Regular content creation is at the heart of modern marketing, but maintaining a constant stream of useful and engaging content can be challenging. This is especially true in professional services where you may feel interesting topics may be few and far between.
So how can you generate ideas for content?
Firstly, look at how to find out what your clients want to read about. You can create as much content as you like, but it will only be truly effective if it satisfies a need – if it gives your clients the answers to the questions they are asking.
Secondly, look at types of content that work for professional services – starting with a type often makes creating the content for it much easier.
Responding to the needs and desires of clients
Perhaps the most obvious way to find out what types of content clients are interested in is to ask them. Seems simple, but so few companies actually do this well. You could conduct client surveys and polls to gather more information, but you will find that personal contact will always work best as it tends to give you personal stories and authentic dialogue rather than simple short answers. Asking your clients their opinions also has the secondary, and no less important, benefit of making your clients feel valued and respected. From this exercise, you should be able to identify topics you can create content around that will address these questions.
Another useful way to identify what clients want to know is to look at what they are searching for, by doing some keyword research. Although primarily thought of as a way to improve your SEO, keyword research can be useful for content ideas too. There are a great number of keyword research tools you can use – some free, some paid for – and these can be used to identify what phrases people are searching for. In turn, these phrases can suggest ideas for content. You should also be looking at your website analytics – what search phrases are people using to find your site?
You will find it easier to think of ideas for content if you start with a content type. Here are a few suggestions of content types that can work well for professional services companies.
Case studies and white papers
We know that case studies are one of the most trusted and searched for types of content. And a case study is a great way of showcasing your product or service without directly selling its benefits and advantages. It's a crucial tool that relates your services to a prospective client’s problems. If you can create a case study around a well-known customer, it will also help to establish authority and trust, and create a little peer pressure too. (Remember to link to any other, related case studies you might have.)
Similarly, white papers are very popular – they are in-depth reports on a specific topic, usually involving research and illustrations. Think about your topic carefully – what would bring the most benefit to your target audience? What do they really want to know the definitive answer to?
The downside of white papers as a form of content is that they can take a considerable amount of time and effort to put together. However, the end result should be a highly valuable piece of content.
Interview an industry expert
Identify those people within your industry that are recognised and respected experts. Set up an interview and either write a blog post, set up a podcast or video them. If you lack the expertise in-house to execute this yourself, you could hire the services of a content writer.
Explain the language of your profession
A post, video, podcast or even an eBook explaining the common terms used in your industry, or in your delivery of services is a great and valuable piece of content. Don't assume that everyone understands them – many people tend to nod their head as people use jargon or acronyms while secretly having no idea what they mean!
Don't forget there may well be new recruits and young starters in organisations, who will not want to admit their lack of knowledge, and so will be looking for third party tutorials. And even older members of client companies – for example, directors or senior buyers – may have trouble keeping up with the language around the latest developments and technological breakthroughs.
Focus on a misunderstood or complex area
In a similar vein, a piece of content that focuses on a commonly misunderstood area or a complex issue and explains it is another very useful feature for prospective clients. When creating these, try to go through the subject step by step in a simple, easy to follow manner – but, importantly, without being patronising at any point.
Tips are always valued – if you can find a small collection of helpful pointers, that you are happy to pass on, then this can form the basis of yet another useful item of content.
Recommended reading/ book reviews
If it's appropriate, then a list of recommended reading can prove popular – depending on the area you are in and the type of prospects you are targeting. Pick a subject and then list the books you think give a good background to that subject, its history, its future and the issues around it, with a few lines about each.
In a similar vein, informed reviews of relevant books can work – earning you respect and authority, and providing a genuinely useful service to anyone thinking about buying the book.
News and hot topics
Unless you have exclusive access to unique, industry news items, commenting on current news items – especially popular stories – and how they will impact on your industry is a good way to attract prospects from searches. Add your own view and commentary on how you think things will play out – another way to gain authority and earn respect.
The easiest way to generate content ideas for professional services marketing is to find out what clients are interested in. After all, there is really no point generating loads of content ideas if your audience is not going to engage with them. It might be difficult, but it's not rocket science: finding out what clients are interested in starts with asking them. Their answers, applied to the types of content we have outlined here, should give you a whole host of content ideas you can use.