In a recent post, I wrote at some length about the difference between “expertise” and “experience.” The key points I hoped to drive home in that post were these:
- Experience is what you’ve done.
- Expertise is what you know how to do. Expertise is demonstrated through content. Insightful, useful content attracts high value clients to the firm by engaging them in dialogue about what interests them most.
Three Reasons Firms State for Not Using Content.
Very few (less than 10%) of firms are effectively using content to demonstrate their expertise. The question is why? Here are the answers I hear most often:
- We Don’t Have Enough Time – Our professionals are so busy they simply don’t have time to write.
- We’re Not Sure What to Write About – We don’t know what clients are interested in right now.
- What If We Say the Wrong Thing? – We don’t want to upset existing clients if we offer an opinion they don’t agree with.
What Types of Content are We Talking About?
Useful content can take many forms as long as it is educational and informative for your prospective clients. Most important, it does not sell your firm, your services or your products. The simplest form of content to produce you’re reading right now — a blog. An effective blog should be used to express your firm’s opinion on issues that matter to your prospects. Higher forms of content may be articles, webinars, white papers, or research reports. Generally these types of content offer higher perceived value for your prospects, but are also more expensive and time consuming to produce. Things that absolutely do not qualify as content are case studies of your work.
The Real Reason Firms Don’t Use Content
While the three reasons stated above seem like good ones, they’re all really just excuses to mask larger problems. For instance, take the perceived lack of time, given a minimal amount of pressure any professional can identify low value activities that could be replaced with higher value ones. When firms tell us they don’t know what to write about, they usually state it’s because they have a “broad” practice that does a lot of things. Really? What do you actually want to do? What client do you want to walk through the door today? What would you do for them? Write about that.
The real reason firms don’t use content is fear. They’re afraid they have nothing to say. They’re afraid that their 30 years of experience is really just 1 year of experience masquerading itself 30 times. They’re afraid that if they actually state an opinion, they’ll get exposed as frauds. Of course, this isn’t true. Every firm has expertise to share. It just needs to overcome its own fear.
Three Reasons to Overcome the Fear
There’s some vulnerability in expressing one’s opinion through a blog or an article. And, there are very clearly some costs associated with producing useful, insightful research to share with your prospects. So, why do it? Why make the investment? Why overcome the fear?
#1 – SEO.
Open your web analytics account. You have one right? What percentage of visitors to your site are coming from search engines? If you have lots of useful content, this percentage should be at least 40%. Now, check the search terms to see how they’re finding you? Your top search terms will likely be derivatives of your company name. However, if you are producing high value content, you will find pages of search strings that relate to the things you’re writing. These site visitors would never have found you but for the content you’re producing.
#2 – Attract High Value Clients.
Those site visitors who searched those longer phrases referenced above have a higher potential likelihood of being interested in what you do well. They came to your site because you demonstrated useful expertise that they are seeking. If and when they choose to engage you in a conversation about that topic of interest you’ll start the conversation as a recognized expert. The best clients hire you for your expertise.
#3 – Get Paid to Market.
A few months ago I sat in on a full-day work session on “Big Data.” The keynote of the event was a McKinsey consultant sharing the research his firm had done on the topic. He didn’t pay for the right to have a tradeshow booth at the event. He was invited, and quite possibly paid, to speak to over 1,000 business executives about the research his firm already performed on a topic of interest. While there is certainly some merit to the McKinsey brand, the research had tangible value that established his firm as an expert on this particular topic. Regardless, somewhere, sometime a McKinsey consultant put pen to paper and wrote the firm’s first piece of useful content that the firm shared with its prospects. That first decision to produce useful content led the firm down the path to be paid to market.
So, what do you think? Is your firm ready to develop a content strategy?