Professional services firms sell their collective brain power, not products, so conveying expertise through content is a must. At the 2011 Content Marketing World Conference in Cleveland, AJ Huisman, marketing director for the Kennedy Van der Laan law firm in Amsterdam and a 17-year veteran in generating content for large and small companies, provided 10 lessons for transforming a professional services firm into a content factory.
1. You probably already work with potentially great content creators and marketers— find them and put them to work: In his current role, Huisman said that he found a legal secretary who was also a playwright, and who ultimately was able to create great stories. Organizations already may be housing potential bloggers and marketers without knowing it.
2. Be clear who you want to reach, and visualize your target audience as buyer personas: “Content creators often want to blast out material to a firm’s entire client base when it should be targeted at a specific audience based on buyer personas,” Huisman said.
3. Permanent market research is the backbone of every great content marketing strategy: Do everything you can to understand and learn about the top issues of your buyers’ personas, including feedback on training, events and other materials.
4. Begin with the end in mind: Consider the following questions when creating content:
What’s the core message?
What channels do our personas use?
What can we create for those channels?
What else can we do with this piece?
5. Leave no stone unturned in your internal search for content—you have more than you think: Look for hidden content within your organization, Huisman advised. There's a lot of content in professional services firms from experts, including articles, editorials, blog contributions, client newsletters, workshops, speaking engagements and training courses.
6. Examine your internal organizational structure: Professional services firms work in silos, with each area of expertise working to protect itself. “Streamline vertically first, then, based on the audiences that are being targeted, cut across horizontally,” Huisman said.
7. Start, try, test, measure, tweak and try again: “We used to put out a newsletter that was the best in the industry, but the content was six weeks late, according to our customers,” Huisman said. Tip: Start small in order to get the content out quickly, and expand from there.
8. Tap into existing committees, teams and structures to help build your content factory: Professional services firms typically want to talk about their clients’ problems, not creating content. Huisman said to set up a client advisory board and talk about business issues and problems, as well as the solutions your firm can provide, which can then be turned into content.
9. Work with your clients, suppliers and other stakeholders—and hire an intern. Use your clients’ content, and create a content project for students.
10. Marketers are becoming journalists, and must manage the content creation process and facilitate production: The modern-day marketer should become the director of all content from the company. "Marketers need to find creative ways to facilitate content production by thinking like a journalist and making it easy for internal subject matter experts to contribute by having quick meetings and extracting key points from existing presentation materials," Huisman said.