a long-term commitment that can take up to three years or more to see sustainable outcomes so starting an initiative without long-term commitment is sure to disappoint.
Other suggestions? What are some other indicators that a content marketing initiative is right for a firm?