Valuable content: The buck stops with you

I recently wrote a piece for Lawyers Weekly, a legal publication in Australasia, in which I compared two articles about the same court decision to illustrate the difference between a content processor and a content contributor.

One firm’s marketing team had demonstrably added value to their firm’s content – contributing structurally, editorially, visually and functionally – whereas the other’s appeared to have simply processed what was handed to them.

Content marketing is the cumulative endeavour of creating relevant and valuable content which will attract and engage a particular audience and ultimately drive profitable behaviour.

The keywords are relevant and valuable.

In a professional services environment, the ‘fee earners’ are mostly responsible for ensuring their content passes the relevance test. After all, they’re the subject matter experts.

In a professional services environment, the marketing team is responsible for ensuring their firm’s content is valuable.

In a professional services environment, the marketing team is responsible for ensuring their firm’s content is valuable.

Four factors make a piece of content valuable:

  1. Searchability
  2. Digestibility
  3. Actionability
  4. Shareability.

Let’s explore each of these.

1. Searchability

Your target audience must be able to find your content. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Presumably, your content will be found through a combination of push and pull strategies. You’ll push it out through the assets you own – via email and your website and your social channels, for example. And you’ll pull your target audience to it via paid and earned media.

The searchability of your content is contingent upon it being appropriately tagged, containing the right metadata, including links, and so on.

2. Digestibility

Professional services firms produce two types of content: the routine, which constitutes the bulk of their output, and the extraordinary – for example, white papers, research pieces, in-depth reports.

Where routine content is concerned, professional services firms have two choices: be first or be best. Leading firms achieve both.

Your target audience will consume content from many different sources. They will subscribe to other firms’ communications; their RSS feeds will deliver your competitors’ content directly to them.

You need your content to stand out.

Digestibility means your content will be not only easy to consume, it will be enjoyable to consume.

There’s a debate raging about the optimal length of a blog post. Some online publishers discourage articles of greater than 700 words as their data shows readership and engagement plummet from that point.

From a SEO standpoint, Hubspot has found longer form content is most effective – 2,500 words being the ultimate post length.

So what’s right?

Size must always be secondary to substance. Never, ever embark upon a piece of content with a word length target. To quote Neil Patel, “people come first, before search algorithms”.

Produce content which is relevant and valuable to your particular audience and the rest will almost take care of itself.

3. Actionability

Professional services firms create content for one of three reasons, namely to:

  1. build brand awareness and position their firm
  2. add value to existing clients and
  3. demonstrate expertise to prospective clients, business partners or employees.

Make sure every piece of content you create includes a call to action. What’s your goal?

To build your mailing list? Invite subscriptions.

To grow your followers? Include your social links.

And if your goal is to start a conversation, allow your audience to comment.

Whatever you do, do something.

4. Shareability

Finally, you’ll know your content is valuable if your target audience shares it. A few years ago, The New York Times conducted a ground-breaking study of what makes people share content. Its ultimate conclusion: to share is human.

When consumers encounter great content – useful, enlightening or simply entertaining – they feel an instinctive need to share it. Two in three (65%) report that when they find valuable information, they have to share it. Three in five (58%) say it would be difficult to stop sharing information online. Indeed, the very act of learning and discovering information is inseparable from sharing it, as three in four (76%) say that sharing is half the fun of finding information. So, while technology has enabled consumers to share more content with more people more often, the compulsion to share and the enjoyment of sharing are, on their own, important parts of consumers’ lives.

Professional services firms must give their target audience a reason to share their content, and make it easy for their content to be shared.

That provides a tidy segue for me to invite you to share this article.