I worked as an auditor for almost a decade and then in senior positions within the corporate world for another 15 years. Trust, professionalism, expertise and client confidentiality have always been key for developing long-lasting, and effective service delivery.
Online content marketing can sometimes seem at odds with these values.
So, is there a successful way to approach content marketing for professional services? Or are we destined to grow our businesses through in-person networking and word-of-mouth referrals?
I’ve written copy for lawyers, health practitioners, accountants, auditors, management consultants, IT providers and many other professionals. Content marketing can be an opportunity…
… Or a massive source of aggravation.
Of course, we don’t have to create dancing videos on FlikFlok, apply mascara to camera on Instabook, or be outlandish on Twixter to attract new leads to our businesses. Most of us have professional standards and obligations we have to adhere to when we pursue any type of marketing activity. So, what are the hazards of content marketing for professional services? And what are the opportunities if we proceed?
The Hazards of Content Marketing for Professional Services
1. Regulatory Compliance
Let’s get this one out of the way first.
In Australia, marketing of certain health services and financial products and services, for instance, are carefully regulated and monitored. Most professional industry bodies expect or set professional standards for their members for good reason. Your qualifications and expertise are often highly specialised and require the right personalised approach and context.
2. Client Confidentiality
Often, your clients don’t want the whole world to know they need your services. They may not want to provide testimonials about what drove them to require legal services, or a forensic accountant, or a cyber security expert… or even a professional pimple popper (oh, wait a sec…)
3. Complexity of Services
What you do may seem straightforward enough… but explaining the nuances behind paperless documentary evidence in legal disputes? The pros and cons of Keytruda and Opdivo treatment protocols in cancer treatment? The right way to treat SaaS in your financial statements?
Serious topics requiring context and personalisation may be difficult, if not downright harmful, to discuss. No one wants the wrong people to get the wrong idea. No wonder some of our professional service industries have strict guidelines about marketing.
4. Length of the Professional Sales Cycle
For the professional service provider, be it the accountant, the IT consultant, or the architect, the connection between what you posted on Instagram about festive gratitude for your team may be impossible to connect with the letter of engagement you sign with a new client the following July. So how do you know it is worth it…?
5. Limited Resources
… Because not being able to connect the value of your marketing to the outcomes creates a dilemma about how you resource your promotional activities.
Do you need a dedicated in-house resource?
Can your teenager studying Media Communications at college cover it?
What even is a fractional CMO and how can they help you?
Most of all, does your marketing resource give you a return on investment and how can you measure that?
Even with limited resources, content marketing is not a once-and-done activity. Hiring someone to set up your website, case studies and promotional videos is one thing, but how do you keep it fresh and refreshed after that? SEO and algorithms on platforms won’t like it if you gather dust in corners of the web…
6. Competing for Attention While Communicating Subject Matter Expertise
Should you go controversially, meaninglessly or inauthentically broad? Or should you stay speciality-driven narrow? How do you get the tone and messaging right without risking your professional reputation and brand with ‘look-at-me gimmicks’ in the process?
How do you stand out enough to reach new prospects while also reminding clients you work with that you’re a trustworthy professional?
7. Adapting to Digital Trends
Soooooooooo… despite all the drawbacks, you’ve gone ahead with a content marketing strategy and you’re consistently pushing out weekly LinkedIn carousels showcasing your value, say. Then LinkedIn decides to remove them from 14 December 2023!
YouTube Shorts appeared in 2020, Vine shut down in 2017 while Myspace is still a thing for certain communities (music mainly, rather than professional services!)
We just can’t foresee who the next Flik Flok will be or how platforms like Twixter will continue to evolve.
Meanwhile, you just want to get on with curing people of horrible afflictions, creating the world’s most perfect audit file (don’t laugh, for a while it was what I aspired to), or ensuring there’s adequate redundancy in the data centres you manage.
Keeping up with the online marketing trends—yes, even if you work in IT—can be an unwelcome botheration or a welcome procrasti-distraction.
To Do or Not To Do Professional Services Content Marketing? 3 Reasons It Works
Content marketing does have some upsides!
A management consultant I work with finds all her corporate clients by attending in-person networking events and via word-of-mouth referrals. She’s debating the value of continuing with Instabook and even whether to continue posting blogs on her business website.
Three considerations of content marketing when making this decision are:
1. Confirming Your Credentials
Those people you meet at a networking event? What will they see if they look you up on LinkedIn or review your website? Up-to-date messaging consistent with who they met in person? Let’s hope so.
At the very least, have the fundamentals of who you are for and what you solve publicly visible and available. Think about how prospects can validate your authority, expertise and credibility.
2. Lead Generation—Yes, Really!
Sure, your content marketing may not bring in many leads. But you will bring in zero leads through content marketing if you don’t do any at all. Experiment to find a cadence that works for you and track the results before writing it off as a viable option…
3. Cost-effectiveness—It’s a Matter of Perspective
The barriers to both wide-reaching and niche-specific marketing have come down in the last couple of decades. In the olden days of billboards, print, radio and TV, the costs associated with an ad campaign were largely out of reach for smaller businesses. Hello, Yellow Pages…
Now we have access to tools that enable us to whip up promotional material in just a few minutes. We have platforms that are no- or minimal-cost to join and voice our expertise from. Even the paid ads are a fraction of the cost and far easier for professionals to access.
Will You Consider Content Marketing for Your Professional Services?
So, are you going to dive into online marketing, tentatively try it out or put it on the someday-maybe list?
If you’re interested in understanding what a professional services content marketing strategy could look like for your business, contact me at email@example.com and we can schedule a no-obligation 30-minute call to discuss ideas for your business.
In the meantime, you can learn more about different content marketing strategies and other online promotional tips by signing up to my fortnightly newsletter—it’s filled with lessons I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to!
I’m Rananda, a Sydney-based writer and editor
With 25-plus years in corporate life, a financial background, a science education, and a lifetime of writing, I know there is more to starting and growing a loyal following than just the words on your website or saving that draft manuscript in a folder.
I bring comprehensive practical experience to supporting your writing needs.