Let’s face it, a lot of content floating around today is — to put it bluntly — crap. The truth is that many businesses are sacrificing quality merely to publish content as frequently as possible. Recently, I came across a website for a technology firm targeting financial advisory organizations. While the firm was doing a good job of blogging consistently, the topics they were covering were all over the place—and most were not applicable to their core business.
This firm’s strategy was based on publishing content in volume in order to improve search ranking and attract an audience based on being found in Google. None of the content is particularly authoritative. It just contributes to the content echo chamber.
For a few years, this tactic worked. If you published a high volume of content around a set of key words, you could lift the site’s page rank. But Google’s algorithms are getting smarter. Today, the algorithms focus more on surfacing the best answers to searcher questions. Google is no longer focusing just on keywords, but on user intent. And it is deliberately penalizing thin content. So marketers using this technique will find their search ranking declining rapidly. In addition to publishing thin content, this company is writing about a lot of topics that are unrelated to their core offering. As a result, Google has a hard time understanding what the site is about, so the content is not positively affecting their ranking for topics where they are experts.
Finally, the firm’s content writers did not have direct access to key subject matter experts in the company. Since they weren’t working closely with the firm’s leadership, they couldn’t share the core expertise that the firm is best known for. As a consequence, the content never establishes the leaders of the firm as trusted advisors with their target audience. While I’m making an example of one specific firm, really there are many financial services marketers out there who need to rethink their content strategies. Below I’ll discuss the three major content marketing mistakes this firm and many others are making.
1. Using a Generalist Agency
If you target financial services; using a generalist marketing, social media or ad agency to produce your content can be a total waste of time and money. By generalist agency I am referring to marketing firms that take on any work that comes their way, from virtually any and all industries. The writers from these generalist firms are not specialized and usually lack depth of background in a particular market or industry niche. Instead, they are always bouncing around, having to change direction and pick up unfamiliar subject matter as each new client project comes rolling in.
In my experience, companies targeting financial services that use a generalist agency are left with one of two undesirable outcomes. The first one is that they spend a tremendous amount of time teaching the agency’s writer basic insights about their industry—information that a specialized financial writer would already know. If you’re in this camp, you may grow frustrated and feel like you’re spending too much time being an educator and need to get back to your day job. Eventually, you’ll realize that it’s easier for you to write the darn article yourself. See what I mean by total waste of time and money?
The second undesirable outcome might be that you don’t spend time educating the generalist writer, and so the writer, left to his or her own devices, ends up producing content that completely misses the mark. This seems to be the pickle that the FinTech firm I referenced in my opening has found themselves in. In this case, they are using a generalist content marketing agency to create their content. The agency creates the content without sufficient direction from their client. The agency writer reads industry publications to find trending topics and then riffs off news articles to create blog content. But the content is not central to the company’s core product line. In fact, many of the blog topics are unrelated to what they sell. This helter skelter content is causing the company to miss a great opportunity to communicate their core message to their audience.
2. Being Superficial vs. Being a Trusted Advisor
Another mistake I commonly see is content that is superficial and lacks any real substance. This obviously can result from using a generalist firm, but it can also happen when you use a specialized content agency, but don’t spend time guiding them on what topics to write about and which angles to take. The truth is that no agency, regardless of how specialized they are, can have as much experience with your offerings as the actual product leaders in your company. These leaders spend extensive time talking to clients and helping them solve complex problems. They are also continually thinking about how to apply technology to specific customer needs.
No marketer is going to have the story down as well as your experts. If you outsource your content marketing to a specialized agency, you must still stay in close contact, to discuss strategy. You also must make time for them to regularly interview your subject matter experts and clients about emerging trends, advancements in your industry, etc. That’s the only way the writer will be able to capture and articulate your company’s specialized expertise.
This approach will not only help you deliver content of real value to your audience, but will also help establish your key leaders in the minds of your audience as trusted resources and advisors. Here’s a tip on crafting truly meaningful content. Prospects that are researching new technology solutions really benefit from stories where you present a customer challenge and show how your technology saved the day and fixed it. Such problem/solution case studies are compelling because they showcase real results of your product in action. Plus customer testimonials in the form of complimentary quotes never hurt.
3. Creating Content that’s Not Helpful
Content that is too company-centric or product-focused is not helpful. It is NOT going to engage your target audience or allow you to win their trust. Instead it’s going to come across as a product pitch or advertisement. We see a lot of technology company email nurturing campaigns take this approach. They send out self-serving press releases, product pitches and company-centric newsletters. They’re so busy talking about themselves and their product that they don’t even consider the customer’s needs.
Product-centric content is also not likely to be sensitive to the distinct stages that buyers go through prior to making a purchase. Therefore, such assets will not be useful or helpful to your prospects as they attempt to make an informed buying decision. Content that is truly customer-centric should educate your audience on how to do their job better. The way that you go about educating them should be directly aligned with their needs and with the capabilities you provide. To be sensitive to their journey to purchase, your content should essentially be packed with useful information that your prospects need in order to:
- Fully understand and diagnose their situation
- Effectively evaluate all of their options
- Manage the risk associated with committing to a solution
- Understand the full scope of what it will take to deploy your technology
There are a select few specialized content agencies out there that are equipped to help firms develop this caliber of customer-centric content. One hallmark of such an agency would be that they spend ample time researching the characteristics of the real-life buyers of your products, or your buyer personas. This action is essential to ensuring that your marketing assets address actual questions and concerns that members of a buying committee might have. View our template for guidelines on constructing your own buyer personas.
Here are some final recommendations that can help you avoid falling victim to the common pitfalls outlined in this post:
- If you’re a FinTech firm, you need to work with a content marketing agency that has expertise in your target niches. This is the only way you’re going to be able to craft the kind of thought-provoking content that drives your target audience to action.
- If you’re working with a content agency, you need to allot time for the agency’s writer to interview your subject matter experts. This step will help the writer get a better handle on your story and allow him or her to properly capture your thought leaders’ voices.
- Your content needs to be customer-centric. Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes instead of writing from your company’s perspective.
- You’ll also need to be sensitive to your prospect’s specific stage of the buying cycle, fueling them with appropriate content that meets their needs at a specific point in time.
For information on producing meaningful content that is aligned with your prospect’s buying cycle, see our post: Facilitating The Buying Cycle With Content Marketing.