What would you think of a farmer who planted and nurtured crops, but never harvested them? What would you think of a famer who never planted or nurtured crops, but showed up in the fall with pitchfork in hand, ready to harvest? You might think both of these farmers are a bit loopy. Right?
I wouldn’t judge them too harshly. Why? Because I see professional services firms making the same kind of mistakes every day. Anyone using content marketing for new client development might be making these mistakes. I’d like to show you how to fix this.
For content marketing to be effective, I believe you need both a nurture and a harvest strategy.
We plant ideas and reap relationships
The concept behind content marketing is a good one. Give away great ideas, usually for free. If you do this well, your ideas position you to have a meaningful conversation with someone who fits your ideal client profile and wants to achieve a goal, realize an opportunity or overcome a challenge. This creates strong affinity for your brand. It causes the prospect to trust you. It may even compel prospects to consider you as the first person they should talk to when they have budget.
You see, in the professional services content marketing world, we plant ideas and reap relationships. This is the approach many service firms use to acquire new clients. When people have downloaded a white paper from your company, attended a webinar, read an article, viewed an infographic or registered for an action guide — you’ve done so much more than just give them information. You’ve also shaped their notion of what a successful outcome looks like for their goal, opportunity or challenge.
But this strategy is not all sunshine and roses. Most successful professional service firms are using content marketing. Yet a very high percentage will admit that they have low confidence in this strategy as it relates to new client acquisition.
In other articles, I’ve suggested, that marketing automation will definitely help this challenge. However, there is another solution to consider.
Taking a balanced approach to content marketing
For content marketing to be effective, I believe you need both a nurture and a harvest strategy. When I first engage with a new client who is frustrated with their content marketing efforts, almost inevitably I find an imbalance. Here is what I mean.
If an organization has success with one content marketing tactic, they tend to want to repeat that tactic — a lot. For instance, if a service firm has success with webinars, that may be all they want to do. If they get a couple of clients from white papers, they tend to want to produce dozens of white papers. But is this a good approach?
I don’t think so. I believe there’s a direct relationship between how much time someone spends with your content and how serious they are about addressing a goal, opportunity or challenge. In other words, if someone downloads a white paper and spends an hour or more reading it, they probably have a goal they have to address very soon.
But in my experience, only about 5 percent of everyone you are marketing to at any given moment is ready to seriously engage. So if all of your content marketing tactics require a significant time commitment to consume, you’ve left out 95 percent of your market.
By the same token, if you don’t have a set of deep-dive content assets that can pull someone who is serious toward a conversation with your company, then you’ve missed the boat on real revenue. This is why you need both a nurture and a harvest strategy.
The tactics show the way
Here is a simple way to think about this. Nurture tactics include:
- Blog posts.
- Social media posts.
- Short videos (5-10 minutes).
Harvest strategies include:
- White papers.
- Long videos (10 to 60 minutes; yes, these do exist).
- Action guides.
How to package nurture tactics
The nurture tactics should only require a few moments of time to consume. They should plant a seed with the prospective client. This seed can be nurtured over time with additional short-form content pieces that maintain brand presence for your company and executives. Usually these additional content touch-points are delivered through email campaigns.
Most importantly, the nurture tactics should not have a call to action or any expectations of commitment from the person consuming the content. More often than not, I recommend that nurture tactics remain ungated, not requiring a registration form. The goal is to get as many people as possible to consume the content.
How to package harvest tactics
The harvest tactics should be packaged quite differently. They should contain a lot of great ideas. Like a wagon-load full of harvested vegetables, they should be a cornucopia of goodness. You should expect that consumers will spend at least an hour or more consuming your content and possibly many more hours thinking about how to apply the concepts to their unique situation.
Harvest tactics should be gated, requiring people to take action before gaining access to the content. Depending on the amount of content in the asset, gating could be very high. You might even require people to set up a phone call with your organization to access the content.
The asset should be a deep-dive on one specific topic. In my experience, the more how-to the information, the better received the content. If you know your ideal client is trying to accomplish a big goal and you’ve discovered several important steps to achieving that goal, your deep-dive piece could outline all of those steps.
Most importantly, each harvest piece should culminate in a call to action. The best call to action I’ve heard sounds something like this: Let’s have a conversation to understand where you are now, where you want to go and the gaps between the two. Then we can make some recommendation about how to bridge those gaps.
Follow-up is also very different for harvest tactics. If someone gives you their contact information in exchange for a high-value content asset, it is wise to build automated follow-up.
Here is an example of an automated follow-up campaign:
- User registers for an action guide.
- User receives initial “thank you for registering” email.
- User consumes content.
- One week passes.
- You send an email that says: “How will you apply this important idea to your business? Download this guide today.”
- User downloads additional guide.
- You send an email that says: “Let’s have a conversation.” The email contains a link to a TimeTrade account where the user can schedule an appointment on a convenient time and date.
When you have automated follow-up campaigns, you increase the likelihood of meaningful sales conversations.
Walking our talk
When I read article and consume content from various thought leaders today, I always ask myself one question. Do they walk their own talk? Do they do the things they suggest to others to do?
I want you to know that I walk my talk. I’ll reveal our nurture and harvest strategy right here. The article you’ve just read is an example of nurture. But if you really want to know how to make these concepts high-impact at your organization, you should register for an action guide called 7 Steps To A Content Marketing Program That Consistently Yields Ideal Clients. It’s free, but yes, it’s gated.