Take Charge of Your Content Marketing

content marketing for consultantsNow that consumer brands like McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and Oreo have jumped into content marketing, you know that strategy has hit the mainstream.

But you probably already got the point: If it’s done well, content marketing can create a differentiated position for you in the market and help you land the work you want.

The reality we all face, though, is that it’s tough to crank out consistently good content over the long haul.

When I talk to consultants about content marketing, what they say sounds like this:

“I know I should devote more time to it. But there’s barely enough time in the day to take care of my client work, manage short-term business development, and run my business. When there is a window of time to develop content for marketing, it can be overwhelming to start and finish it before I’m pulled in another direction.”

As usual, a challenge for some could be an opportunity for you. Look around. You can still use content marketing to create a position of market authority because much of what is out there is underwhelming.

You can still use content marketing to create a position of market authority because much of what is out there is underwhelming.

If you decide to take the plunge, here are three things you can do to make your job as a content producer and marketer a little less onerous.

Get Personal

One way to create content with less stress is to have an unambiguous mental image of your reader(s).

Let me explain. Think about your last great sales proposal. You probably wrote it for a particular person, tailored your message to specific needs, and asked that person to take some action.

As you wrote the proposal, you probably knew who was likely to read it and had some idea how they’d react to your words.

As you prepare new content, try to define the potential reader in your mind as you would for a proposal. Maybe it’s an existing client–or one you’d like to have.

Assume that person is sitting across the desk from you. What language would you use? What level of detail would you go into? How would you know if the person understood your words?

Think about your answers to those questions before you start writing.

I know we usually write to multiple readers, so you might worry that picking just one would narrow your reach. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

If you’re writing to an audience of CFOs, for example, keep one of those people in mind as your reader. Then, review what you’ve done and ask yourself, “How relevant is this content for others in a CFO’s organization?”

In most cases, your content will resonate with more people than just the CFO. If not, look for ways to broaden the appeal by changing text, adding new examples, or modifying the tone.

Remember, you’re not writing to a market or an industry, but to individual people. Writing will be easier for you and more interesting for your readers if you keep that in mind.

Remember, you’re not writing to a market or an industry, but to individual people.

Think Content Collections

Normally, consultants don’t lack for things to say to their readers. More often, they struggle to get the important points across without writing too much.

If you dive into too much detail, readers may turn away. But if you write at too high a level, your message will seem overly simplified.

Here’s a way to produce content that is easy to read and communicates enough detail to position you as an expert.

Instead of single, stand-alone articles, try writing a collection of related articles, that is, a series of pieces that fit together to communicate a larger point.

Instead of single, stand-alone articles, try writing a collection of related articles, that is, a series of pieces that fit together to communicate a larger point.

Let’s say you’re an organization design consultant. You could write individual articles on how to create a design strategy, how to lead an organizational transformation project, or how to build new capabilities within an organization.

A single article on any of those topics would be interesting, but there’s so much to say about the topics that publishing one article on each would just scratch the surface.

So, instead of writing three different articles, take one of the topics and write an in-depth piece. Then, divide that piece into parts and publish them as a collection of articles.

You might approach the collection like writing a chapter of a book.

For instance, if you wrote a book chapter on Leading Large-Scale Teams, you would organize the chapter into logical sections, such as selecting the team, creating a productive team dynamic, and designing communication strategies.

It would then be straightforward to divide the ‘chapter’ into a collection of articles on “Leading Large-Scale Teams.”

By writing in collections, you can create in-depth content to publish over time. You’ll be able to focus your content development resources on the nuances of a single subject, which should simplify your writing process.

Plus, you can re-use the content in your collection as the basis for videos, speeches, guest blog posts, or articles for other publications.

Focus on a Few Channels

As you develop content, it can be daunting to sort out where you should publish it. You can reach readers in so many ways, including email, blog post, publishing on someone else’s site, or using social media channels.

I’d rather see you publish in a small number of places that cater to the clients you want to work with, instead of publishing your content to everyone in the world.

I’d rather see you publish in a small number of places that cater to the clients you want to work with, instead of publishing your content to everyone in the world.

If you focus on a small number of channels, you can attract higher quality readers and you’ll spend less time managing the publication process.

The quality of your content is more important than the quantity of channels you use. If you produce great stuff, people will find you.

Take the Opportunity

Like anything you do to market your practice, content development takes time and concerted, ongoing effort.

But if you look around the industry, you’ll find that many firms still haven’t fully embraced content marketing.

That sets up a great marketing opportunity for those who are ready to take it, patient enough to invest in a long-term marketing strategy, and committed to creating a market-leading position.

Content Marketing Experts to Check Out

As you formulate your approach to content development and marketing, here’s a short list of leading thinkers in content marketing.

Ian Brodie @ianbrodie – Consultant to professional services providers
Michael Katz @MichaelJKatz – Advisor to Solo Professionals
Brian Clark @copyblogger – Founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media
Content Marketing Institute @CMIContent
Rand Fishkin @randfish – CEO and founder of Moz
Darren Rowse @problogger – Founder of ProBlogger
HubSpot @HubSpot – Inbound marketing software platform
Ann Handley @MarketingProfs – Head of Content at MarketingProfs

One Twitter Feature You Should Use

twitterI wouldn’t be surprised if you were leery of reading yet another article about Twitter, especially a how-to on this ubiquitous social media tool.

Opinions about the value of Twitter are all over the map. Some people can’t live without it; others say it’s a complete waste of time.

No matter what you think of Twitter, the platform includes one powerful, easy-to-use feature that’s too good to ignore.

The Power of Twitter Lists

Part of the challenge in making Twitter a valuable tool is how to sort and organize the endless stream of disconnected tweets in a way that helps you.

Part of the challenge in making Twitter a valuable tool is how to sort and organize the endless stream of disconnected tweets in a way that helps you.

Twitter offers a feature called Lists, which can transform that torrent of unrelated data into a high-value stream of organized, targeted market information you can use on a daily basis.

A Twitter list is an individualized, curated group of Twitter users. When you look at one of your Twitter lists, you see only the tweets created by the sources on that list.

For example, let’s say you want to follow the headline news of the day from several major sources. You could set up a Twitter list, such as the one below, to collect tweets from selected news organizations:

You can review the tweets (and the links to stories and articles included in them) from the sources on your list to get a sense of what’s in the news right now. You can expand your list to include just about any media outlet, as every one of them has a Twitter feed.

You may want to get a glimpse into what the business press and others are saying about the world of business strategy, management, technology, or politics.

If so, you could create another Twitter list, as in the sample below, to give you an overview of what leading publications and thinkers are currently talking about:

Strategy, Management, Technology, and Politics

Some consultants use Twitter lists to keep up on what other consulting firms are saying to the market.

For instance, if you are interested in what large services firms are promoting and discussing, you could create a list like this one:

You could also build lists to include individual thought leaders who are relevant to your areas of expertise and interest, as in this example:

Use your imagination to create Twitter lists that support your ability to market, sell, and deliver your services.

Setting up Twitter lists is easy. And Twitter allows you to create up to 1,000 lists, so you shouldn’t run out of list capacity.

Monitoring Your Lists

It’s easy to see the contents of your lists on your Twitter page, which might look similar to this:

Twitter List View

Twitter List View

Many people prefer a columnar display of lists, instead of having to open a new page to see each list. Twitter offers this tool to do that:

TweetDeck Dashboard

TweetDeck Dashboard

You can use this format by downloading Twitter’s add-in application, TweetDeck. It’s simple to install, configure, and use. Plus, it’s free.

You can also use a popular third-party application called HootSuite to create a similar dashboard for your lists.

The HootSuite application, which also has a free version, looks like this:

HootSuite Dashboard

HootSuite Dashboard

Both tools have many other capabilities to help you manage your overall social media presence, so have a look at both.

Once you set up your lists, it’s easy to check them whenever you want. You can run Twitter, TweetDeck, or HootSuite on a computer, phone, or tablet.

If you haven’t tried Twitter lists, start by creating one list for the sources you typically read. That way, you’ll have access to all of your important information in one place.

As you get comfortable with the tools, expand your lists to other sources. Check out the lists of other Twitter users to generate ideas for who and what to include on your lists.

Twitter isn’t just about micro-publishing and attracting followers. Twitter lists are a simple, fast, and no-cost way to stay on top of the things that are important to you and your clients, so don’t overlook this feature.

Feel free to use the sample lists I’ve shown above or create your own. In either case, try a Twitter list (or two).

A 100,000-Foot View of Twitter

I know many consultants have Twitter accounts, but some haven’t really figured out how (or why) to integrate Twitter into their businesses.

Lots of writers have done a good job explaining how anyone, including consultants, can make good use of Twitter.

For example, Michael Hyatt, the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, published The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter and 12 Ways to Get More Twitter Followers on his blog.

In another article, Forbes magazine examined The Science Behind Getting More Twitter Followers. And, the staff at The Social Media Examiner published an overview of How to Use Twitter for Business and Marketing.

By reviewing those four articles, you’ll get a sense of the possibilities that Twitter offers for your practice.

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