I want to address a myth that is prominent in sales and marketing circles today for professional service firms. The myth is that service-buyers are time-starved and crazy busy, so you must keep things short. The myth goes like this.
Today’s service buyer has no time. They have more options than ever before in terms of service providers. They can’t tell why this service provider is better than that one. So if you want to attract their attention through content marketing, you have to produce short, pithy content.
I’m not at all convinced of this. There is a word for short, pithy content. It’s called click-bait. It does nothing to establish you or your firm as a respected thought leader on topics that matter to inbound prospects. Going short is not the answer.
Going long is far better. Here is what I mean. If your prospective clients are struggling with complex goals and challenges, you are better off giving them long-form content that proves you have insights. If you do this, they’ll spend lots of time with your ideas and when the time is right for them, they will pick you as their service provider. Let me show you how to go long.
TODAY’S EMPOWERED SERVICE BUYER IS SELF-PERSUADING.
Lessons Learned From Ebooks
I register for quite a few ebooks because I’m always looking for new insights. In fact, I try to read 10 traditional books or ebooks every month. I keep two folders on my desktop, one called good ebooks and one called bad ebooks. You can imagine which folder has more books in it.
The good books contain real insights from practitioners who have accomplished something challenging and who are willing to share what they’ve learned. The best books give practical advice about what to do, and what not to do, to achieve a meaningful goal.
Poor ebooks, on other hand, contain all sorts of images, charts and allusions to the latest research reports. They tell you what you should do. But the counsel often comes from people who have never accomplished the very goals for which they are giving advice. I find that to be disingenuous.
Here is the good news for you. If you are a service provider who has a history of accomplishing challenging goals, and if you have gained insights over the years about what to do, and what not to do – you can stand out from the crowd.
Your insights, your experiences, your ideas – these are what separate you from everyone else. If you can package up your insights into long-form content assets that tell prospects how to achieve their goals, they will spend more time with your content than you might imagine.
There are two primary reasons they’ll do this. First, today’s empowered service buyer is self-persuading and is looking for great ideas to help them achieve their goals. We call this the New 90-10 Rule which holds that prospects want to take 90% of their inbound journey independent of a human being.
Second, there are very few good long-form content assets available today. You can distinguish your brand and your counsel just by delivering the insights you have today. The prospects that you want to connect with are looking for good ideas. If you deliver those ideas, they will come to think of you as a leader.
Prospects Want To Work With Leaders
Leadership is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. John C. Maxwell has written a number of books about leadership and I like his ideas. Here is how I’ve come to think about this topic.
Leadership is about making order out of chaos. Great leaders see the constellation, the connections between points of light, in what looks like a huge star field to everyone else. This is what your long-form content must do to be effective. It needs to create order out of chaos.
At The Shattuck Group, we work with service firms in a number of industries: legal, IT, financial services, consulting, accounting, coaching and others. The clients of our clients all struggle with similar challenges:
- They have more options today than ever before to achieve their goals.
- They have far more questions than answers about what path to take.
- They have constrained budgets and need to get real value for the spend.
- They have more technology at their disposal than they can manage.
- There is risk to the service-buyer that if they choose the wrong provider, it could produce serious consequences.
- They must make decisions that are nearly irreversible, where windows of time will close on them.
People who face these challenges are looking for leaders. They’re looking for experienced people who can cut through the chaos and show them a path forward that they can believe in. They want to work with someone they can trust who can get them to their goals while avoiding the pitfalls. This has been our experience.
The bigger the goals…
The more money that is involved…
The more irreversible the decisions…
The greater the risk to the decision-maker…
The more time they will spend with your content and ideas.
At The Shattuck Group we see this every day. We see CEOs, founders, managing partners and other leaders for service firms spending time with our ideas, sometimes multiple hours. Conventional wisdom tells us that we need to keep our messages short to them, that they’re too busy. But our data tells us a different story. There is simply too much on the line for them.
If your long-form content demonstrates that you are a leader, then it will effectively pull ideal organic prospects into dialogue with your firm. Never heard of an ideal organic prospect? Let me explain.
Ideal Organic Prospects
Most service firms want to be in dialogue with a steady stream of ideal organic prospects. An organic prospect is someone who:
- Has never done business with you.
- Was not in your database, was not a referral from an existing client or partner and was not in contact with you before they started their inbound journey.
- Knew very little about you before they started their inbound journey and you knew nothing about them.
- Was not predisposed to want to work with you and had no reason to say yes to you before they started their inbound journey.
This is how I think of organic prospects. They are truly new business.
Now let’s examine the term “ideal.” To me, an ideal prospect is someone you are not doing business with today who is an ideal fit for your company. What makes them ideal? There are seven major qualities that most service firms look for in an ideal client:
- Impact – you deliver services that have a significant impact on them, usually their top or bottom line or both.
- Budget – ideal clients easily afford your services and usually have already reserved a line item in their budget for those services.
- Profits – you earn a substantial profit by delivering these services.
- Insights – you understand what your ideal client needs often better than they do.
- Expertise – your ideal clients want and need your specific capabilities and have limited options for acquiring that expertise.
- Culture – there is a good fit between the way you do business and the way your ideal clients prefer to be served.
- Chemistry – your staff and your ideal clients’ staff work well together with few conflicts.
I’ll wager that if your service firm is like many we see today, there are thousands of ideal organic prospects out there that you could be pulling along a journey.
The Inbound Journey
The inbound journey that we see has four stages:
- Anonymous – where prospects surf your website and sample your content without identifying themselves.
- Acknowledged – where prospects register for a content asset and submit their personal information.
- Engaged – where prospects spend time thinking about your ideas and how you can help them.
- Leaning-in – where prospects are predisposed to want to enter serious dialogue with you as soon as they have need and budget.
Let’s think about how this journey compares to traditional wisdom that says you must keep things short. I don’t know about your website, but our website only asks people to register for long-form content. This is a strategy known as gating. We gate long-form content but make short-form content, like blog-posts, readily available.
If you only produce short-form content, like blog-posts, you would miss the opportunity for ideal organic prospects to register for your very best ideas. This means their journey is cut-short and you haven’t demonstrated your expertise.
This also means you would not get an opportunity to see their information to determine if they are a potential fit for your services. I submit to you that going long is a much more effective strategy.
I believe there is a place for short-form content and it’s usually in the early stages of the inbound journey. But if you want to pull ideal organic prospects deep into the process, you need long-form content. That long-form content needs to be really good, rich with insights.
Speaking of long-form content, if you’d like more ideas about how to pull ideal organic prospects along the inbound journey for your firm, I have a great resource for you.
I’ve developed an Action Guide that shows you exactly how to do this. It’s called 7 STEPS TO A CONTENT MARKETING PROGRAM THAT CONSISTENTLY YIELDS IDEAL CLIENTS. It contains 7 videos and downloadable tools that you can use to accomplish this goal. Best of all, it’s completely free and waiting for you right now.