A Framework to Determine the Right Mix of Professional Services Marketing Content

Content, whether used in blogs, whitepapers, presentations or tweets, is the foundation of any professional services marketing program.

But what exactly makes up this content?

Here is a framework for thinking about the right mix of professional services content: AAPP.

This acronym stands for:

  • Advice
  • Analysis
  • Personal
  • Promotion

A successful content marketing strategy likely incorporates all these types of content. However, most firms have the wrong mix of content, focusing too much on promotion and not enough on advice. Professional services content should emphasizes the “A’s.”

Below is an overview of each type of content in the framework.

The Four Types of Content

Advice

Advice is the most valuable piece of content for professional services practices. Advice provides practical solutions for clients’ business problems, like:

  • “Best Practices for Setting Up an Employee Stock Option Plan”
  • “How to Set Up a Global Procurement Program”

Unlike with most other types of content, the reader is the beneficiary of advice content, whereas with other types of content, the firm or practitioner is the intended beneficiary.

Analysis

The difference between advice and analysis is that advice has practical value for the target audience while analysis content may be interesting, but may not necessarily have high value for the audience. Here are a couple of examples:

  • “Performance of Restaurant Companies by Average Price Per Plate”
  • “Top Funded Biotechnology Sectors, Q415”

The marketing purpose of analysis content is to demonstrate a practitioner’s expertise, but most firms overemphasize analysis content. There are diminishing returns to providing one piece of analysis after another without complementing it with other types of content.

Personal

Personal content takes a step back from the usual professional services content strategy by providing a window into the practitioner’s life. Some examples:

  • “Today Marks 20 Years in Investment Banking — How Things Have Changed”
  • “My Journey to Running a Marathon: What I Learned about Myself and My Work”

Almost all practitioners shy away from producing such content, which is a mistake. One way to separate yourself from other practitioners is to offer a more rounded perspective of who you are as a person and the values you stand for. Displaying a piece of personal life has perhaps the greatest untapped potential for professionals to strengthen business relationships.

Promotion

Promotion is marketing the firm’s or practitioner’s capabilities and experience. Examples include:

  • “Our Most Recent Investment: Company X”
  • “Our Firm Tops the Q4 2015 League Table”

Promotional content is least valued by audiences for a few reasons:

  • The promotional messaging is usually undifferentiated from messaging offered by competitors.
  • The messaging does not serve the reader’s interests.
  • The messaging has little value in strengthening relationships.

Even though practitioners generally acknowledge that promotional content is undifferentiated and irks many client audiences, firms and practitioners continue to serve up more promotional content than audiences want to see. The effect of this is that audiences become habituated to delete content sent by you, rather than looking forward to reading it.

There is one instance where promotional content can be effective: if you recently did work that is highly relevant to a narrow slice of your audience, highlight that work, but only to that audience segment.

Using the Framework to Achieve the Right Mix of Content

The below graphic illustrates the content mix that most professional services firms use in practice and the mix of content they should aim for:

As the graphic demonstrates, most firms rely heavily on promotional and analytical content to drive their marketing campaigns.

However, most firms should refocus their content on providing advice and de-emphasize promotional content.

When putting together an editorial calendar, make sure that your content looks more like the pyramid on the right of the graphic rather than the one on the left.