(This article is reposted with permission of the author. It was originally published at Absolute Engagement.)
We know that deeper client engagement is created when you demonstrate leadership and create connection. And while that probably comes naturally when you’re face to face with your clients, the real challenge is doing those things the rest of the time.
I believe a thoughtful content marketing strategy can help. I also believe that the term ‘content marketing’ is, at best, confusing or, at worst, considered to be out of reach. So today I want to clear a few things up and make this as easy as possible.
In many respects, I’ve built my business and my career on creating content. Yes, the focus of our work is delivering presentations, workshops and programs for advisors so ‘content’ is inherent in what we do. What I mean, however, is that I’ve always believed that the best way to connect with advisors is through research and writing – all the stuff we do outside of what we actually get paid to do!
To help me on the quest to understand and simplify content marketing, I spoke to Marion Asnes, President of Idea Refinery. As a former Editor-in-Chief at Financial Planning Magazine and the former Senior Editor for Money Marketing she knows a thing or two about great content.
So What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing focuses on sharing content with your clients on the topics they care about and which help them make better decisions. It includes content you write or content you curate, but always focuses on helping you guide and add meaningful value to the lives of your clients.
It’s a form of education. And we know that, for clients, education matters.
In our investor research, 76% of clients said it was somewhat or very important that their advisor provide them with education. We also know that when advisors deliver on meaningful education, it has a positive impact on the business. Engaged clients (the ones who are really satisfied, loyal and provide you with referrals) are twice as likely to say their advisor provides them with education.
How Does Content Engage?
There is connection between content marketing and engagement because content marketing demonstrates:
- Leadership. Content marketing helps you demonstrate leadership by providing meaningful guidance to clients on issues that matter.
- Connection. Content marketing creates connection by focusing on the issues that are important to individual clients.
And not for nothing, content marketing also demonstrates and supports credibility, which is a critical factor in attracting prospective clients.
Let’s look at what’s really involved.
Step 1: Figure Out What Clients Care About
Asnes says there are three rules to effective content marketing:
- Know your audience
- Know your audience, and (you guessed it)
- Know your audience
What you write about needs to reflect what your clients care about. That may be different than what you think they care about or you think they should care about.
So what do clients care about? According to Asnes, it’s definitely not what the markets did in the last quarter. They care about: retirement, family financial issues or new legislation. She said one of the most popular articles she’s written focused on helping clients understand risk tolerance.
One way Asnes suggests you structure your content is by using a calendar that matches the theme of the articles to different times of year. For example, your calendar might look something like this:
- January. How can you help clients as they think about applying for financial aid for children going to college?
- February. Can you celebrate Valentine’s day with an article about how couples communicate about money?
- March. What can you share that ties into the fact that clients are preparing their tax returns?
- April. How should clients think about spending a tax refund?
- And so on…..
And if you’re stuck for ideas, or aren’t sure what would resonate with your clients, here are a couple of ideas:
- Find a colleague and brainstorm on the questions you hear from clients. Each article can answer one of those questions.
- Gather input from your clients. It’s easier for clients to respond to a list of potential topics rather than asking them an open-ended question. In this case focus on their problems and challenges rather than asking them about the topics they want to hear about. Click here for more information on how to tease out client insights using quick polls. Or, keep it simple and just add the question to the end of each review meeting.
Step 2: Create Your Plan
If writing isn’t your natural talent, then content marketing will feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are at least three approaches to consider that will lighten the load.
- Find an expert. Asnes works directly with advisors in two ways. She can provide short, informative and updated articles from a bank of articles she’s written. Of particular interest is that she also researches and writes custom articles that advisors can share under their own names. Bob Veres also has a service that provides articles for clients which includes a market/economic update and summary.
- Curate content. Rather than writing you own articles you can start with curation. Make it your goal to find credible articles that address pertinent issues for clients. Then share those articles directly, or on social media, with a personal note to explain why you think it’s important. You’ll enhance your own credibility because it positions you as an expert by association.
- Outsource to a curation service. There are services that will find you relevant articles for clients based on their interests. You can check Advisor Stream, Grapevine6 or Vestorly.
Of course these options aren’t mutually exclusive and the best choice for you should reflect how much you want to be able to control the content calendar and the weight you place on customization.
Asnes makes a great point that you can dip your toe in the waters of content marketing by curating general content but the end goal should be different. The end goal, as she puts it “should be a fully realized website with a blog and an email newsletter that you can send to clients and prospects”. The blog is your ‘home base’ in this case and the email is designed to drive people there.
Step 3: Leverage Your Content
Remember that clients aren’t the only people reading your content. Articles and blog posts are one of the easiest things you can share directly or encourage your clients to share with others. Remember that shareable content is important when thinking about driving referrals so there are significant benefits to this approach.
- Send articles to local publications; they’re always looking for good content.
- After you’ve spoken to a prospect and have a sense of his or her specific issues, send a link to an article that addresses that issue. Sending links to general educational information is helpful but sending an article that addresses something you talked about during the meeting, demonstrates that you care. Hint: the prospect doesn’t have to have raised the issue; you can drive the conversation to specific issues with a few pointed questions.
- Encourage clients to share articles with friends and family who are facing the issues you address in your articles. Because articles tackle very specific topics, they’ll send it to people they know share the same issue or have the same questions.
A few more practical tips from Asnes:
- Keep your posts or articles short unless you’re a very experienced writer (or outsource the writing). Asnes recommends about 200 words. For context, one page of typed copy, double-spaced is between 225 – 250 words.
- If you outsource the writing make sure you have input into the topics as well as the tone, so articles are personal and reflect the needs of your clients.
- Check your facts and use credible sources. Don’t just use footnotes but high quality footnotes.
One piece of advice I can give is this. Remember that you’re writing for your clients and prospects and you want a personal relationship with those people. Make sure the tone is authentic and informal while still being credible. If you can give yourself permission to be yourself and worry less about whether your work will win a Pulitzer you’ll free yourself to write more and connect more.
If you enjoyed this article from Julie Littlechild from Absolute Engagement, have a look at Xtiva’s interview with Julie on the Client Engagement.