Here's something that happens to me a lot: I finally convince an adviser to try content marketing. Then I have to talk them down off the ledge once they realize the whole world will be able to read everything they publish online. That includes their clients, their partners, their mothers — everybody.
Seriously. The knuckles go white. Sometimes they get clammy. I can almost hear what they're thinking.
"What if nobody likes my writing? What if I make a mistake? My credibility will be shot. How will my peers judge me? What will I talk about? I need more research. More graphs. More footnotes!"
Take it easy on yourself. No one is expecting your blog to win a Pulitzer. If you're a solo practitioner or a very small firm, don't place unnecessary pressure on yourself to produce the type of content that will be picked up by the press. After all, the purpose of content marketing is not to become a media star. You just want to avoid becoming a "ghost" — someone with little or no online presence to shape the customer journey for your prospects. Don't worry about whether you're smart enough or snarky enough. Simply share your knowledge, just as you would with a client across the table. Be yourself. That's more than enough.
Getting started is easier than you think. Over the years, we've identified the 7 most important secrets to content marketing success. Keep these in mind as you get ready to roll:
1. Be current. It's no longer enough to put up a static, five-page online business card as your website. You have to commit to continually publishing content that's timely and fresh. Old news is no news.
2. Be relevant. Meaning, relevant to your target audience. Start by thinking about your ideal client profile, as we've explained in earlier posts. What are their pain points? What are their interests? What are they passionate about? What types of content are they most likely to share? Put yourself in their shoes and visit the other places where they consume content — like Barrons, the Wall Street Journal, or the Times. See how content is presented there, and model yours after theirs. If you think of something to say, be specific. No one reads generalizations.
3. Let go of long-form writing. This could be the most common mistake advisers make. Most think content means old-fashioned white papers—50 pages long, lots of footnotes, dry academic prose. No. Content must be "snackable," easy to consume in just a few minutes. Make your content short, visually engaging and conversational in style. Think checklists, worksheets, short articles, infographics. (I'll be dedicating a whole post to examples of snackable formats.)
4. Write what you know. Writing takes research—but not too much. If your research is taking too long, you may have picked the wrong topic. You're already an expert on so many things. Choose subjects you can already speak knowledgeably about for five minutes or so. If it's a topic outside your comfort zone, ask somebody else to write it for you. (More on that below.)
5. Publish consistently. Consistency matters just as much as the actual content. You're not aiming to write a perfect article that gets picked up on the front page of the Journal for a single day. You're looking to develop a long-term relationship with your readers. You want them to look forward to your next piece and constantly check in to see what you think. That requires a steady stream of content published on a consistent schedule. Remember: out of sight, out of mind.
6. You don't have to do it alone. I'll be honest. Content marketing is hard work. But whatever the size of your firm, you probably already have enough resources in-house to build a team that can help you. Say you're a solo flier with a couple of support staff. Since you know the audience best, you can be the editor who provides high-level direction. Then you can leverage your staff to do some of the legwork — following what competitors are doing, visiting sites where clients go for information, or giving feedback on your work. If you are a larger firm, you can ask your research analysts or portfolio managers to contribute thoughtful content while you maintain editor-level review. It's also a great idea to invite your COIs to contribute to your blog. They'll appreciate the exposure, and you'll become a go-to source of expertise on a wider range of issues. Of course, you can always outsource, which is often more cost-effective than doing it all yourself. Whatever it takes, be sure to get the help you need to keep the flow of content consistent.
7. Create a content roadmap, also called an editorial calendar. It's nice to say you're going to experiment with content marketing. It's nice to brainstorm ideas. But nothing matters until you put pen to paper and create a content roadmap—a yearlong schedule showing what you're going to publish, and when. That's how you tie business goals and high-level messages to concrete deliverables. I'll talk more about content roadmaps in my next post, and even include a template you can download and use.
See? Content marketing is possible. Aim for short, quotable bites of information that reflect your message. Do it consistently. Keep it organized. And call on other people to help.
Megan Carpenter is CEO and co-founder of FiComm Partners. Follow her @Megan_FiComm.