Here is the usual formula for content marketing:
- Create a content strategy
- Write lots of blog posts that address a number of topics
- Promote the content through email, social media and other media
However, for professional services in particular, there is another way.
Many professional services firms routinely create “Deep Content.” Deep Content is large research reports that extensively cover a particular topic.
In most cases, these reports are structured as PowerPoint slides that can be shuffled into client presentations. Firms may also create white papers appropriate for distribution to clients. Almost invariably, these reports are dozens of pages long.
For some practitioners, it can be easier to think about investing in a comprehensive research report rather than investing in piecemeal blog content.
To the extent you are more comfortable creating content this way, my recommendation is: go for it. No matter how it is created, original, thoughtful content is the foundation for effective content marketing.
Creating a lengthy research piece provides an excellent foundation for content marketing because it offers tremendous potential for re-use across multiple types of media. A 20-30 page PowerPoint presentation can be easily repurposed into many blog posts, tweets, LinkedIn posts, etc.
That being said, creating lengthy research reports is a serious investment in time. You want to make sure that the content you create provides the greatest return on investment.
Here are six guidelines for creating Deep Content that has high marketing value.
1. Write the content for a specific target audience
As always in content marketing, you should write content with a specific audience in mind. Before doing any writing, identify the audience, their needs and what they would find interesting.
After identifying the audience, create an outline of proposed content, then go back and determine whether the target audience would find each component of proposed content compelling.
The key tradeoff that most practitioners face in creating content is between breadth and depth. Research topics covering a broader array of industry trends will address a larger audience. But broader reports will contain a lot of information that is useless to any particular sub-audience.
A good rule of thumb to use is the following: a majority of Deep Content created should be relevant to a majority of the target audience. If most of content’s target audience will only find a small portion of the proposed content relevant, you need to rework the content outline. There are two alternatives for doing so:
- Provide more focus to the content to address a more specific audience.
- Write a large report intended for multiple audiences (and identify all those audiences), but for the final output, break the report up into smaller, modular chunks relevant to each targeted audience.
2. Create content that has a long shelf life
The most valuable type of content is timeless because it can be re-used over and over.
Many research reports, however, discuss timely trends in an industry or strategic area. For that reason, these reports are rarely “timeless content,” as the content’s value is going to degrade over time as new trends emerge.
Value degradation is inevitable for most research pieces, but you want to make sure that the content you create degrades as slowly as possible.
For instance, an M&A advisory research report on current industry valuations is only going to be valuable until the stock market goes up or down. However, a report on industry product trends will hold its value much longer.
3. Have a point of view
Interesting content has a point of view. Simply regurgitating facts will not produce engaging content.
Consider the last time you read something memorable: how did you feel? You probably felt either happy, excited, intrigued, mad or sad.
What about the last time you read something boring? You probably felt nothing.
The takeaway: Great content produces an emotional reaction.
Having a point of view is powerful is because it forces the reader to react. A point of view encourages the reader the ask, “Do I agree with this or not?”
Many practitioners feel uncomfortable expressing a point of view. There is a tension in professional services between having a point of view and remaining boring but neutral. The upside of boring is you offend no one.
However, most clients do not hire boring advisors – they hire advisors who bring a valued perspective. And if the purpose of content is to create a discussion between you and the client, being boring will not get it done.
4. Provide interesting takeaways for the audience
Research reports review many trends and insights. But some research reports forget to address the question: “So what?”
It is important to provide the audience concise takeaways. These takeaways should be stated at the beginning of the report (to tease the audience) and at the end (to reinforce the ideas).
Moreover, these takeaways should avoid being shallow and obvious to the audience. For instance, a 2016 research report on digital marketing that has a takeaway “Social Media Is Going to Be Big” is both shallow and obvious. Be somewhat adventurous with your takeaways and support them with the content in the report.
5. Don’t create too much content
There are diminishing returns to additional content. Why write 100 pages of content when 30 pages accomplishes the same marketing goal?
The appropriate length accomplishes the goal of providing differentiated insight that can be reused. If your Deep Content provides five big takeaways with data to back up those takeaways, that is enough. Anything more than that will have little incremental value.
6. Get it done
One challenge with Deep Content is that it takes weeks of effort to get such a report completed. For that reason, Deep Content sometimes fails to make it to the top of the to-do list. There is always a task more pressing and easier to complete than writing a long research report.
Like with all other content, you need to create milestones and a deadline for completing a lengthy research report. Otherwise, the content will never get done.
Stick to the schedule and meet deadlines. It is the only way content creation ever gets done.
Go deep, then share the knowledge
If you follow these six guidelines, you will create a highly engaging report that will have significant re-use value.
Many practitioners use Deep Content as a means to receive invitations to meetings with clients. But portions of the content should be shared online whether in blogs or in downloadable white papers. If authors share excerpts to generate interest buying books, you should share excerpts to generate interest in your practice.
The possibilities for excerpting and reusing content are endless. Some of them can be found in this blog post:
One effective tactic is to send a blast out to your email list providing an offer to download a short white paper covering one specific point in your research report. You can then determine which people downloaded the paper and follow up with them to determine whether they would be interested in a face-to-face discussion.
So once you’ve created your Deep Content, make sure to share it strategically. If no one knows about your exciting research, you are forgoing a lot of the potential value of the content that you spent weeks creating.
Title Photo Credit: Markus Spiske. https://unsplash.com/photos/xFyyOhLJf64