We recently published an article in which we threw down the gauntlet. We admonished expertise-based firms like yours to stop writing about your company culture as part of your content marketing strategy. Your prospects don’t care about your commitment to excellence and kombucha on tap, we (ahem, delicately) explained. And we meant it.
Of course, the next logical question is, “Well then, how should we write about our firm?” After all, the point of content marketing is to expand and deepen your relationship with qualified prospects as they move through the buying cycle. To do that well, you must show your prospects who you are, what you do, and what makes your firm so special.
The good news? There’s a way to talk about yourself that goes beyond myopic navel-gazing and sleazy sales pitches. A way to drive immediate value to your later-stage prospects — while at the same time making the case that your firm is the right-fit partner for the job.
Here’s what you need to know to talk about your firm in your customer-centric content. But first….
All Thought Leadership Content is a Reflection of Who You Are and What You Do
That’s right. All of it. You see, your well-written thought leadership content can’t help but reflect who you are and what you do. That’s true even of articles in which you never once reference your firm directly.
Remember, all content marketing should start by focusing on your prospects, not on your own firm. You know a topic has legs when it allows you to address one of your prospects’ business pain points through the lens of your specific perspective and expertise.
That part in italics is key.
Your business is built on expertise — the alchemical output of your accrued domain knowledge in combination with your unique approach. Your expertise is what ultimately sells your work. Which means it’s also the most important thing a prospect can learn about you. Much more than your agency culture, however creative.
Given that your expertise is your most valuable asset, it makes sense that it should inform everything you write and say in your content marketing. That’s one reason clear positioning is so important. The more precisely your firm is positioned and differentiated, the more your expertise-based content will unmistakably reflect who you are and what you do.
At the same time, from your reader’s perspective, your content should be refreshingly empathetic. It should feel deeply applicable to them in a way that makes it urgently useful. It should offer valuable insights and actionable takeaways tailored to address their particular needs. Moreover, it should do so freely, with no strings attached.
Put simply, your content should be framed so that it’s all about your prospects most of the time. In the end, though, because your content has your firm’s unique fingerprints all over it, it will speak volumes about you, too.
When to Write About Your Firm
Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever talk about your firm in your blog posts, white papers, and podcasts. You absolutely should. It’s just that you should do so strategically, in a way that resists sliding into cheap-sales-pitch territory.
At Newfangled, we use a very specific framework to identify the strategic parameters for each article we — and our clients — write. In addition to identifying a target persona, we also frame each article around a particular stage in the buying cycle. The four stages of the buying cycle as we conceive them are: unaware, researcher, evaluator, and buyer. Of these, content marketing is only applicable to the two middle stages, researcher and evaluator.
We’ve written about how to apply the buy-cycle stages to your content at great length elsewhere.
For now, the main thing you need to know is this: Researcher content is geared toward prospects who know they have a particular business problem and are gathering information about how best to solve it. Researchers aren’t necessarily considering hiring an external partner, and they certainly aren’t yet assessing specific firms.
Evaluators, on the other hand, have progressed in their thinking. They are still trying to solve their business problem, but they now expect to partner with an external agency. And they are reading your content with an eye toward determining whether or not your firm is the right fit.
Articles geared toward researchers should be presented as totally “free” thought leadership, sans promotional bits. They shouldn’t reference your firm or make a case for why your prospects would benefit from working with you. Evaluator content, meanwhile, is different. It’s your chance (finally!) to talk directly about your firm.
But don’t start revving up your sales-pitch engine just yet. Evaluator content is much more subtle and nuanced than that.
How to Talk Directly About Your Firm in Your Content Marketing
Now that we’ve established the appropriate time and place for self-referential content, we can finally address the question we first started with. How exactly should you talk about your firm?
When creating evaluator content, you should still frame your insights around your prospects. That is, an evaluator article should still address your prospects directly and put their needs first. But you can also weave in references to your firm — your approach, philosophy, and way of doing things.
Just make sure you use that information to further educate and empathize with your audience. In other words, a good evaluator article should still have some nice, juicy meat on the bone even without the references to your firm.
This prospect-first approach begins with how you frame evaluator topics and extends to the way you write them.
For example, let’s say you want to write about your unique process for developing brand strategies. Your title should be something like “How to Nail Your Firm’s Brand Strategy,” not “How We Build First-Class Brand Strategies.”
See the difference? The former keeps the focus squarely on your prospects and promises to help them solve a problem. The latter makes it all about you, with no clear benefit to the reader. Which do you think your prospects are more likely to read?
Ace the Art of Writing Subtly About Your Firm With These Tips
The best evaluator articles offer loads of instant value to your readers while at the same time increasing their confidence that your firm is worth partnering with. Use the following tips to strike the right balance.
- Start with empathy. Begin your article with your prospects’ pain points. Your introduction, in particular, is your chance to show your audience that you get them. You understand their context. You know their struggles. And you have answers. You’re the friendly “local” expert on whom they can rely — not the pushy salesperson with an ulterior motive.
- Discuss your process with a focus on the benefits to your clients. When you do get around to talking about yourself, frame it in terms of how your clients benefit. Will they get better results? Save money? Create a more sustainable sales funnel? You may think your proprietary process speaks for itself. But your prospects are ultimately most interested in how your solutions will impact them. The trick? Describe the benefits with a light touch. No heavy sales pitches allowed.
- Leave the case studies to your website’s “Work” section. At times, it may be useful to reference examples of work you’ve done with other clients. But resist the urge to launch into full-on case studies. Instead, weave in brief mentions of previous engagements as illustrative examples — and provide a link to the full case study.
- Reference your clients more frequently than you reference your firm. When you finish your first draft of an evaluator article, count the “you’s” and the “we’s.” If the “we’s” outnumber the “you’s,” you still have work to do.
- End with a “soft-pitch” CTA. We generally don’t recommend ending researcher articles with a “get in touch”-type call to action (CTA). But that sort of soft-pitch CTA often does make sense at the close of an evaluator piece. A well-conceived CTA makes it easy for your prospects to take their relationship with your firm to the next level.
So, go ahead. Be proud of the culture you’ve fostered in your firm. But when it comes to your content marketing messaging, keep laser-focused on your prospect. Do it well, and they’ll learn everything they need to know about you, too.