Content Marketing Guide

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Content MarketingGuideforProfessional Services

The Content Marketing Guide for Professional Services ExecutivesCopyright 2012Published by Hinge Research Institute1851 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 350Reston, Virginia 20191All rights reserved. Except as permitted under U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of thispublication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, orstored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.Design by Hinge.Visit our website at www.hingemarketing.comCONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms

About this GuideWhat?A cohesive overview of the business development contentmarketing approach that is changing professional services.Why?There is a revolution, and content marketing is at the heartof it. You need to understand how it applies to your firm’sprofessional services marketing.Who is it from?This guide was prepared by Hinge, a leader in branding andmarketing for professional serivices firms.How can Hinge help?Hinge offers content marketing services in the following areas:»»»»»»Content Marketing StrategyWebsite RedesignOutsourced Blog Writing and EditingGraphic Design and LayoutContent MarketingCampaign ManagementAdditionally, Hinge also offers:»»»»»BrandingAward Winning CreativeResearch and StrategySearch Engine OptimizationSocial Media Strategy and ImplementationCONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms

Tableof ContentsTableof ContentsDEVELOPING YOUR CONTENTMARKETING APPROACHChapter 1:The Case for Content Marketing2Chapter 2:Developing Your Content Marketing Playbook6Chapter 3:The Content Marketing Process9DEVELOPING GREAT CONTENTChapter 4:Creating Your Content Marketing Library12Chapter 5:Making Content Marketing More Efficient14Chapter 6:Writing Better Case Stories16TIPS & BLUNDERSChapter 7:10 Tips for Better Content Marketing20Chapter 8:5 Big Blunders to Avoid23CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms


1The Case forContent MarketingContent marketing is fast becoming the approachof choice for branding and marketing professionalservices. There are several key reasons that thisis the case.We thought it might be a good idea to lay outthe case for a content marketing strategy as anapproach to growing your professional servicesfirm. We’ll also take a look at the limits of contentmarketing in order to help you make a balanceddecision about how it might fit within your firm.Content Marketing DefinedContent marketing is a strategy based on producing anddistributing material that is valuable and interesting toyour target audience. That content can come in manyformats. Common examples include blog posts, articles,white papers, webinars, videos and books.But whatever its format, content should be educational,useful or entertaining rather than promotional or salesoriented. Educational content can be very useful inbuilding your firm’s brand and developing new clientsby giving prospects a taste of how your firm can helpthem and what it may be like to work with you. Do youcome across as authoritative and formal or friendly andapproachable?CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms“ Contentshould beeducational,useful orentertainingrather thanpromotionalor salesoriented.”2

If your content is useful and engaging, potential clientsare more likely to be attracted to your firm, remember youand — when they have a relevant need — contact you.Because prospects are finding you, content marketingis considered a “pull” or inbound strategy as opposedto a “push” or outbound strategy. (There are exceptions,however: content can easily be distributed or pushed outto prospects.)You may recognize content marketing as a descendentof traditional “thought leadership” strategies. But theemergence of the Internet and social media have helpedtransform it into a much more powerful force in the newworld of professional services marketing.The Case for Content Marketing1. Content marketing is a natural fit with professionalservices. Professional services brands are driven byexpertise and client relationships. What better way todemonstrate expertise and let potential clients sampleyour thinking and approach? If people like what they seeand hear, they are likely to include your firm in their poolof potential service providers.2. Search engines love content. As a matter of fact, thewhole purpose of search is to help people find what theyare looking for. Nothing greases the skids better thanappealing content.“ Nothinggreasesthe skidsbetter thanappealingcontent.”If you are savvy enough to build your content around wellresearched keyword phrases, Google will beat a path toyour online door. In short, the right people will find you forthe right reasons.3. High quality, relevant content helps qualify and nurtureleads and build your brand. Once a potential client hasfound you, your stream of content will help educate andqualify the prospect as they gain an understanding ofyour brand. They will either appreciate your value ordetermine that you are not a good fit.Either way, this is something they will do on their own.You don’t need to convince them. They will educatethemselves, saving you considerable time and expense.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms3

4. It is less expensive. A recent study by Hubspotrevealed that the average cost of a lead generated byinbound marketing techniques (those driven by contentmarketing) was 60% less ( 134 vs. 332) than leadsgenerated from more traditional outbound marketingtactics. Now there is a reason you can take right down tothe accounting department!5. Content marketing works around the clock and aroundthe globe. There is no better feeling than to come intothe office to find a brand new, well-qualified lead waitingfor you. Yum, yum. Sure beats endless hours at boring,uncomfortable networking events.Equally important, content marketing attracts prospectsbased on interest and affinity, not just geography. Thisis key in a world where location is steadily becomingless important. It is a fast track to becoming a national orinternational firm.It’s easy to see the appeal of content marketing forprofessional services. But what about the dark side?The Case Against Content Marketing1. It’s not easy. Developing great content is not alwayseasy. Most content marketing is poorly executed and caneasily turn into client repellent and a brand spoiler.2. It takes time to build up a stock of valuable content. Itcan take months of steady work to begin seeing results.Folks sometimes get discouraged and give up too soon.“They willeducatethemselves,saving youconsiderabletime andexpense.”3. You have to keep at it. Just like any other marketingapproach, if you stop doing it, it will eventually stopworking. The need to keep producing over time can be abig challenge for some firms. But then again that is truefor most marketing approaches.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms4

4. Competition is increasing. As the benefits of contentmarketing become more visible to professional servicesfirms, more of them are jumping on the bandwagon. Theinevitable result is increased competition for potentialclients’ attention.Upping the bar inevitably increases costs. Thisforces firms to become more creative and explorenew strategies and techniques.Is content marketing right for your professionalservices firm? In the next chapter, we’ll show youhow you might go about developing a contentmarketing playbook for your firm.“Folkssometimesgetdiscouragedand give uptoo soon.”Want to do it yourself?From step-by-step How-Tos to in-depth courses,Hinge University will give you the skills and know-howto elevate your brand.Check out Hinge University: HingeUniversity.comCONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms5

2Developing Your ContentMarketing PlaybookWhen executed correctly, content marketing allowsyou to attract and qualify potential clients andbuild significant trust. Think traditional speakingengagements taken online and supercharged.But many firms struggle to get started and organizetheir efforts. We recently conducted a webinar withContent Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi thatlaid out several fundamental principles that you canuse as you develop your own content marketingstrategy.Here are the key take-aways for building your firm’s contentmarketing playbook:1. Content marketing drives professional services firmgrowth and profitability:Our research shows that the fastest-growing and mostprofitable firms are generating more leads online. Andmany of them are doing it with basic content marketingvehicles such as blogging, articles, ebooks, newslettersand the like. These pieces are directly supported by searchengine optimization (SEO), which helps people find themonline.2. To be effective it must be non-sales focused:While it is important to present your sales message on yourwebsite, content marketing is different. It’s about providinguseful, non-sales-oriented information.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms6

Some large brand marketers will have multipleindependent platforms that function as online publicationsor content hubs. But for most professional services firms,a blog and/or content library is usually sufficient.3. Give away the secret sauce:This is a very important insight for professional servicesfirms and one of Joe’s key points. Many marketers areafraid to give away too much information for fear thatpotential clients will no longer need them.Well, consider these two observations. First, if you don’teducate your prospects, someone else will. Second, ifthey are planning to do it on their own, they were nevergoing to be your client in the first place.The more useful your information, the more seriousprospects will trust you — and the more likely they areto hire you when the time is right. That’s a powerfulcompetitive advantage.4. Staff the function adequately andappropriately:Don’t make success impossible by under-resourcingthe content generation and promotion function. Thereare at least four distinct roles involved in the process:(1) high level strategic guidance, (2) content production,(3) editorial guidance and (4) promotion (often involvingsocial media). Skimp on any of these, and it’s tough tosucceed.“If you don’teducate yourprospects,someone elsewill.”The good news is that many firms successfully outsourceone or more of these functions. [Full disclosure: Hingedoes this type of work for professional services firms.]5. Leverage your employees and partners tocreate content:If you are like most professional services firms, you havesome very smart experts on your team. And since yourpeople are your product, it is natural to have them writecontent.Now, it’s possible that some of your best experts are busywith billable work or just plain bad writers. That is whereadequately resourcing the function (see number 4 above)comes into play.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms7

A skilled writer can conduct a brief interview with theexpert and turn it into useful, easily digestible content thatattracts potential clients. Even dry technical papers can bereworked and broken down into appealing pieces.6. Build a community of influencers:It’s not enough to have a trove of great content. It must beshared and promoted to make content marketing work,and social media is fantastic way to get the word out.How? Become a social media sharer.As you run across other people’s content, share it onLinkedIn, Twitter or another favorite platform. But be sureto insert some of your own content occasionally in thisflow.Joe Pulizzi recommends a 4-1-1 formula. For every 4pieces of other people’s content, promote 1 of your ownnon-sales educational pieces and 1 promotional piece(such as an offer). The goal is to develop reciprocalsharing relationships with influencers that allow yourcontent to be found.7. Have content at different levels:Try to make most of your content readily availableand easily found on search engines. That means youwon’t want to put the majority of your content behindregistration forms. Think blog posts articles, videos,infographics, and the like.But more valuable and lengthy material may requirethe exchange of some information for a download. Justkeep in mind that the more detailed, “sales-qualification”information you require, the fewer downloads you arelikely to get.“The goal isto rsthat allowyour contentto be found.”And when you require registration, make sure the followup content you deliver is not superficial or self-serving.That would destroy the trust you have worked to build.Keep these points in mind as you draw up your owncontent marketing playbook.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms8

3The ContentMarketing ProcessLooking to understand the new online leadgeneration process? Want to harness it to boostthe growth and profitability of your firm?A whole new process is revolutionizing the wayprofessional services firms find new clients. We call it theContent Marketing Model.Trust and expertise are still important. But these days,time on the golf course and personal referrals aren’tthe only paths to building relationships. Firms are alsobuilding trusting relationships by sharing valuable contentand engaging potential clients online.Busy executives want answers, and they want them now.They want to find out more on the issues and possiblesolutions relevant to their fields. But they don’t want towaste precious time doing it.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms“ Busyexecutiveswantanswers,and theywant themnow. ”9

The Content Marketing Model DefinedThe Content Marketing Model focuses on building trustand engagement one step at a time. That process isillustrated in Figure 1.Fig. 1The process starts when you attract people to yourwebsite with useful, engaging content that is relevant totarget clients’ interests and needs. Such content showsyour expertise.When the content proves useful, potential clients willwant more. By offering visitors more valuable and indepth content, you encourage them to share their contactinformation with you. Each email address you receive isyour first “conversion” (a potential client). It’s the start of atwo-way dialogue where you can offer still more engagingand in-depth content via email.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms10

Potential clients who remain interested and engagedwill take the next step at some point, allowing for morediscussion. Perhaps they will respond to an offer for afree consultation or a product demo.Finally, they will ask for proposals, and you’ll have anopportunity to convert them into clients. Each step in theprocess has allowed them to gain trust in you and learnabout your expertise by “sampling” it.Along the way, you have also been indirectly qualifyingthem as potential clients. If your content is relevant tothem through progressive stages of the buying process,they are qualifying themselves through their continuedinterest.“The contentmarketingprocessinvolvesbuilding trustone step ata time.”The beauty of the model is that potential clients eachprogress at the pace that is right for their situation. Youare not chasing people, trying to “sell them something.”They are taking the next steps when they are ready.So how do you put this model in place? There are threebasic processes that work together. Let’s look at eachin turn.The Three Content Marketing Processes1. Create. You start by developing content that interestsprospects at various stages of the buying process (seeFigure 2).Fig. 21 . C RE AT E2.PRKeywordResearchPartnersDistribution SitesMarketing PartnersCONTENTClientResearchWebAnalyticsCONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services FirmsSocial MediaTwitterLinkedInetc.11

How do you know what type of content to produce?That’s where research comes in—study your clients andtheir needs. It’s also essential to research keywords inorder to make your content easy to find online.Additionally, be sure you understand and use yourwebsite analytics. These tools help pinpoint what topicsare of interest to visitors and where your traffic is comingfrom. Taken together, this information helps you zero inon the most significant and valuable content.2. Promote. Next, you promote that useful contentthrough a wide variety of channels (see Figure 3). Hereis where social media really adds value. Great contentand social media sharing go perfectly hand in hand.Fig. 32 . PROM OTEPartnersDistribution SitesMarketing Partners“ Content isalso verywell suitedto etterEmailUsabilityTestingCOC ON TE N TSocial MediaTwitterLinkedInetc.SearchPPCSEOAContent is also very well suited to improving searchengine rankings. Each blog post represents anotherlong tailed keyword ranking opportunity. That’s why SEOconsiderations are so integral to the process of creatingcontent. It allows potential clients to locate you and yourvaluable content.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms12

Don’t neglect using your marketing partners to promoteyour content as well. Their support can help extend yourreach and integrate online and offline efforts.Finally, keep in mind that sharing new content is also aneffective way to nurture your existing leads. Promote newcontent through newsletters, email, webinars, and the like.3. Convert. The third key process is converting visitorsinto clients. You convert a visitor (see Figure 4) bypresenting those offers that move them up the scaleof engagement.Fig. 43. C ON V E /B TestingNeed some help?Hinge offers a comprehensive suite of marketing andbranding services to increase your visibility and growyour firm.Let’s explore how we can help:content@hingemarketing.com703 391 8870 hingemarketing.comCONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms13

For example, someone reading a blog post may see anoffer to download an ebook relevant to that specific post’stopic. Because they are interested in learning more on thetopic, they decide to download the ebook. In exchangeyou get an email address that allows you to offer moreengaging content.The ebook may contain an offer for a free consultation ora free assessment that the reader eventually pursues. Inthis way you continually present opportunities for greaterlevels of interaction and engagement.Here is where AB testing, web analytics, and usabilitytesting will help you optimize your lead generationprocess. The information they provide enhances yourability to systematically move prospects up the scaleof engagement.Reducing ConfusionContent marketing is simple in concept but can beconfusing in practice. Where do I start? Which toolsdo I need? How do all of these tools fit together?Hopefully this model helps put them into a practicalworking context.Implemented in isolation, these marketingtechniques can produce a lot of frustration andwasted effort. But used in concert, within an easilyunderstood model, they can establish a leadgeneration process that drives both faster growthand greater firm profitability.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms“ Here iswhere ABtesting, webanalytics,and usabilitytesting willhelp youoptimizeyour leadgenerationprocess.”14


4Creating Your ContentMarketing LibraryIt is becoming increasingly important todevelop unique, valuable content thatlives on your website. When you regularlypublish blog posts, white papers, articles,speeches, research studies and other contentthat appeals to your target prospects, youaccomplish two objectives:1. Boost SEO – Every piece of content on your siteis another chance to be indexed in search engines.For instance, if you write a post called “How to Hire anAccountant” and someone searches Google for “how tohire an accountant,” that person may end up on your site.2. Build Trust – Having useful content on your sitehelps web visitors through the buying process. The morethey use your company as a source for education, themore they will grow to trust you and turn to you when theyneed services.“Every pieceof contenton your siteis anotherchance tobe indexedin searchengines.”Content expert Sonja Jefferson explains in her valuablecontent blog that your material can be split into twocategories: Stock – Long-lasting content with true remarkable valuesuch as research reports and ebooks. Flow – Everyday content meant for community-typeconversation. Examples include blog posts and tweets.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms16

At Hinge, our stock and flow differ considerably. Some ofour stock pieces, such as our book, Spiraling Up and ourprofessional services research studies, require a greatdeal of research and take months or years to complete.In contrast, our flow takes on more of a casual tone andis meant to convey our knowledge in smaller chunks.As a result, we know our stock content incredibly well.When we are networking (in person or online), we oftencite our research and other content. Having this bodyof unique content adds great value to any conversationand generates quick credibility.If you are interested in building a content marketinglibrary, start creating content today. Create a blog and getwriting! But also begin to think about a long-term piece ofwork, such as an e-book, that you can promote over time.It should be substantive and substantial.Content marketing is going to generate interest andcredibility. But you must have something substantialbehind it. The sooner you start creating, the sooneryour website activity will spark and generatenew opportunities. The next chapter tells you howto generate both stock and flow efficiently.Want to do it yourself?From step-by-step How-Tos to in-depth courses,Hinge University will give you the skills and know-howto elevate your brand.Check out Hinge University: HingeUniversity.comCONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms17

5Making Content MarketingMore EfficientThe benefits of content marketing are easyto see. What firm doesn’t want to positionitself as a thought leader, dominate searchengines, and flourish in social media groups?For many firms, content marketing has onemajor downside—it sucks up time. There areonly so many hours in a day, and you’d likemost of them to be billable. So when do youfind time to write blog posts, shoot videos,present webinars, and compile ebooks?For all of you who aspire to conquer the world of contentmarketing, I have a little secret It’s called content efficiency.Content efficiency is the practice of repurposing youreducational content in various formats. In other words, it’stripling or quadrupling the number of pieces you publishon your website without tripling the number of fresh ideasyou have to come up with.“Contentefficiencyis thepractice ofrepurposingyoureducationalcontentin variousformats.”As an example, let’s take a look at two technologycompanies and the content they plan to publish in anupcoming month.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms18

Company 1—No Content Efficiency A blog post on business intelligence A blog post on portals A blog post on Cognos software A blog post on video data analysis A webinar on a new product that just cameout A short ebook on document management A podcast about a Microsoft update(Phew, that was a lot of work!)Company 2—Great Content Efficiency A four-part blog series on business intelligenceA webinar on business intelligence covering thepoints from the postsA short ebook compiled from the fourrepurposed blog postsA podcast of an interview with the ebook author(OMG, that was so easy!)You’ll notice that the number of pieces remains the same;however, Company 2 has to do a lot less mental legwork thanCompany 1. Establishing a monthly or quarterly theme can go along way toward making B2B content marketing manageable.Does every piece of content need to fit the theme? Of coursenot. Providing a bit of variety always helps keep things fresh.But by tying a many of your pieces to one topic area, you’ll findyour content producers stressing far less about finding thatnext new topic.So before you say “I can’t” to content marketing, tryusing the content efficiency. Your firm may just find thateffective content marketing is very achievable.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms19

6Top 10 Tips for Writinga Case StoryDoes writing a case story feel like a bad trip tothe dentist? You are not alone. Most professionalservices firm seem to struggle with them.Yet we all know that we should do more. Theycan be an important part of your contentmarketing strategy. If done well they can attractnew prospects and help close more business.Here are some of our favorite tips to make theprocess easier and much more effective.1. Involve the client very early.Some clients will shy away from participating and othershave firm policies against them. But for many clients,being considered as a case story will be a strong positive.They can look forward to special treatment and thepossibility of increased visibility. This not only helps yougain cooperation, it also encourages you to collect goodinformation on the “before” situation.“A quote fromthe client isanother greatway to addbelievabilityand credibilityto your casestory.”2. Identify the client.This is a huge credibility booster and should be done if atall possible. Yes, there are some circumstances where youcannot for ethical or legal reasons. But for many situationsit is possible. And when you can, it is very helpful.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms20

3. Use a quote.A quote from the client is another great way to addbelievability and credibility to your case story. Alsoconsider a quote from the professional from your firmthat did the work. This helps make it seem more real andeasier to identify with.4. Include keywords in the title and body copy.Do an SEO keyword analysis of your topic and includethem when you are writing. This will help the searchengines find the case story and spread the word. Somecommon keywords include the name of the client’scompany and the nature of the service you provided.5. Use numbers.Numbers add credibility in a way words do not. They canbe useful in describing the magnitude of a challenge,the process you used and ,of course, the results youachieved. Don’t be concerned if you don’t have perfectdocumentation. Even a few numbers help.6. Tell a story.Good stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.They also have a struggle against the odds and a turningpoint. If it is too easy there is no tension or suspense.Will it work or not? While we are not suggesting turningyour case stories into literature, a little bit of old fashionstory telling will go a long ways toward increasing readerinterest and engagement.7. Use pictures.“Numbersaddcredibility ina way wordsdo not.”Often overlooked, this is a great way to communicate asetting or give you a quick feel for a client. While mostprofessional services do not easily lend themselves toa picture of the service ( try photographing an audit ora computer program) there are other alternatives. Howabout a picture of the client’s facility or their product?Think broader and you will find interesting subjects tospice up your case story.CONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms21

8. Avoid jargon.Have mercy on your readers and avoid industry jargonand acronyms. A surprising number of readers will notunderstand what you are trying to communicate. Assumeyou are writing a case story for your aunt to read and youwon’t be far off. Also make the case story easy to skim.Use short sentences, descriptive headings and bulletpoints.9. Use Video.This is an increasingly common approach to tellinga professional services case story. A professionallyproduced video can communicate a client’s experienceand enthusiasm in a way that words alone cannot. Videois especially appropriate if you have a high profile clientwho is excited about your service.“Have mercyon yourreadersand avoidindustryjargon andacronyms.”10. Get professional help.You do not have to do it all alone. Using a professional towrite a case story or edit a draft you have written can be avery smart move. Given the obvious role that case storiescan play in your content marketing campaign it just makessense to do it right. For many firms, a single new clientpays for all the case studies you’ll need to write.Writing a case story doesn’t have to be sopainful. By using some of the tips we’veoutlined it can actually be interesting andvery profitable for your firm.Need some help?Hinge offers a comprehensive suite of marketing andbranding services to increase your visibility and growyour firm.Let’s explore how we can help:content@hingemarketing.com703 391 8870 hingemarketing.comCONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms22

Tips and BlundersCONTENT MARKETING GUIDE for Professional Services Firms23

710 Tips for BetterMarketing ContentAs we’ve just noted, content marketing is fastbecoming the way to market professionalservices. Create great content and you willattract prospective clients who are looking forexactly what you offer.The next logical iteration of “thoughtleadership,” content marketing is more than agreat concept. When implemented correctly itproduces impressive results.But how do you develop great content?Here are ten practical tips to improve the readabilityand usefulness of your content. After all, if no onereads it, is it really content marketing?1. Try to make your content really, really useful.“Writesomethingvery usefuland verypractical.”Forget scholarly. Forget technical excellence. Stop tr

Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi that laid out several fundamental principles that you can use as you develop your own content marketing strategy. Here are the key take-aways for building your firm's content marketing playbook: 1. Content marketing drives professional services firm growth and profitability:

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