If your content marketing efforts are failing to win people over, here are our 5 tips for making it better.

content marketing mistakes, fails, tipsContent marketing is the hottest thing in marketing and advertising right now. In the past 12 months every marketer worth their salt has put together a content marketing strategy, selling it as a way to build trust and brand awareness, have meaningful conversations, [insert yet another marketing cliche here], and so on…

Putting all the fluff aside, there is a lot to be said for using content as a way of driving business.  Hey, we’re well aware this article is a form of content marketing and we wouldn’t have bothered posting it if we didn’t think it’d benefit Antelope Media. Besides, content marketing has always been a part of how we help our clients.

Is content marketing an idea as old as the hills?

A lot of our work is in the professional services space. By that I mean lawyers, accountants, financial advisers. The interesting thing is that content marketing is one advertising trend the professional services industry were at the forefront of. They’ve been doing this kind of thing for years, even if many of them may not have realised that they were at the cutting edge.

Who hasn’t received a humble newsletter from their accountant telling them about the latest changes to tax law? Or who hasn’t been to their lawyers’ website and seen a summary of recent decisions? Remember those print out news leaflets reminding you to get immunised at doctors surgeries in the 90s? Or emailed tips on good posture from your physio? Same thing.

And what’s the point of these exercises if not to build trust and credibility, show off their expertise and the range of services they provide and, in doing so, drive more business? All the things that the Content Marketing Institute says are the point of content marketing.

But here’s another thing. They might have been early adopters, but most of the content marketing out there in the professional services space to date has been bad. OK, scrap that – most of it has been very bad.

Here’s why.

Why would anyone care?

Consider this. Antelope Media once worked with a pretty good investment banker. He does a lot of big deals and consequently, he’s the kind of person commercial law firms are bending over backwards to work alongside. That means he’s also a prime candidate for their content marketing.

And they bombard him with it.

Every month he gets no less than a dozen or so ‘newsletters’ from various law firms, all of which cover the same ground, all of which arrive in his email inbox with the same ‘Newsletter – February 2014’ style heading, and all of which then  launch into some long-winded and uninteresting explanation of case law, of little interest to anyone other than the authors and of no interest to a very time poor investment banker. And all of which consequently get trashed without being read at all.

In other words, the firms have gone to a lot of effort putting together content and sending it out to their list of prospective clients (all of which could have been time spent billing), only for it to fall at the very first hurdle.

That’s just one example. We challenge you to go through legal and accounting firm websites and see how much content actually engages you. While some of the very best stuff might pique your interest, most of it will make your eyes glaze over.

We can tell you now, it will be wordy, full of jargon and will probably leave you no closer to understanding anything than before you read it.

So how to make it better?

That’s enough of our grumbling. What we really want to do is to show you how you can make things better. Here are five simple ways:

1. Treat your content like you would any other form of advertising

If you work as a lawyer, accountant, financial adviser, or whatever, don’t try to do it all yourself – instead put aside any prejudice you might have and place your trust in your marketing/advertising people to help out. We can’t stress this enough.

After all, would you seriously try to write your own TV, press or radio ad? (OK, maybe you would but you probably shouldn’t.) Your content is just as important – perhaps even more important, given that it will be so very hard for it to stand out when it’s swimming in a sea of similar stories.

Using the ‘enthusiastic amateur’ approach, where you have a crack at it and hope for the best, simply doesn’t cut it any more.

2. Know your audience

If you’ve read anything of the Antelope Media Blog, you know that we harp on about this all the time. The starting place for every piece of content you ever produce should always be the audience who will be reading it.

So before you post anything ask yourself, ‘what are these guys really going to be interested in?’ Remember that whoever you’re looking to attract will probably have access to so much similar content that it’s vital you grab their attention right from the outset. (If you want some more help with this read our earlier post on ‘How to get people to read your emails’.)

It’s not enough to simply choose an interesting topic. You also need to tell your story in a compelling way. That’s why content marketing is full of people talking about the power of a good narrative.

3. Learn to love Google

Here at Antelope Media we won’t hear a bad word said about Google. OK, so they might know everything about us, how many kids we have, where we eat, how we spend our weekends who our friends are, and so on. But they also know that about everyone else too. And you can use that to your advantage.

If you play around with the Tools in AdWords you can see what people are searching for and what they’re interested in. That, in turn, can give you a starting point for where to focus your content, especially if your goal is to get good SEO.

4. Let your light shine

You do a serious job, so your content should be serious too. But that doesn’t mean you can’t let a little of your personality out. After all, pretty much every survey shows that clients won’t just be interested in your skill, they’ll also be interested in you – especially if they hope to build a long-term relationship with your business. They want to know that you’re on their wave length and that you’re also trustworthy.

While we’re on that topic,  don’t think that using industry jargon and long words and sentences make you come across as more trustworthy. Trust comes from understanding.

That means having the ability to speak to clients in their language. (See point two above.)

5. Finally, don’t go on

Don’t just produce content for the sake of it. Even if content is hot right now. Always remember the longer something is, the less likely it is to be read. So if you want people to engage with your content be strict on yourself and don’t include detail you don’t need to.

And with that, we think we should probably sign off.

Contact us if you need help with your business’s content marketing.

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Related services: Content marketing, Copywriting.


Ralph Grayden

Ralph Grayden

Ralph Grayden is content director at Antelope Media.