Many advisers I talk to feel frustrated by content marketing. “I’m on LinkedIn,” they tell me. “I publish a post once or twice a week. We wrote a blog post last month. But it feels like a waste of time. What are we doing wrong?”
If this sounds familiar, let me offer some advice. First, publishing pieces of content for the sake of publishing content on social media or a blog is not content marketing. Yes, you created content and yes, you hit a publish button—but unless these actions take place within the framework of a larger strategy, they won’t do anything for you.
Second, even consistently creating and sharing lots of content may not be enough to get you results (and certainly doesn’t count as a strategy). This is where many advisers throw up their hands and walk away from the idea of content marketing.
And that might actually be the right move for you to make.
The Problem with Content Marketing: Expectations vs. Reality
Many advisers bring the wrong expectations to the idea of content marketing—or fail to understand what it is and how it works. Many firm owners think “we’ll publish a blog post or two a month. That’s content marketing!”
Only, no, I’m sorry to say, but it isn’t.
Content marketing is the process of creating high-quality, unique content that communicates your value and specific message to a specific group of people. It’s the process of providing information, insights and ideas to those who want to dive into a topic that you speak on as an authority and an expert in that particular domain of knowledge.
This is why writing a blog post on “how to do a backdoor Roth conversion,” publishing it on your blog, then posting the link to that blog on LinkedIn doesn’t work. It fails to fulfill the duties that true content marketing carries out:
- It’s not high-value content, because almost every single adviser with a blog has already written this exact article (not to mention all the articles on the topic provided by major publications like MONEY or Forbes).
- It doesn’t communicate your value, because again, any halfway decent adviser should be able to tell you how to do a Roth conversion. This doesn’t speak to anything about what makes you unique or different if it simply lists out the “how-to” steps of the process.
- It doesn’t provide a specific message to a specific group of people. In fact, it’s essentially the opposite: it’s a generic message that could apply to literally millions of people.
Content marketing requires a commitment to creating excellent, high-quality, useful, valuable and impactful content that your target audience wants to read.
This is not something you can dabble in and see success from. Nor, if we’re being honest, is this something that anyone can do (or at least, not something anyone can do well). If content creation—writing blog posts, creating videos, recording a podcast, etc—is not your strong suit, you might want to explore alternative strategies and tactics for your marketing.
Similarly, if you’re not willing to learn how to execute a successful content marketing campaign or you feel unwilling to dedicate real resources to your team members who are responsible for creating content, this probably isn’t for you either.
You should only commit to using content to market your business if you’re all in; if you’re willing to devote the time and energy required to develop content worth consuming. Otherwise, you’re only adding to the noise while failing to serve as a signal—and that doesn’t help anyone, including your own business.
The reality is this: to succeed with modern marketing, there needs to be at least a segment of your business that acts not as a financial planning firm, but as a publishing company.
How to Win the Content Marketing Game: Become a Publishing Company
I’ve started to frame the issue this way to advisers who ask me about the time and energy commitments you must make to use content successfully. If you want to get the most from your content marketing efforts, pretend a tiny publishing company exists under the umbrella of your firm.
A true publishing company exists to sell what it publishes. Book publishers want to sell books. Magazines and newspapers want to sell more magazines and newspapers. TV and radio stations want to sell their shows by getting more viewers and better ratings, and therefore more advertising dollars.
Publishing companies succeed when they create the kind of content that viewers, readers and listeners want to consume so much that either they’ll pay for it or they’ll tolerate interruptions to it in the form of advertisements.
You can do the same and create content that specific audiences want so badly that they’d miss it if it wasn’t there. Only, in your case, the goal is not to sell the content (either to consumers or advertisers). The ultimate goal is to have your audience ask for more—and that’s when you can offer them your service.
But producing that kind of content—content that’s valuable, unique, can’t-get-it-anywhere-else, interesting and engaging—requires serious work and effort. Writing another blog post about a Roth conversion will not leave anyone on the edge of their seats begging you for more. Making this mindset shift may also help you understand that content campaigns are not small or simple endeavors. They’re big undertakings when you do them right.
The other thing to consider about publishing companies is that every single one of them does more than distribute information. They make new ideas accessible. They expand perspectives. They spin and share stories.
Rarely does a publishing company that simply peddles the same information already widely available succeed. They must constantly find new ways to create engaging content that resonates with a specific target market, whether in the form of ratings, subscribers or book sales—or they’ll fail.
None of this is to suggest you should shut down your firm and start a newspaper instead. But what I do suggest is that, if you want to enjoy greater success with content marketing, you need to consider your firm as more than just a business that offers financial and investment advice.
Start looking at a segment of your firm as a tiny publishing company tasked with making the ideas, beliefs and values that fuel your financial planning and investment management philosophies widely accessible to your target audience—and having that target audience eagerly come back looking for more.
By doing so, you’ll better position yourself to succeed with your content—or at the very least make it clearer that this isn’t the best marketing approach for you to explore. And knowing what isn’t right for you is often even more valuable than understanding what makes a good fit.