May 2, 2013

Is Your Content Marketing Reaching the Right Prospects?

In my last post for AdvisorOne, I outlined ideas for how advisors can dip their toes into content marketing, a tactic focused on providing your prospects information that builds your credibility with your target audience, connects them to your message and leads them to select you as their advisor. Research results reported by marketing automation firm Eloqua in March showed that as much as 70% of a consumer’s buying journey is complete before they contact you. Content marketing lets you have a voice in that journey.

Being numbers-oriented, our industry often struggles with trying to calculate a return on investment for marketing. Brand building, audience engagement and credibility building don’t always lend themselves to an ROI analysis, or at least not initially. An additional complication for financial advisors is the compliance issues around allowing comments or other social media capabilities around your content. That means metrics such as “likes” or “followers” may not be available to you. That’s okay, because these metrics can be overrated. Ever liked or followed a person or company and over time just stopped paying attention?

One of my favorite websites for content marketing tips and best practices is the Content Marketing Institute. A recent piece on the site called “How to Measure the Success of Content Marketing” provided comments from about a dozen marketing professionals who specialize in content. Those opinions ranged from “it varies” to “Google Analytics – and only Google Analytics.”

For most advisors, poring through reports from Google Analytics or other measurement tools is not an income-producing activity. In fact, Robert Rose comments in the article, “I sometimes refer to analytics as WMDs—or Weapons of Mass Delusion.” I think Jay Baer got it right when he described four content metrics—consumption, sharing, leads and sales—adding that “most markets overvalue the first two (blog page views and retweets, for example) and undervalue the last two (email subscriptions from people who first read the blog and, ultimately, sales from among that group.)”

So let’s focus on those last two. How do you measure whether your content is generating leads? One of the easiest ways is to offer additional content for which the reader must register. For example, you create an article on why clients need an emergency financial kit of important documents, account numbers, PINs and phone numbers. Within the article, you offer a checklist or form to help readers create that emergency kit – in exchange for providing you some basic contact or qualifying information.

Keep in mind that the information you ask for must be aligned with the reader’s perceived value of what you’re giving away. The higher the perceived value, the more information they are willing to give you. Your website provider may offer a function for creating registration pages, or you can simply provide an email link. If you have multiple pieces of content linking to the same giveaway, you can create unique email addresses to track which content brought you the request: giveaway1@XYZfinancial.com, giveaway2@XYZfinancial.com, etc.

Surveys or polls can also help you identify which pieces of content or topics your audience finds most appealing. Let your readers “vote” on their favorite piece of content, then promote the winning article or video in your future content. Give voters the option of including their name and email for future content on the same topic. If your compliance department won’t allow comments, consider including a link for readers to tell you what they think: you still get their feedback, but it won’t be public.

Asking prospects that contact you where they heard about you is a staple for marketing measurement. Help them give you the most specific information by providing a list of possible marketing tactics that may have reached them, and have them check all that apply. Don’t offer vague choices like “heard of in the community.”

Now to that fourth metric: sales. By tracking specifically which pieces of content prospects responded to, whether you converted those prospects into a client and the amount of revenue they generate, you should over time be able to evaluate your return on content. Refine your content marketing strategy so you’re spending the most time on those topics or types of content that resonate not with the most prospects, but with the most valuable prospects.

Content marketing is just one tactic for marketing your practice. Used with other marketing and sales practices, your target market will let you be part of that first 70% of their buying journey—and they will contact you to take them the final 30%.

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