There are a lot of misconceptions around business development and content creation in the professional services world. The first of them being that it takes too much time. The second is that, as a lawyer, accountant or consultant, you need to sell your services. And these two are simply not true.
If you want your online content to be successful, you need to understand that its role is to help your clients not only navigate themselves through a buying journey, but they (not you) are the ones who lead it. This might sound counterintuitive, but when you come to peace with this fact, you can work (and trust) that the content that you put out there will do the heavy lifting with your clients.
In this article, I will walk you through how your content needs to change depending on which stage of the buying journey your clients are going through. Additionally, I’ll give you valuable advice on how to easily and quickly create quality content. By the way, this article comes from a fragment of our Progress To Partner Virtual Masterclass “How to win work in only 30 minutes without leaving your house”. If you want to listen to the whole masterclass, join Progress to Partner for just $1 and get access to the full recording.
Your content needs to help your clients go through the Buying Journey
The first thing you need to consider when creating content for your audience, is the fact that your content needs to help potential new clients go through the buying journey organically and successfully. Your clients don’t suddenly turn up, and randomly ring you asking you for your help. For a new or existing client to call you asking about your services, they have to have gone through a buying journey first.
The first stage – ‘Everything is fine’
At the first stage of the buying journey, most company directors start with an ‘everything is fine’ mindset. When everything is fine, your clients do not want to see you, or spend time with you (especially if you’re a contentious lawyer, such as a litigator or an insolvency practitioner). And the reason is that you tend to represent what most associate with ‘bad things’. At this point, they won’t want to go to you unless they have to.
When your clients are in this initial stage, content is a great way to stay in touch with prospects and referrals. People are not going to be interested in the minutia, but rather on the strategy-focus information you can provide, basically information that can be useful for them (i.e. that they can share with their network, etc.).
Some of the general topics you should be writing about are:
- What’s happening in the industry sector.
- How badly is the COVID crisis hitting the sector and what are the implications of this?
- Changes that can be expected as a result of the impact of COVID or social distancing in the sector.
The second stage – ‘I have a problem’
Now, in the second stage of the buying journey, your prospects have realised they have a problem and now, they are going to be looking for answers. If you want to write and create content for prospects in this stage, you need to remember that we are all human. And, as humans, your potential clients will know they have a problem, but they will try to convince themselves that it is either fixable, or that it isn’t a real problem.
At this stage, your content needs to educate your prospects about their problems, and give them the answers that they’re looking for. Your content will then need to be a mixture of strategic and tactical information that gives them a clear idea of how to solve their problems.
If you consider writing a case study, for instance, it should be focused on:
- What was the issue the client thought they had?
- This was the actual issue the company had?
- What was the risk of doing nothing about the issue?
You really need to stick the knife in at this point if you want to motivate them to do something. You have to show them that they cannot safely ignore this problem.
The third stage – ‘I know the outcome I want’
When the prospect realises that they do have a problem that they can’t safely ignore for much longer, they will get in a position to take action. And, eventually they will get to a point where they know the outcome they want.
In the third stage of the buying journey, your clients will know what they want to achieve (i.e. exit with their reputation unblemished, save their business, invest to get ahead, etc), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they know how to get there.
So, when it comes to your content at this stage, you should be using it to get noticed, to educate your prospects, but most importantly, you should be using it to build credibility. Your content needs to be out there in order to help you show them how to connect the dots. At this point, your content must answer some (or all) of these questions:
- How do I get from A to B, to C, to D?
- How do I go from where I am now, to my desired outcome?
- What is it going to take to go from each stage?
- What is it going to mean for me personally?
- What are the risks I’m gonna face?
- What is it going to cost?
The fourth stage – Assessing suppliers and solutions
In this last stage, your prospects know their ideal outcome and also have a vague idea of what it’s going to take. They will now come out to the marketplace to start assessing suppliers and solutions. So, if you haven’t been having a dialogue with them through the early stages of their buying journey, chances are you won’t be top of mind for them.
This is why having these conversations through your content earlier in the process is so incredibly important. At this point, your content should focus on positioning you as the subject matter expert that you are. Make sure that you include content pieces that address what your clients say about working with you (and how much they love it!).
Regardless of where your clients are in the buying journey, there’s one thing you need to realise: they are on a journey and they are the ones driving the process. Your clients won’t move from one stage to the next one until they decide themselves that they are ready. That’s why you need to be patient and travel along with the prospect, helping them buy, but not selling to them.
Types of content for each stage of the buying journey
Once again, depending on where your clients stand in the buying journey, you’ll need to prioritise some content types over others to do the heavy lifting for you.
- For the ‘Everything is fine’ prospects: Your content needs to focus on information that points to their strategy (i.e. industry updates, changes in their context that could impact their business, etc.).
- For the ‘I have a problem’ prospects: Your content needs to be a source of education for them. Blog posts, case studies, educational videos, tip sheets and checklists are great resources to share at this stage. These need to be focused on the real issues that they need to be aware of and why they can’t safely ignore them.
- For the ‘I know the outcome I want’ prospects: This is the point where webinars and live events can really help. If you also want to add blog posts and case studies into the mix, they need to be written differently. The focus here needs to be on ‘this was the problem they had, this is how they thought about it at the end, and these are the results we got for them.’
- For the ‘Assessing suppliers and solutions’ prospects: In addition to the key points for the prospects in the ‘I know the outcome I want’, your content here needs to address the objections your potential clients might have. Again, webinars and live events are brilliant for these two final stages of the buying journey.
Finally, when tailoring your content for your unique audience, make sure you go back to your client personas and your niche. That desk-based research is going to help you identify what’s the real value that you can offer. If you are not clear here, take a step back, join Progress to Partner and go straight to Module 1 of The Go-To Expert Course.
Your takeaway to produce content quickly and easily.
If you want to create content that does your heavy lifting with clients, you need to do it purposefully and in a highly efficient way. (Download your content planning guide here).
It all starts with a clear plan
The first thing you need to have is a clear plan, this is a content plan that clarifies:
- What content you are putting out there
- How are you putting it out there, and
- How are you making sure you are not spending too much doing this.
Jot down your content ideas for inspiration
To make sure you’re not spending all your time writing blog posts, you need to constantly jot down ideas for content, so you are never short of inspiration. You probably have not realised this yet, but content ideas exist all around us, you just need to get into the right mindset so that you can easily recognise them when they pop up.
Let me tell you a little secret. When you join the Progress to Partner Private Facebook Group for paying members (one of the many perks you get when you join Progress to Partner), you see a bunch of 1-2 min video snippets that I’ve been sharing with our members for inspiration. Truth be told, I’ve recorded every single one of those videos from a conversation I recently had with someone like you.
An approach that usually does the trick is, next time you have a conversation with the client, try to be able to answer these questions afterwards:
- What questions were they asking?
- What was the focus of the conversation?
- What was the underlying problem they needed your support with?
- Can you think of a Linkedin update around that issue?
- Can you create a short video where you answer this question in general terms?
- Do you have so much to say about this topic that you could write a long form blog post about it?
Pay attention to what’s going on in your business
Additionally, reflect on the things happening in your business. Is there anything going on, or that you have recently faced as a business, that can be used as a metaphor for your clients? As an example, we are in the middle of setting up a practice management software on the other side of our business, and it turns out our process really resonated with many of our clients. Therefore, we started intentionally generating more content about this.
Note down what your competitors and clients are talking about
Can you identify those topics your competitors or clients are constantly bringing up? Are you noticing a pattern on the issues your clients are emailing you about? Do you see yourself repeatedly giving similar answers to different clients? These all could be great content ideas for you; things that you could be talking about with your audience.
Get your firm’s support
When we think of creating content to boost our online presence, we tend to think that we need to do it all ourselves, and (luckily!) this is not true. You can involve your team in different stages of the content creation process i.e. you can have them write the article for you, or post it, or help you record a short video for a content piece that you have already written.
Repurpose your content
Once you have created a strong piece of content, challenge yourself to think of how many ways you can repurpose it. This approach will help you not only save time, but also reach larger audiences. For example, this article is directly repurposed from a Progress to Partner Virtual Masterclass recording.
Do you want to know what I normally do with my Progress to Partner Virtual Masterclass recordings? First and foremost, we upload them to the membership site. The next thing that we do is crop it into shorter clips to be shared in our free Facebook group with an invitation to join Progress to Partner to get access to the full recording. Then, we turn the slide deck into separate PDFs and share them in Linkedin (Linkedin LOVES bits of slide decks!) to create some discussion around them. In parallel, I take the transcription from the session, and give it to a content writer to create 4-5 blog articles that upsell the whole recording as part of Progress to Partner. Finally, we take some content from the slides and turn in it into nice visuals to share via Instagram and Facebook.
Here are some tips that will help your repurpose your content (and save time) like a pro:
- Choose 1 main medium for content, e.g. white paper, events, blog, podcast, video, and have this as the starting point in your content flow. For example if you do a webinar, parts of the slide deck can be shared on social media and email to drum up awareness, and get people to register for the event.
- Break up your webinar recording into smaller vignettes in order to get shorter videos that can be shared on YouTube, LinkedIn, or the firm’s newsletter.
- Use your webinar or video transcriptions as the basis for one or many blog articles.
- Grab key quotes from your webinar or long-form videos and turn them into visuales for Facebook or Instagram. You can also embed them into your blog posts.
- Strip out the audio from your webinar and edit it to create a nice podcast episode.
Use the tools at hand to support the content creation process
There are lots of great tools out that can help you make the best use of your time. These are some of our favourite ones:
- Scheduling tools: These help you deliver your content in an automated way so that you don’t have to manually post every single time. Some of them are even able to provide content ideas based on your historic posts. These are some of the ones we’ve used and like (use them, they are there for you!):
- Cloud/Virtual notebooks: Virtual or cloud notebooks are great tools to keep track of content ideas. I personally use Evernote for this.
- Expert-to-Expert Sales and Marketing platforms: Professional services firms use this sort of tools to help their knowledge-rich, but time-poor experts to create insights that show their expertise online and position them as go-to experts in their niche. A great option here is Passle. With this tool, if you see a blog post and you think you can comment intelligently on it, you can grab the blog post, comment on it, and actually make a decent content piece from it.
- Basic design tools: Our favourite one here is Canva, a free design tool that can help you create beautiful visual templates for your social updates.
- Transcription services: Rev.com is an audio transcription service paid for, but you’ve probably got an audio transcription service in house, so let’s use it. You can use either of them. Another great (and free!) tool is Handbrake.fr, a free piece of kit that burns your captions onto your file.
You now have a much clearer understanding of what it takes for your content to do your heavy lifting with clients. Do you need further support planning your content? Get your free copy of our content planning guide here.