Have you got a Content Plan?
Oh you haven’t? Shame on you!
Actually, don’t beat yourself up because it only matters if ‘Content Marketing’ is one of the marketing channels you’ve chosen for your consulting business.
And by my counting alone, there’s over 50 different marketing channels you can use in your consulting business, and no-one ever said you MUST do content marketing.
(To see the others, take a look at our survey: Which of these 50+ marketing methods do you use?)
The trouble with content marketing is that it’s a lot like a lawn!
Well, before the use of fake grass in people’s gardens (Yuk by the way – no offence!), people would have lawns because they thought it was easier than having other plants – like bulbs, shrubs, trees, etc.
I’ve never understood this.
Of all the things planted in my garden, it’s only the lawn that demands I tend to it every single week!
And how does it repay me?
It grows patchy. Spends most of the summer brown and looking dead. Is full of ants for much of the year. Plays hosts to weeds in spring and summer, and mushrooms in autumn and winter.
All this after my spending hundreds getting it replaced last year!
It is, without doubt, the hardest and most time consuming thing you can grow in your garden.
Yet everyone seems to default to growing a lawn as if it’s the easy option.
The same can be said for content marketing!
Everyone defaults to it.
Everyone thinks it’s easy.
Everyone is wrong!
So should you have a content plan?
It takes a ton of commitment to make content marketing work. So, if you do utilise content marketing as one of your channels, should you have a content plan?
And if so, how detailed should it be?
It is at this point that I must declare I am not a trained marketer. However, I do run my own consulting and coaching businesses.
Oddly enough, without marketing, I wouldn’t get the opportunity to sell. And without selling I wouldn’t have a business!
So, by definition, I am a marketer. I’m also a sales person. And a coach. And a consultant.
The only one of those I was ever formally trained in was consulting. The rest I had to learn ‘on the job’.
And since running my own businesses over the past 5+ years, the one that’s taken the most time, effort, and attention, whilst also being the most frustrating, annoying, and difficult, is marketing.
Of the many marketing channels available, one that I utilise in my businesses is content marketing.
Why content marketing?
For me, content marketing is my way of having conversations with people whilst not actually being there in person. My articles give me the ability to freely share advice and guidance, build trust in my audience, whilst also reinforcing to both myself and my audience what it is that I know about.
We all know the adage:
People buy from people that they know, like and trust.
Content marketing helps to build that trust and to become known to a whole new set of people. And just like any chosen marketing channel, writing content is a commitment.
Many times I’ve read about the importance of having a Content Plan to help you make that commitment.
Do plan your content or write off the cuff?
For me, I do have what I call a Content Plan, but to be honest it’s not so much a Planner as a Tracker.
I don’t plan my content in advance. I simply write whatever I feel like at the time.
That might make the professionals gasp! But usually I get inspiration from a coaching client or a consulting gig, or other articles that I’m reading for curation purposes.
I suspect if I was a ‘professional’ marketer, I’d have a strict content plan and publishing schedule.
Whilst I don’t plan the exact article, I do ensure that I provide a good spread of topics across my articles.
And perhaps one day, if I have a much bigger team, I might implement that level or organisation and discipline.
For each blog post I write, I make a note in my Content Planner (tracker) as to which segment of the Consulting Compass model it is relevant to.
The Consulting Compass is the model I teach people in my coaching business. It’s also the basic premise of any consulting business. That is, there are only 4 things that you do in a consulting business: Market, Sell, Deliver, Operate.
As to schedule, I’ve set myself the challenge of writing one blog article each week.
Only one each week” I hear you cry?
Yes. One item each week. And even that can be a struggle at times.
We’re in the 25th week of the year and thus far I’ve written 18 items (Blog Article, Guide, Template, Survey), so I’m a little off target.
Of the articles I’ve written so far this year, they are categorised as follows:
– Marketing: 5
– Sales: 10
– Delivery: 7
– Operations: 6
The mathematicians amongst you will realise that the numbers above exceed 18. That’s because some articles apply to multiple categories.
But shouldn’t you write daily – like professional bloggers?
Let’s be clear here – there’s no such thing as a professional blogger!
There’s simply people who sell products and services who may choose to only market via blogging.
And many of the people that have chosen to write a blog article every single day are, at best, average writers.
No-one has something really compelling and interesting to say every single day.
And many that try eventually fail. They get burnt out and then question what exactly it was that they were trying to achieve.
I post things daily in my Facebook Group, but most of the time it’s curated content that I give opinion on, or it’s a short simple thought rather than a full-on article.
(A quick note if you do use content curation as a way to engage your audience: BE ENGAGING! If you want examples of people curating content without being engaging; those people that simply post a link and then expect that they’ll get some sort of return without them actually expressing an opinion, or going to any real effort – just go look at LinkedIn. Especially LinkedIn Groups!)
Distribute, distribute, distribute
Once you’ve produced your content, the next thing to do is to get it out there in the hands – or eyes – of your audience.
Whilst I would love to think that my content is so amazing that it draws in readers by itself, that’s simply not true. It’s not even true of the best authors – even they have to market their content: book signing anyone?
Yet too many consulting business owners and marketers take their foot off the gas at this point. They post an article on their blog and leave it at that. Or maybe they post on their LinkedIn timeline, but that’s about it.
Instead they think their value is in the creative writing process.
You need to distribute your content like crazy. Think Los Pollos Hermanos (for you Breaking Bad fans!)
Once you’ve created your content you need to spend even more time getting it out there.
Be careful with distribution though, because you don’t want to create duplicate copies of your content as that will negatively impact your search rankings.
I distribute my content in the following way:
- I post in my private Facebook group
- I post on the company Facebook page
- I run Facebook Ads to the audience that have ‘liked’ my company page
- I post on my LinkedIn profile page
- I post to LinkedIn groups that I am a member of, if: a) the article is relevant, and b) I have at least responded to one other person’s article
- Import the article to Medium
- Include in my weekly newsletter – The Consulting Business Journal
Counting each of the LinkedIn groups separately, the list above means that I place my content in nearly 20 different locations to an audience of nearly 800,000 people (if only LinkedIn groups were as effective as Facebook!).
Monitor and Engage
The challenge with a distribution strategy like this is that I have to monitor all the different places. I do this so that I can respond to any comments and engage with my audience.
There would be nothing worse than someone commenting and me not replying. I see that in most LinkedIn groups. That’s akin to looking through the window and seeing someone at your front door, then not answering it!
To what end?
So as you can see, doing content marketing well takes a ton of time and effort.
So why do it?
We’ve already discussed that it helps you to build your authority. To help you to become known, liked and trusted. More importantly, it’s about you staying top of mind.
By seeding content frequently, when the time is right, your audience will remember you and engage with you to buy your services.
And I have proven that it works.
For a time in my consulting business I was helping corporates to achieve PCI DSS compliance (sounds complex, but it’s essentially just the security standards to take credit and debit card payments). As I’d done it a couple of times I wrote a Guide explaining how to achieve compliance.
I then made the guide available on my website in return for receiving contact details.
(Be cautious in how you do this now as you need to consider GDPR guidance – I recently wrote an article on how I approached GDPR compliance)
A prestigious UK institution downloaded my guide, and I promptly followed up a few days later with a phone call. Long story short, by using my recommended sales strategy, I landed an initial £5k consulting project that subsequently grew into a much larger engagement.
Content marketing is a proven and effective marketing channel for consulting businesses. However, it takes time, commitment and patience.
Do you use content marketing in your consulting business?
If so, what do you do and how?
Has it proven effective?
Any tips that you might share with the group on your approach?