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Continuing our series on professional services marketing, we consider the myths surrounding content marketing for law firms, accountancy practices and IFA firms.

In our previous post, we discussed the problem with funnels. We used a financial advisory firm as an example and introduced Bob, Ben and Brenda, each taking a different route to interact with the firm.

If we stay with our pensions example, there is a group who know they should start thinking about their pension, but the issue keeps getting pushed down the priority list. These are the FOGS. They need a trigger to start on their journey as a prospect.

If we define a prospect (Bob, Ben and Brenda) as someone post-trigger then there are many more FOGS than prospects. Therefore, part of a marketer’s job is to create and promote triggers.

The Truth About Content

Returning to Bill. He will probably start his search online. He will use phrases that start with ‘How do I’, ‘What is.’ He will scroll past the Ads and Google My Business panel and dive into the organic results.

The standard model assumes that once he sets off on his journey he needs to find your law firm wherever he might look for information (online, social or print). It assumes if he comes across (and likes) your content, he will remember you and read the next piece, and the next.

Can you really build loyalty after a prospect has read one or two pieces of content? Can you rely on him/her coming back for more? All you can achieve is raise Bill’s awareness that you are a potential supplier and build your brand. You might be able to capture his details in return for detailed information like a guide. But you need a lot of traffic (and time) to build an adequate follow up marketing list.

You will need content to try and convert Ben. He wants to do something. The phrases he will search for are action orientated. He will look for information that guides him through the next step. Or, he may be ready to talk to a legal professional.

Here you have improved your chances of delivering the information he needs. If you are prepared to pay! That content should be short, to the point and focused on conversion. Ben has dived in mid-funnel. He has bypassed the ‘warm up’ content stage.

Brenda might not bother looking for information (online or offline) at all. If she does it will be to give the website (and reviews) of a recommended law firm a quick check. The only content you need to support Brenda is content to reinforce the impression she is making the right decision. That might be reviews, testimonials or case studies. It might be the look and feel of your website. Remember, the best you can hope for is Brenda engages for a final check. She is not particularly interested in your content.

So you need content for Ben, and some (short) content for Brenda. How much are you prepared to spend on content for Bill? The only one who follows the standard funnel model. Given his level of engagement (or lack of it) and his distance from the sale.

Awareness and Brand

Think of awareness as surrounding FOGS and prospects (and those who will never be clients). It is always there, always on. How much do potential future customers take in from the constant awareness noise? That is difficult to quantify.

The standard inbound marketing funnel models tend to assume some trigger has already occurred. It is not about awareness (A – in AIDA), it is about research. The prospect is already on their path. They are in the learner phase.

So what’s the reality of awareness? In simple terms, your brand is your name, what you do, what you stand for – it’s a promise. Ideally, it is an emotional connection.

Bill is already aware of a few financial adviser firms in his area. One has an office in the high street Bill drives past regularly. Another sends him invites to pension seminars in the post each quarter.

Bill is exposed to many promotional channels. Once triggered he could drag a brand interaction, some connection with a brand, from the depths of his memory and use that as a starting point for his search. If he does happen across something from those local firms, it will often have higher standing than the rest.

Ben is likely to dive into the Ads (and/or Google My Business). He wants to do something. Like Bill, when Ben is trying to find a supplier he may already be aware of a firm (a brand). If you are using your brand in your Ads (often a good idea), this could lead him to click on your Ad ahead of the rest.

For Brenda, a referral for a business she has already heard of (Branding) will stand the best chance of progressing. Remember that people refer because they know (and have a positive impression of) a brand. They are aware of that brand and will refer even if they have no direct experience of the business or service.

Awareness of your brand then has a potentially positive impact on the progress of Bill, Ben and Brenda. The impact of awareness is primarily pre-trigger, although it can have some effect at the shopper/buyer stage.

The standard content model suggests you need content at each stage (AIDA). That is true, but the model is not linear. Worse, if you expect someone (Bill) to stay with you through a linear journey, you are likely to be disappointed.

At any one time, you may have a few prospects engaged and many more at pre-trigger (FOGS). Often content is not the most cost-effective way to build awareness. Remember, you have little control over when (or if) a trigger occurs.

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