10 reasons professional services firms are failing with content marketing

A newly appointed Chief Marketing Officer recently asked for my opinion about his firm’s content marketing. He was surprised when I questioned whether his new employer understands the meaning of the term.

Content Marketing. It’s one of the most over-used buzzwords yet the Marketing Dictionary, published by Oxford University Press, did not even reference the term until its fourth edition, published in 2016.

Professional services firms have long understood the value of thought leadership. However, a common misconception is that thought leadership and content marketing are one and the same.

They’re not.

Thought leadership is about demonstrating superior expertise, being a subject matter expert, owning an issue, displaying both historic knowledge and futuristic thinking. It’s one type (arguably, the most valuable type) of content marketing. Being perceived to be a thought leader builds brand, reputation, credibility and trust.

In contrast, content marketing is all about driving sales.

The central premise of content marketing is that by giving something of value, you will receive something of value in return. To quote branded content expert James O’Brien, “Instead of being the commercial, be the show. Instead of being the banner ad, be the feature story.”

Content marketing extends far beyond the process of simply creating and distributing content. It’s a cumulative endeavor that requires the created or curated content to be relevant and valuable “so as to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with a view to driving profitable customer action” (reference Content Marketing Institute).

Sadly, many professional services are contributing to the content clutter without strategic intent, and without long-term intention.

Here are ten areas where I see firms failing.

  1. They haven’t clearly defined their target audience, despite there being a multitude of buyers and influencers involved in most B2B purchases.
  2. They don’t know if their content is valuable because they neglect to include a call to action.
  3. They don’t know if their content marketing is effective because they don’t measure individual campaigns, let alone analyse long-term trend data.
  4. They lose interest when the return on investment doesn’t come quickly.
  5. They make the content all about them, rather than focusing on the information their target audiences are seeking.
  6. Their content is inconsistent and lacks structure because they don’t have a content marketing strategy or calendar.
  7. Conversely, they’re hamstrung by their content calendar and don’t seize opportunities when they’re presented.
  8. Their content isn’t valid, timely or fresh.
  9. Their content isn’t repurposed for different channels or platforms.
  10. They overlook including actionable takeaways in their content.