For many professional services firms there is tension between two competing issues when it comes to blogging consistently:
1) “We should be blogging as often as possible to establish thought leadership and drive quality website traffic.”
2) “We don’t want to give away our secrets so that clients can solve their own problems without paying us.”
I often hear concerns about “giving away the store” from leaders of consulting or professional services firms. This is understandable -- after all, your expertise is what people pay for. Why on earth would you share advice for free!
Let’s look at a few factors related to blogging consistently, then I’ll try to offer objective arguments (as objective as a proponent of inbound marketing can do ;).
Pros and Cons of Blogging Consistently
|Time commitment of billable staff||By involving billable staff in the writing of blog posts, you will help them stay connected to the struggles your ideal clients face.||Some members of your team are just not able to efficiently translate their client and domain knowledge into compelling content. You risk pulling them away from revenue-producing activities to wallow in a “chore” where they will struggle to be successful.|
|Exposing your firm’s abilities and methods to competitors||Thought-leader status is a nice place to be, supporting higher fees and better clients.||The more you put out there, the more you may give competitors a shortcut to replicating what you do, or to at least claiming they can do the same thing.|
|Providing prospects with advice and insight into your methods||Prospects better understand the true value of the expertise you offer.||Arming prospects with the ability to solve their own problems could encourage some to “go it alone.”|
|Increased web traffic||More of the right web traffic generates more leads and revenue.||If not targeted web traffic, you and your staff could waste time spinning wheels with prospects that will never buy.|
|Topics to share and discuss online and via email marketing||By having more original blog posts to share online and via email marketing, your firm will be more top of mind with existing clients, referral sources, etc.||If not complemented with with material authored by other sources, sharing your firm’s blog posts could turn off some contacts/followers (because of “me me me” social content).|
Let’s dig into each of these factors a bit further to figure out how to capture the “pros” while mitigating the “cons” (i.e., have our cake and eat it too).
Time commitment of billable staff. There are many companies, including ours, to which you can outsource your content development, so that your billable team members are not bogged down with writing. For a professional services firm, however, you risk publishing weak, watered down material if you do a complete handoff.
On the other hand, leaving the chore solely in the hands of your team may result in an inconsistent publishing pattern and/or the published material may not attract and convert given your team’s likely lack of experience in SEO-optimized persuasive writing.
For these reasons, we recommend a hybrid approach. Hire a firm that will interview your experts, then do the “heavy lifting” of writing the posts before circling back to verify accuracy and fill in any details. This balance of in-house and outsourced is optimal for most firms.
Exposing your firm’s abilities and methods to competitors. This one may require a serious gut check. What kind of firm do you want to be? By sharing some of your expertise and methods online, you set a high expectation. Competitors, staff, and prospects will see your firm as not just a leader in terms of approach, but will be forced to conclude that you are skilled implementers as well, right?
It’s kind of like a cat burglar telling authorities exactly when and where the prized diamond will be stolen. Only someone with supreme confidence in his or her abilities would do such a thing. Would you like your prospects to believe that your implementation skills are supreme?
To mitigate the risks, you may choose to not publish success stories that indicate who your clients are, and should:
- have a good intellectual property protection plan, including copyrighting your content and trademarking methods and unique tools that you’ve developed, etc.
- focus your content on helping prospects understand and diagnose their issues (80/20 rule - 80% connecting with and helping prospects assess their troubles, and 20% helping them resolve certain aspects of those issues).
Providing prospects with advice and insight into your methods. Ah yes, the “giving away the store” concern. What are the chances that the prospect who choses to go it alone would have been a good client anyway?
Meanwhile, exposing your expertise to the kinds of clients you really want to serve puts your firm in the driver’s seat. You’ve demonstrated your expertise, they’ve consumed it, and are likely in a more serious buying mode by the time they contact you.
When faced with two options -- one that claims to have the ability to solve a problem, and the other that has published information that is actually helpful -- your firm will be the safer choice.
And for the clients that just aren’t ready for your service, but will be an ideal client later on, publishing information that helps them solve some problems on their own now sets you up as the only logical choice when they are ready.
Increased web traffic and leads. In a 2015 study of their customers, Hubspot found that B2B companies who blogged over 11 times per month received almost 3X the traffic and almost 4X the number of leads than B2B companies that blogged fewer than 4 times per month. The same study also showed that the total number of blog posts on a website impacted the traffic and leads generated. B2B sites with over 400 posts received about 2.5X the amount of traffic and almost 3X the amount of leads as companies with 200 or fewer total posts.
Managing the “con” of attracting too many of the wrong prospects simply boils down to fine-tuning your content and calls to action so only your sweet-spot prospects are inspired to contact you.
There are 5 steps to creating a more effective message, and exactly how to do it is spelled out here, "How to Create Irresistible Marketing Messages"
More topics to share through social media and email marketing. Separate from publishing content to your website to attract prospective clients, it’s equally important to nurture your relationships with the folks who already know about your company. By blogging more frequently, your firm will have more fresh information to share with current and past clients, networking contacts, etc., via email marketing and social media channels.
The bottom line
You will have to make your own decision about how much information your firm will share online. We believe that sharing more and better information, more frequently than your competitors, will yield tremendous benefits. Your prospective clients are searching online for solutions and your current or past clients need reminding about the problems your firm can help them solve.
Use the recommendations above to weigh the pros and cons, but don’t fail to take action! Someone in your market will give your next ideal prospect what they’re looking for online -- don’t you want it to be you?