Given its impact on clients' purchasing behaviour, word of mouth continues to be the principal generator of work for professional service firms. Firms have historically tried to leverage WOM predominantly through 'thought leadership' marketing; providing viewpoints, clarity to ambiguous problems, and solutions through offline 'content' such as newsletters, white papers and articles. Sharing knowledge with their audiences to create demand, generate leads and maintain contact with existing clients between instructions. That is, until target audiences moved online; changing the way they talk, share opinions and consume information. WOM expanded its reach across the multitude of channels opened up by the web, presenting firms with the need to not only have an online presence, but to engage with online audiences and to ensure that the online content they produce is the right content, put in the right place at the right time, to be consumed by the right people. The challenge We now live in a world where 'interrupt marketing' has seemingly failed. Media channels have become more fragmented and audiences have closed themselves off to the traditional means of marketing. This has led many industries and big consumer brands to infiltrate 'content marketing', using it not only as the cornerstone of their in-bound marketing strategies, but also to create trust, strengthen their brand and move consumers 'softly' through the buying cycle. The challenge for professional service marketers is that consumer audiences are now subjected and exposed to more content than ever before. With huge investments being made in content marketing by other industries in line with expectations, the bar for 'quality content' has been considerably raised.
This is compounded by the difficulties of creating and distributing 'relevant' and 'valuable' content. Getting professional practitioners to be proactive in generating content is often met with some form of procrastination or resistance, or an unwillingness to add it to their daily chores. Or firms fall into the trap of sending out 'directionless' content - just because they can, and because there is a perception that it doesn't cost anything to do (never true!).
The fall-out is inevitable: poor content results in poor impact. The professional practitioners bemoan a lack of leads generated for their, albeit misplaced, efforts.
To overcome these challenges, professional service marketers recognise that content marketing demands efficiency and consistency. Detailed editorial calendars and content schedules are vital, as are delegated responsibilities to produce, edit and obtain approval for content. Essentially, they know what is needed is a 'content infrastructure'. But where firms are coming unstuck, perhaps surprisingly, is with the basics: Who is the content for? Is the content good enough? Where does it need to be placed for maximum impact, and when? Know who the content is for!
Successful content marketing is about understanding who the content is intended for. Professional service firms must turn their thought leading ‘authority' into 'audience'. Good content planning considers the audience and their characteristics. Whilst many firms will already have a good idea who their audience is, they need to go the extra mile and understand how their audiences discover, consume and act upon the content being provided.
In the 'Google age', marketers can naturally expect to find audiences online, but as social platforms expand firms need to start empathising with the 'audience information journey'. Where are they looking for information? What are their discovery channels: email messaging, search keywords, social network topics, popular websites and forums? This will give insight into the essential cues for meaningful content production, promotion and optimisation.
It’s also important to figure out how your target audience prefers