A lot of people are producing content these days. As an English Literature major, I am pleased to see that my writing colleagues have gone from under-appreciated to having a dearth of opportunities. But with so many people producing content, you have to wonder about something. Where do the ideas come from and what is the quality of these ideas?
I believe this is the new dividing line in content marketing: theorists and practitioners. This is especially true for professional service organizations. Please allow me to explain.
I believe professional service buyers carefully consider the source of ideas that come their way. They are usually able to separate practitioners from theorists.
What makes professional services people so special?
Professional services people are unique. What makes them unique? I believe it is knowledge, temperament and experience. Professional service people acquire knowledge through education and certifications. They earn advanced degrees in all manner of very complex fields of study. But degrees alone or not enough.
For someone to be a really good professional service executive, they must have the right temperament. Most of the better professional service executives I have worked with over the years are this rare blend of advocate, coach, motivator, therapist and guardian. They stand watch over the interests of their client and hold that client accountable to do what is in their best interest. They know what that client needs even better than the client themselves.
But even that is not enough. Why? Because professional service people have to produce results. They have to yield outcomes that matter to their clients. To do this, they must have experience.
Experience is the hallmark of a great professional service executive. I think of this as crossing a bridge. When people or companies hire a professional service firm or executive, they are trying to achieve a specific goal. Usually the client is uncertain about the best way to cross that bridge, to go from where they are now to where they want to be in the future. That client comes to rely deeply upon the experience of their professional service counselor to help them cross their bridge.
Think about how a person who is going to court relies upon their attorney. Think about how a struggling company relies on an accounting firm to help them maximize their cash-flows and profits. Think about how parents rely on a financial advisor to help them define the right strategy for retirement and college funding. Think about how a Chief Information Officer relies on a technology consulting firm to help control costs, reduce infrastructure and improve services. Think about how a coaching firm helps companies improve relationships and communication between their executives. Think about how a business consulting firm helps organizations streamline their operations and prepare for growth.
All of these are examples of how knowledge, temperament and experience come together to yield amazing outcomes that really matter to these people and these companies.
So why is it that most content marketing today sounds like it was produced by writers who have little actual knowledge of the bridges that people want to cross?
A quick story
When I was in my early 30s, I bought a house and my wife and I had our first child. I also bought life insurance, but I had some concerns. I didn’t want to lose everything if I got injured and was unable to work for a while. So I bought disability insurance from the same agent who sold me life insurance. But the disability insurance was rather expensive.
I met with another agent with whom we have our property insurance. I explained the situation and he told me his story. He and his wife had talked about this and decided that if he was injured and couldn’t work for a while, they would sell their home here in California, but a cheap property in the mid-west and live off his wife’s salary as a teacher until they could recover. He showed me the numbers in black and white and made a case for investing the money I was paying for disability insurance into other vehicles. I couldn’t argue with his logic or his financials.
This insurance agent helped me make a critical financial decision that I have never regretted. But here’s the ironic part. I get an email newsletter from this agent on a regular basis. It shows his smiling face and has his name on it. But I know he didn’t write a word of copy in that newsletter. I know his voice and his personality and they are not evident in the content.
I asked him about this and he said the newsletter is produced by a company that the corporate office hired. The content is so bland, so generic, so off-target that I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on a single article. I know that a bunch of content marketers sat in a room and brainstormed the topics they thought would interest readers and would help them sell more product.
Who do you trust – a theorist or a practitioner?
It’s a simple question really. If you had a big goal to accomplish, if there was a lot on the line for your career and your life, who would you trust? Someone who had already guided people like you to a successful outcome? Or someone who seemed to have a lot of good ideas but had never achieved the goal themselves? I know which one I would choose.
I also believe the buyers of professional services practice a lot of discretion in choosing a provider. They carefully consider the source of ideas that come their way. They are usually able to separate practitioners from theorists.
Practitioners and theorists need to connect
Don’t get me wrong. I live in the real world just like you. I know that most busy professional service executives don’t have time to become content marketers. They are busy serving their clients. I know that access to subject-matter-experts is THE critical bottleneck in content marketing programs.
But this is what happens when the real experts, the professional service executives, get pulled out of the content ideation and creation process. The topics selected end up being generic, applicable to almost anyone. The specificity of the counsel melts away. The rich experiences and insights of the practitioner sit dormant on the shelf instead of being pressed into service to inspire and attract new ideal clients.
A free resource
I know it’s not easy to build content marketing programs that pull prospective ideal clients into your sales funnel. I know it’s not easy to get mindshare with subject-matter-experts and harvest their insights. But it will make all the difference if you do this.
To help you get started down this path, I have a free resource for you. 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 build a highly effective content marketing program. It’s free and it’s available right now.