Last week, we took a look at two mistakes that may be impacting your content marketing, giving up too early and not marketing your content. Continuing with our theme, and thanks to Content Marketing Institute for their inspiration, we’re going to look at another two mistakes today.
Mistake Number One: Your Offerings Have Become Passé
This mistake is really about two things – not producing enough new content, and not thinking outside of the box with your existing content offerings. Both can be problematic.
Not Producing Enough New Content
I am a firm believer in quality over quantity when it comes to content. Yes, I write a lot myself, but that doesn’t mean I advocate it for everyone – it’s just what works for me.
But when you’re producing content, it’s all about “what have you done for me lately?” If you’re not reminding people that you’re out there, and providing them with value, they just won’t think about you at all. It’s as simple as that.
So you may not need to publish a new blog post or produce a new video every week. But you can’t let months go by without offering NEW content of value. And there is SO much that you’re already doing that can be fodder for good content that there’s really no excuse.
- Sit down and give yourself the writing prompt “I am often asked…” What is it that your clients regularly ask you about the law that you’re always answering for them? Turn that into a blog post or a whitepaper – if a few of your clients are always asking you something, the likelihood is that others who are NOT your clients but are in the industry are wondering the same thing. Why not share your wisdom and expertise with them?
- When new legislation comes out or cases are decided, do you email some of your clients with the impact that will have on their business? Take the content of those emails and turn it into a general article or blog post that you can use to explain to a generic company in the industry how the same legislation or court decision may impact THEM. It just takes some tweaking and removing of any confidential information to repurpose something you’re already doing.
- If you’re speaking at conferences on a subject, take your presentations and share them on SlideShare. Turn them into a series of blog posts. Pull out the most salient points and create a short video around them.
And more – the idea here is to get creative, not reinvent the wheel. What is it that you’re already doing and getting paid for that you can tweak just a little bit to turn into valuable content for others?
When all else fails (and really, before then), create an editorial calendar. Give yourself a reasonable goal of how often you can produce content – weekly, every other week, whatever it is. Fill in the editorial calendar for 3-6 months with some broad topic areas with those timelines, and schedule yourself to produce content for those days. When you make it part of the routine, it’s much harder to skip it (I’m speaking from experience).
Think Outside of the Box
This one speaks a little to the idea of repurposing the heck out of your content, as I mentioned above. But it’s also about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable when it comes to content.
In the former situation, make a rule that you never only create a piece of content that’s used one way. If you write a blog post, also create a visual that pulls out a quote that you can share. Or create a five minute video that sums up your key points. If you do a presentation for a conference, turn that into a series of blog posts, or a series of powerful visuals with quotes. Go back and look at old content you’ve created – are there evergreen pieces that you can freshen up in some way (think means of delivery) and share again?
Again, the idea is not to create extra work for yourself, but to make the most of the work that you’re already doing, or have done.
Harris offers some other tips for freshening up content in her CMI piece:
- Think outside the blog: Content marketing is more than just creating a blog and publishing articles. Consider shaking things up by experimenting with new formats, such as videos, podcasts, e-books, or webinars. [My note: We’ve talked about this already, and Harris mentions it because it’s SO important. All of these are creative, smart, AND professional ways to create and distribute your content.]
- Paint a visual picture for your readers: Using visual imagery in your content is an instant eye-catcher. But don’t stop at adding a few charts or photos to your usual blog posts. To increase interest, exposure, and engagement, create content in visual-centric formats like SlideShare, infographics, or video. [My note: This is another thing we’ve also discussed – it can feel nervewracking to step out of the textual world, but people pay attention to images, and you want them to pay attention to you – so use images.]
- Create a conversation: In contrast to “push-marketing” techniques, content marketing works best when the audience can interact with it. Ask a question or offer a controversial point of view that gives readers an opportunity to weigh in on the discussion. [My note: This is a great tool, and you can use it in a few ways. Perhaps you post a controversial point of view or ask a question in your blog post, but you can also pose a question in a LinkedIn group that you moderate or participate in, or just as part of your status update on a social network. Tell your friends and connections that you want to use their responses in a blog post, or that you’d love to go toe-to-toe with the opposing view point in a podcast or video. It’s different, so people will pay attention, and you’re also showing off your ability to engage and not just lecture.]
- Get real: Being too protective of your business’ plans, practices, failures, and successes can hinder your reputation as a transparent and trustworthy business. You don’t have to spill company secrets, but offering a glimpse behind the scenes can really give your audience something to engage with and relate to personally. [My note: This is an excellent idea. Personal stories connect with people. Without giving away client secrets, can you talk about your greatest successes and challenges as a lawyer, which matter taught you the most, what your proudest moment has been as a professional? Can you give a behind the scenes look at your firm and your colleagues, through your Facebook or Instagram account for example? Do you have casual Fridays, or Halloween costume contests? Give people more ways to connect with you emotionally – you don’t have to tell your deepest secrets, as Harris says, but you can dig deeper to create those connections.]
- Ramp up your content production: If it’s done intentionally and strategically, increasing your output velocity can demonstrate your business’ ongoing commitment to successful content marketing and can help you reach new audiences and spur more feedback – infusing some much-needed energy into your efforts. [My note: This is absolutely true, and depending on why your content is suffering, may be a good solution for you. Are you writing only every other week? What if you write once a week instead? What if you take your every other week long posts, and split them in two – you’re doing the same amount of work, but getting what appears to be twice as much content. There are a few ways you can play this game, and they all start with giving yourself an editorial calendar.]
- Give your content creators total autonomy: No one enjoys reading content that obviously comes from a corporate entity; people want to hear from other people. Encouraging your writers to use their own voice to express your business’ point of view can add some much-needed personality to the content you publish. [My note: My fervent hope is that you’re all already writing and producing content as yourselves. If you’re not, this applies. If you are, this advice can also apply – shake it up. Invite a colleague to guest-post for you, or reach out to one of your clients for an interview. Maybe it’s time to start a monthly podcast with clients to talk about the issues that matter to them, or use your blog to connect with people in the industry that you’ve wanted to meet. This is about adding voices to your content in creative ways.]”
The overarching lesson here? Don’t go too long without producing new content (or re-imagining old content to be new again) and change up the ways in which you’re publishing your content to keep it fresh!
Mistake Number Two: Your Storytelling Leads to a Dead End
This mistake is about letting your engagement end with your content production:
The term ‘content marketing’ is misleading because you might think that the content itself does all the marketing work. But you can’t just expect readers to consume your content and instantly become loyal and engaged customers. You need to gently encourage them to take the next step in the purchase process, and that requires including a clear call to action.”
This is a tough one for lawyers and law firms, and it’s a fine line to walk, for two reasons – one, ethically you have to be careful about how you engage people with your content, and two, because it’s easy to get into the “icky” marketing stuff, where you’re using a lot of cheesy lines – and no one wants that. Trust me, no one.
Harris says (and I’ll disagree in a moment, so just read on):
People expect a request to take some action after reading content. That’s the whole idea behind marketing – you want people to do something based on the information they just received.
Start asking for action on your blog posts and other content forms. The call to action does not need to entail a million-dollar deal. It can be a mailing list sign-up, a link to another resource you offer, or another conversion point you are looking to support. Without it, your content is a means that is unlikely to lead to a desirable end.
I agree with her in that there needs to be a follow-up here to continue engagement. Where I disagree is how “marketer-y” this sounds – there are ways to do this effectively without being corny.
Let’s look at one really awesome example of how this is done well:
Employment Law This Week – a new video series by Epstein Becker & Green (full disclosure, they’re a member of the ILN, but I just LOVE this content marketing, and would recommend it no matter who they were). The series takes the most important news from employment law in the last week, produces a five or so minute video, which is run like a news broadcast by partner George Whipple.
You’ll notice throughout the video that there are subtle (but valuable TO THE VIEWER – that’s a key point) calls to action – for example, when they talk about the Second Circuit’s decision about whistleblower protection, you can click on the video to be taken to a blog post that offers more in-depth information on that topic. You’re further engaging with the content, but the firm is doing it in a way that’s beneficial to the audience, as well as the firm.
There are so many other things that I like about the way that this is produced, but I won’t go into those today (they may merit their own blog post). Instead, I offer it up as an example of how you can be providing these calls to action and opportunities to engage to your audience in a way that isn’t “salesy” or “icky.”
Other ways that you can accomplish this:
- Reference additional content in your blog posts, as long as it’s relevant to your subject and your audience – have you written on this subject before? Link to it in the post. Even better if you’ve written a whitepaper that’s behind the firewall that encourages your audience to submit their contact information in order to download it – that way you’re qualifying your prospects and creating the opportunity for follow-up.
- Use your content to engage with people directly – want to meet someone? Find content they’ve produced, or a way to highlight them in your content, and then reach out to them with that piece to connect. Use it to relationship build.
- Ask questions – Use the content of your posts to ask a question that encourages people to engage with you and your work – lead with that question when you’re sharing it on social media. Engage with the respondents.
Now that you’re prepared to get out there and produce content without mistakes, what are some of the challenges you’ve seen to successful content marketing? How have you overcome them (or not)?