How many of you remember heading out for lunch with the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce followed up with a round of golf as the centerpiece of business development?
And let’s not forget the cold calling (by phone, not email).
Another key factoid – B2B buyers are already 57% of the way through their buying process before the first meeting with a representative. (Accenture, 2018)
Put those two together, and if your firm targets corporate buyers, you need content marketing to grab their attention, stimulate their interest, and motivate action.
And the same is true if your firm targets consumers – which means you need to develop an effective content marketing program if you want to attract new clients and grow your practice.
And, as a former golfer, feel free to keep the clubs out for later in the relationship when 4+ hours on the course is generating a larger ROI. 😀
download your free copy
The Ultimate Guide To Content Marketing
Packed with templates, tools, checklists - and even online courses to help you develop your own content marketing program.
Since the goal of all this is driving profitable growth, and most people view any and all kinds of marketing as an expense, let’s walk through how you can achieve your goals with content marketing.
And let’s start off with a little data so we’re all on the same page.
Well, if you are a sole practitioner, running your own business, the top two reasons are [a] you can’t do everything, and [b] you need to focus on billable hours.
If you are a small firm, you might have a writer, but they might be more experienced in writing blog posts and emails than white papers, checklists, testimonials, and direct mail.
Yes, you can try to work around those possible limitations but there may come a time when you know you need what the staff isn’t experienced in, so you outsource.
And for anyone – solopreneur, small, medium, and large firm – there may come a time when timeliness is crucial and you need the bandwidth to hit a key deadline.
Marketing budgets tend to produce results that resemble a bell curve, so finding that under-performing bottom 20% can free up a lot of resources including money, staff, and technology.
Identifying that money and redirecting it towards content marketing can be a highly effective way for you to proceed.
So, let’s walk through the process of what needs to be done so you can determine the best way for your firm to move forward.
Know Your Audience
“Everyone” is not your target audience.
As I tell my students – and clients -a poorly defined target audience wastes valuable and limited resources
So, let us say you were to take a walk around your office today and ask a random group that represented all levels of the firm, would you get the same answer to “Who is our ideal client?”
And if your working on your own, and won’t have to walk around the office to ask anyone, let me ask the same thing in a slightly different way.
Are you targeting consumers or businesses?
If you’re targeting consumers, tell me about:
- Age range
- Marital status
- Education level
- Household income range
- Number of children in the home under 18-years of age
- Hobbies and interests
- Goals and vales
- Wants and needs
- Buying process
- Selection criteria
If you’re target businesses, let me ask about:
- What industry do they compete in
- Corporate HQ, Branch Office, Sole location
- Number of employees
- Annual revenue
- Publicly traded or privately owned
- Geographic location
- Job title of decision-maker
- Challenges and pain points
- Sources of information
- Decision-making process
- Selection criteria
- Overview of others involved in the process
If the answer is “No” in either scenario, you need to get that insight if you want to be more successful at attracting larger numbers of qualified prospects.
Why is all this really necessary?
If you know where your audience goes to get information and what they need to move forward with your firm over others, you are going to see positive results.
What Do They Need at Each Step of Their Buying Process ?
A great deal of “content” is about the firm, not about what the prospective client cares about.
Your new hires really aren’t important to someone that is trying to figure out why they need an architect, and how to hire the right one for the job.
So instead of approaching this as “What has happened with us that we can share with our audience,” think “WIIFM.”
If you have never of “WIIFM”, you are about to now because it’s an important element of successful content marketing.
What’s In It For Me?
What that means is that when you write for your audience, you have to focus on answering that question for them, not you.
You also need to address the changing needs at each stage of your audience’s buying process.
For example, a start-up company with $100M in venture capital just signed a lease. And they have 100,000 square feet of floor, walls, and ceiling that must be made ready for operations as soon as possible.
But they don’t know what to do about that – and their real estate agent recommends a couple of firms.
At this point, they need to understand how to identify and select the right architect.
What to expect in a major project like this one.
How to handle changes in a project like this that can impact the original timeline.
And I am sure there’s more that I am missing – but you get the point.
These questions are why your audience is going online – to get answers, identify options, and begin to build their selection criteria.
If your content is easily found online, they are going to find it, read it and (ideally) come to trust you as an expert.
That’s so critically important to build and maintain with your audience.
But how do you identify their need at each stage of their buying process?
Watch. Listen. Ask. Analyze. Test.
Write Down Your Plan
Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, it’s time to develop your action plan.
- What are your goals and objectives?
- What is your budget?
- What are your strategies and tactics?
The reason your plan needs to be written is to keep everyone focused on who is doing what, when, and why. You also need to have a clear definition of what “success” is for each activity.
Many will push back on with the most popular reason seeming to be “that will prevent us from pursuing opportunities we didn’t realize might present themselves.”
That’s not true.
Your plan is a living, breathing thing that can be adjusted based on changes within the business and outside the business. But there needs to be a process for reviewing progress along with the internal and external environment so that recommendations can be made, reviewed and either approved and not.
What you want to avoid is having everyone swayed by the wind, going in their own directions because “I thought this would be best” without coordination within the team.
This plan doesn’t have to be complex, though the more details, the better.
Goals: What does the practice want to be? The biggest? Most revenue? Profits? Market share? Other?
Objectives: What’s the key metric that would prove the goal was achieved? Remember that objectives are measurable and have a date/deadline.
Budget: What are you willing to invest to achieve the objectives.
Let’s say the goal is to be the largest architecture firm in Maryland and your research finds that the largest firm headquartered in Maryland reported $10M in revenue last year.
You then set an objective of $12M in revenue by December 31st.
What do you need to invest in to achieve that figure?
Strategies: Will you achieve this through new client development? Client retention? Referrals? Partnerships? Acquisitions? Other?
If you decide that new client development is one opportunity to pursue, describe the ideal client and project(s). Be as specific as you can with each strategy so that the tactics can be appropriate.
Tactics: The activities that your content marketing team will take to achieve the objectives, on budget.
So let’s walk through that same scenario, picking up with the tactics for new business development targeting 40 to 50-year old married couples with at least 2 children under 18-years of age living in the home, where the household income is between $500K and $1M, located in the Chevy Chase Maryland area. The adults are partners in law or accounting firms, active in local charities.
Or maybe the focus is on commercial real-estate companies responsible for properties (list examples or create a specific list) in the downtown Baltimore area.
From there, the tactics focus on the messaging, offers, media, types of content (blog posts, white papers, video, podcasts, etc.) and timing of each activity.
Each activity has its own budget and measurable objectives such as leads generated, projects closed, total revenue generated, average revenue generated per project (order size), etc.
Notice those objectives are tied to business objectives that help pay the bills, not soft goals such as “Likes” and “Downloads” and “Shares.” The reason for this is that your content marketing needs to be generating results that help pay the bills.
Getting Your Message Into Their Hands
This is where you start producing content and ‘distributing’ the content so your audience can have it in their hands when they need it.
Remember, in the early stages of the buying process, your audience is looking for information and you are most likely looking to increase awareness. They don’t know you because they haven’t worked with you before, so this is your opportunity to make a great first impression.
You want to be seen as a subject matter expert, so focus on providing insight into the wants and needs your audience has in these early stages.
Use the media to its fullest potential. And remember the ideal situation is to get them to your website so you can capture their contact information.
Some will focus on building social media followers – just remember that you don’t own the data, the social media platform does. And the social media platform controls your ability to communicate with your ‘followers.’
What this means is if you have a Facebook Page for your business, use text posts, images, video, Facebook Live, Groups – whatever your audience responds to, and try to get them to your site so you can capture their contact information.
Then, to control the communication process, use email, direct mail and other media. (Yes, you will need a CRM to manage this information.)
Test, Measure, Modify, Repeat
All of your tactics should have measurable metrics that allow you to determine if the tactic is effective or something that needs to be either modified or put to rest.
Some of those metrics should include:
- Number of qualified leads
- Number of proposals
- Dollar value of proposals
- Number of signed projects
- Dollar value of signed projects
If you haven’t tracked these metrics in the past, you can calculate them based on the data on-hand, then use them as a baseline moving forward.
Next, when you create content – a blog post, a checklist, a video – include a call to action that results in capturing the person’s contact information. (Notice the offer at the top of this post?)
What are you testing?
Blog post title to generate more reads. Comments left. Clicks on recommended content that’s related to the topic but perhaps further down the decision-making path.
On the first pass, this may sound like a great deal of work.
It can be,
But so is leading a growing architecture firm. So what it really all comes down to is how you want to spend your time.
You probably noticed that things like phone calls, personal 1:1 emails, events, meetings…these aren’t mentioned above. But take it from me, they still should be part of your communication efforts with prospective, current and former clients.
You are probably wondering “Why the hell would I want to add content marketing on top of everything we have going on?”
Step back for a moment and think of the last major purchase you made.
Did the process start with you realizing you had an issue that might need a solution? And did you spend some time online research your current situation? And also searching for possible solutions to your need?
And during those searches, did you come across any information that helped you better understand your situation and your options?
And was there one or two sources that stood out to you as experts, trustworthy?
Did you buy from either of them? Did you at least contact them to find out the specifics of their solution for you need?
I ask because that’s the process your audience goes through. As a prospect, they might not know you or they might “kinda know” you but not completely get what you offer.
Instead of calling you for some ideas and possible solutions, they went online, gathered information and analyzed it over some time.
Eventually, they get to a place where they feel comfortable with a couple of potential solution providers. And research tells us that this is the 50-60% point in their buying process.
If you don’t have information available for them in that first half of their buying process, you’re at a disadvantage – and your competitors, with their content marketing efforts, are well ahead of you.
Don’t look at this as “a lot of work.” Work smart. Leverage your resources to generate content that can work different media (audio, video, text, interactive, etc.) And focus on the quality over the quantity.
If you have any questions, reach out to me – I am happy to answer your questions.