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SIX STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL CONTENT MARKETING
Here are six steps I have found that work to build successful content marketing.
1. Develop an Editorial Calendar to Ensure Consistency and Frequency – First things first. If you really want to knock your social media out of the park and ensure your messaging is always on target, develop a consistent content and posting schedule. In magazine and publishing parlance, this kind of schedule is known as an editorial calendar. It outlines which topics you want to address and when, how each topic will be delivered (i.e., via blog or article, video, e-mail, etc.), and the audience for which it's meant.
In the world of social media content, however, it's not uncommon to use multiple editorial calendars, one for each platform you use. If, for example, you use Facebook to connect with and engage potential investors, Twitter to advance your industry brand recognition, and
LinkedIn to foster relationships with other professionals, you'll want an editorial calendar for each. Then determine how many touches each channel should receive on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis, and build a timeline around those engagement goals. Finally, think of the type of content that will appeal to your various audiences, and tie every touch to a particular subject about which you're passionate. Your editorial calendar will also make it easy to identify chances to craft seasonal promotions or other seasonably salient content, and these are great opportunities to try to connect more personally with your prospects and clients.
When you're just beginning your editorial calendar, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the task, so start by assigning your content touches for the next month. As you gauge the effectiveness of your content and gather comments or discussions from your audience, deciding what to cover in the upcoming weeks and months will only get easier, as will ensuring your content has a consistent tone.
2. Develop Content that Builds Your (or Your Firm's) Authority and Credibility – Would you rather put your assets in the hands of a fly-by- night planner or those of a respectable advisor authority? Think about when it comes to making a living. Most advisors would rather work with an authoritative and reputable asset manager than with a relatively unknown firm. The fact is, regardless of whether they're conscious of it, advisors work toward being perceived as the authority on certain specialties, be it retirement or college planning, even if only locally. It's the same for asset managers. They're aiming to become the authority on a certain type of fund, employee culture, product, or retirement planning tool.
Now consider this brief etymological (the study of word origins) treatment: What would you call someone who writes and distributes words, sentences, and paragraphs, or the stuff that we collectively know as content? Most of us would call that person an author. Ever wondered from whence that word author came? Yep, the word author shares the same root as the word authority. Therefore, an author is someone who serves as the authority on a certain subject. So the more authoring you do, even if you don't use a byline, the more you feed your audience's collective need for authoritative resources with whom they can trust and work.
3. Original Content Is Always Best – The simple fact of the matter is the most effective and long-lived content comes straight from your keyboard, and the more frequently the better. A regular blog is ideal, but you can also create whitepapers or compile interesting research, produce brief but entertaining and informative videos, record podcasts, or design clever branding and engaging social media posts. But where can you look for inspiration? This is possibly the most difficult aspect of writing, since without a great idea to build your content around, you could find yourself going in circles.
Bill Winter berg, a certified financial planner who writes about tech issues in the financial advisory space, knows a great deal about creating stellar original content. A longtime industry insider who knows the landscape from both sides of the fence, he founded FPPad in 1998, a blog dedicated to serving as a leading source of news, thought leadership, and insight on financial planning technology. From its roots as a blog, FPPad has now developed into a premier consulting and media source for financial planners and wealth advisors.
According to Winterberg, your own book of business is a treasure trove of potential content ideas. “You know your clients and the problems they're dealing with best, and they're answering questions and creating solutions every day,” he says. “Just go through your client plans, portfolios, and concerns, and all the solutions you've identified. This is perfect material for online content.”
But no matter where you get your inspiration, how can advisors and asset managers be sure they're creating good content? Generally speaking, the best content is:
■ Unique or groundbreaking – On top of grabbing your readers' attention right out of the gate, anything different, groundbreaking, or new you create will likely shoot to the top of search engine pages and correspondingly, to the top of your followers' minds and news threads.
■ Informative and beneficial to the reader – Face it, if your content is neither, why on earth would anybody waste their time reading it? Don't bury the information or benefits you want your readers to take away. Bring it light to the fore and make it the centerpiece.
■ Thought provoking – Any time you can get your readers to think, you've scored a hit. Ideally, your content will have them thinking of how the subject matter could affect them, which naturally segues into them reaching out to you.
■ Actionable and engaging – If you provide your readers with plenty of content, whether via your website or other social media outlets, that compels them to take action and engage in discussions with you. You'll see exponential growth in your social media network as well as in actual leads to new relationships.
That said, don't forget the importance of regularly checking your analytics to ensure your idea of great content aligns with what your audience finds to be worthy. “The user ultimately decides what's good content,” says Frank Gosch, who serves as media giant Hearst's SEO and analytics director. “If you create content and then through your analytics you see people didn't engage with your content, then either the content isn't as good as you think it is or it doesn't meet what people are looking for.”
If you think you've posted something truly special but your analytics reveal low engagement rates, it's time to reassess your content.
4. Use Purposeful, Goal-Driven Content that Brands, Engages, and Sells – The next step in taking your content in the right direction entails determining what your goals are and what you want each communication to achieve. Social media experts tend to agree that virtually all of your content should speak to at least a couple if not all of these three end goals: branding, engagement, or selling.
“At a high level, every piece of content you make should have all three of these elements,” says Winterberg. Here are tips for working these goals into your content, to keep in mind when crafting purposeful content. Branding
Branding is the work you do to get your ideal prospects, whether investors or new advisors, to recognize you or your company as an industry leader. To solidify your brand, use a measure of consistency in everything you produce: Always use the same types of font and format; use your logo and graphic components in a consistent manner; employ the same signature music that plays on your website, podcast, or video.
One firm that's found tremendous success with social media is Transamerica. They've become quite adept at creating content that marries their brand to certain life insurance products. The image in Figure 21.2 was featured on Transamerica's Facebook page one year, where it garnered almost 90,000 likes. It's easy to see why this branding effort was such a success: There's nothing cuter than a baby, and their clever headline ties the imagery to real-life events that might naturally lead people to think about a need for life insurance without dwelling on the unpleasantness of mortality. Content featuring a brief but compelling lead like this, coupled with a powerful and memorable image and strategic logo positioning, is an outstanding way to advance your brand in the minds of your target audience.
One of the primary aims of any digital or social media campaign is to engage your audience. How do you know if your audience is
FIGURE 21.2 Transamerica's Facebook Page
engaged? Prospective investors, clients, and potential recruits become engaged every time they participate in your social media efforts – via their use of comments on blog posts or use of likes, for example. Smart advisors and asset management firms engage their audiences in a variety of ways, but one of the best ways to leverage your engaging content is to build prospect lists or generate leads.
An easy way for advisors to capitalize on engagement-driven content and its lead-generating potential is to offer their readers and visitors what's known as opt-in engagement opportunities. These opt- ins can be attached to almost any type of content on a multitude of platforms; by incorporating some sort of reward for users who leave you their contact information or review an educational guide, for example, you'll see engagement rates climb.
“When someone stumbles on to your site, what's there that's going to compel them to engage with you?” asks Winterberg. “In some cases, they might provide an e-mail address because they thought you were funny, but not everyone will be so liberal. That's where the incentive carries some real weight; someone gets rewards by offering you their e-mail.” He suggests using incentives such as:
■ Your information-packed newsletter
■ Interesting research
■ Free or trial site membership
■ Proprietary content that could benefit them
■ Free gym or club memberships
■ Gift cards for services such as Starbucks or iTunes
While asset management firms can also use the same kinds of opt-in engagement strategies, their ultimate goal is usually to recruit new advisors. LPL Financial, for example, uses two different avenues to generate their leads. First, they rely on paid Twitter promotional tweets. According to their senior vice president of brand marketing and delivery, Melissa Socci, “We use this medium to say we want more followers and that we want advisors to know who we are, so we've been sharing some great videos about some of our other advisors.” They also use LinkedIn to drive new store sales or advisor acquisition.
This word can be interpreted in a couple of different ways, so Bill Winterberg offers this advice: “Remember, selling doesn't necessarily mean, 'If you act now, you'll save 10 percent off your financial plan.' But make no mistake: every financial planning piece I do is about selling myself as a tech expert. I publish it so they can get 10 [video blog] episodes that get them thinking about me and how I could help their business.”
Content that's geared toward selling doesn't necessarily result in a financial transaction, although it well could. Financial products and services aren't as commoditized as other industries are, so what you're really selling is yourself or your firm.
By posting content that proves your expertise in a certain niche, you're laying the groundwork for acquiring new clients and relationships – from partners to thought leaders. When the time comes and your readers decide to get an advisor, that advisor will be you. The same logic applies to asset managers selling their companies. Not only can their selling content assure consumers that, for example, their 529 plans are ideal for their needs and ultimately result in a sale, but they can also create similar content aimed at boosting their credibility and likeability among the advisor community. This can result in advisors signing on to work with them.
5. Incorporate Video into Your Social Media Activities – You've probably noticed that many of the people interviewed for this chapter mention the use of videos. And for good reason: Adding videos to your social media efforts is the latest and most effective means of distinguishing yourself or your firm from the competition. Why?
According to Gosch, “Video is underutilized. Content needs to be geared to what the customer wants, which has become visual aspects like video, and video is helpful in earning trust.” And while the Web is overrun by text content, the realm of video is largely untapped and consumers genuinely enjoy video content. You already know how the imagery, graphics, and other visualizations in your web and PR content elevate it from other more static content, so it's not a huge leap in logic to take visualization to the next natural level: video. What's more, videos meet all three characteristics of good content:
■ They're wonderful branding vehicles, as the use of consistent background imagery, charts, and other visual elements allows viewers to recognize your brand. What other channel allows you to keep your logo on display for longer than 10 seconds?
■ Videos provide limitless opportunities to engage with your audience, the least of which is the fact customers can now put a face to your name or company. In addition to imparting essential information, you can use this medium to address your audience's questions or respond to comments they've made elsewhere, and they're perfect for pitching opt-in incentives, like a free transcript of the video.
■ Yep, videos can also sell. If you speak well, use appropriate gestures, and deliver content of benefit, they can help you market yourself or your company. What better way is there to illustrate a new tool, product, or technological innovation?
Once you start posting video content, it's important not to lose sight of the importance of that boring old print content. For now at least, that's still social media's bread and butter. So heed the advice of April Rudin, founder of Rudin Marketing.
“We're in a transformational time, so you need to do both,” Rudin says, “because some prefer video and others print. One mistake firms and advisors make is to commit to one platform or one way of communication when best practices are to be available in both places. In fact, they each (print and video content) need to reside in different places on the Internet.”
The time to act and get into the video game is now, so do some research or talk to other advisors and firms about how best to start producing video content. Then start posting videos to your own site, YouTube, and Facebook. 6
6. Reuse and Repurpose Your Best Content – One of the best things about a robust stable of social media content is that it allows you to go back and repurpose certain posts to meet different goals or to address a different audience. And why shouldn't you? Plenty of big-name asset managers and social media-savvy advisors do it all the time, and some even mandate that all content be created with the aim of being repurposed. Your greatest content asset is your blog, and you can definitely mine it for additional posting opportunities.
10 Ways to Repurpose Content
Here are just a few (okay, 10) ways to repurpose your blog content to meet a variety of goals on several social media platforms.
1. Take three to five key points or insights from your blog and post them on Facebook.
2. Using the same three to five insights, organize them into a paragraph, and share them in a LinkedIn group announcement.
3. Schedule anywhere from 5 to 15 tweets featuring key phrases or points from your blog.
4. Based on your analytics, run a “Best of XXX Blog 2015” blog series featuring your five or six most popular blogs.
5. If your blog is recent and contains useful industry trends, turn it into a press release as soon as you can.
6. Create a written or video Q&A spot based on questions you've gotten or seen in comments or posts.
7. Use information you've discussed in blogs or data from your research and convert it into charts to capitalize on the visual appeal.
8. Condense your blog content into an informative podcast.
9. Turn an interview you conducted into a blog post.
10. Post a series of photo montages from the photos you've used in blogs and other postings over the years.
Now that you know which kind of content works best and how to apply it to different audiences, get out there and create a social media storm!
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