Why content (not display) is the way to your audience's heart

“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” - Content Marketing Institute

Although we often think of content marketing as a relatively new concept, it really isn’t. The first example of content marketing is often suggested to be The Furrow, a magazine launched by John Deere in 1895 with the aim of helping farmers to become more profitable. And it’s still in circulation today in around 40 countries.

Amongst those trying to reach accountants however, not enough businesses are utilizing their power, in the right way at least, to engage their prospects. In a world where we are increasingly bombarded with more and more advertising messages, inevitably it is harder to ‘cut through the noise’ to motivate your prospect into action.

But what does cut through that noise are thought leadership pieces, advice and how-to guides; well crafted content about issues and challenges your target market is facing, all without a sales message in sight.

To help, we’ve produced a Marketing to Accountants: A Best Practices Guide, based on our experience of working with accounting professionals and firms through our publication title AccountingWEB.com. Below is a quick preview of some of the top tips from the guide.

The secret to effective lead-converting content

The first rule is DO NOT sell. Don’t sell yourself, your company, your products or your service. It might sound a bit counter-intuitive but actually the secret to engaging and then converting leads is actually not to sell to them!

Your prospects and customers want education. They want helpful, informative information that helps them in their daily lives. Your job is to help them look and feel more informed about a topic, so they can make better choices with more confidence. And of course, for you, that means choosing your product or service as a result, not because you gave them the typical sales patter, but because you helped them.

As one content marketing survey found:

“74 percent of readers trust educational content from brands—as long as it doesn’t push a sale.” Kentico

As a result, prospects will feel much more engaged with your brand, and when it’s time for them to make a purchase, your company is more likely to be front of mind.

Ergo, you convert that lead and make a sale.

How to decide on what content you should create

This is the easy bit, honestly! Imagine you had 1000 accountants in a room. What questions would you ask them about their business? You might ask them what their challenges are, what keeps them awake at night. What are the biggest problems they have right now? Or what opportunities do they want to take advantage of? Imagine yourself as one of those accountants, what would be your burning issues?

Whatever topic you decide on planning is key. At AccountingWEB, we’ve spent many years helping clients reach the accounting profession through content, and can truly say we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Those that tend to fall into the bad or ugly camp are those that don’t plan an effective content strategy from the get-go. They tend to indiscriminately create one-off blogs or articles with little consistency and often with hard core sales messaging. A little planning up front, deciding on the most compelling topics and the mix of channels to promote them in, pays huge dividends.

Talking of promotion...

How to promote your content

Once you’ve created your content, don’t just add it to your company blog and hope for the best. Having a defined distribution strategy is the name of the game.

You’ve got a strong piece of educational content and a vast array of channels you could use to broadcast it. The obvious contenders are email, social media and of course your own website. But take some time to really find out where your prospects are. Are they on Twitter or spending more time on Facebook? If they are currently subscribing to your email campaigns, which subscribers are actively engaged (opening and clicking) and which are lapsed? If they’re lapsed, perhaps reaching them in a different way, such as through social media would work best.

The point being, the more targeted and laser focused you are about reaching prospects in a way that works for them, the more effective your campaign will be. A one size fits all approach is rarely as effective.

Don’t forget the value proposition

Can you sum up the reasons WHY a prospect should read your content piece? What will it do for them? How will it help them? This is essentially the value proposition of the content and you should use this in your promotional efforts. Spending a little time on this upfront has a couple of benefits.

Firstly, it keeps you, or your writer, focused on the most compelling and powerful message behind your choice of topic. Making sure every aspect of your content piece delivers that value proposition in some way will be the secret to increasing engagement.

Secondly, by working out what the value proposition is and writing it down, say in a sentence, you’re also self-generating your email campaign subject line, or your article title.

For instance:

‘5 ways to reduce stress during self assessment season’

Or taking an example from an article on AccountingWEB.com;

‘How to Work Better With Nonprofit Clients’

In both examples, the value of opening the email or reading the article is clearly but simply communicated. There’s no hint of a sales message, just a promise that reading the content will practically help the reader in a demonstrable way.

For more download our ‘Marketing to Accountants; A Best Practices Guide’ and discover:

  • The 6 Pillars of Great Content
  • How to plan an effective content campaign
  • The topics that are most relevant to AccountingWEB readers
  • Content examples that attract people in the right way
  • When to use display, blogs, e-blasts or whitepapers
  • When is the right time to actually start ‘selling’ to a prospect
  • A simple way to improve your conversion rates


 

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Andy North Sift Media Tuesday 18 October 2016