Service marketing differs from product marketing in a number of ways. One is the absence, usually, of a tangible sample that a prospect can hold, inspect, or try out. Creating content to promote services is a great way to demonstrate your expertise as well as your personality and work style. Building a content library can give prospects a sample of your work quality and give you multiple opportunities for interaction.
Whether you have already begun building your library or are just starting out, here are some tips and ideas that can help get the best results from your content. They are organized under three questions: who, what, and how.
Who is your audience?
It’s very important to clearly understand who you are talking to. Who do you want to attract? You likely have two possible audiences:
- The business owners who are your prospective clients, or
- Staff members who influence those business owners.
For example, if you are a business management consultant, you aim at your prospects by offering focused content that ties your services directly to their issues, concerns, and questions. Or you could focus on supporting staff tasked with researching solutions or talent and then reporting back with information, suggestions, and possibly recommendations. In this case, your goal is to gain their endorsement, so content might be across a wider range of types and topics.
Of course, you can create content that can appeal to both audiences, but this might be more time-consuming for you.
What content should I create?
Before considering what kind of content to create, it’s important to note the “why” of your efforts. A primary purpose of using content to promote and sell your services is to get the reader’s permission to contact them further. Ideally, the form this takes is providing their email address and opting into receiving future communications. This allows you to engage them further with other content over time. Here is one rule of thumb: It takes an average of seven “touchpoints” over a 12- to 18-month period to close a contract. While you may see results in far less time, the main idea is to space out your contacts to keep your recipients’ interest.
Turning to what types of content would work best, consider the following:
- What information would your target audience find most useful?
- How can you tie that information to your services?
- What is the best form(s) for the information to gain engagement?
With the answers to these questions in mind, here are content types to consider:
- Website with a blog. While your site pages will stay more or less static, your blog can be refreshed regularly and used to spotlight your services in useful ways. Offer the option to subscribe to your blog so the reader will get updates when a new piece has been posted (and you will get that important email address).
- Blog independent of a website. The most familiar example of this type of content is the ability to post articles on LinkedIn that tie to your profile. There are similar opportunities, like Medium or Quora.
- Third-party thought leadership. If you’re a prolific writer and have an audience, you may wish to share your expertise on a thought leadership platform such as a Forbes Council or a Fast Company Board. These services are typically pay-to-play and cost several thousand per year, as well as require a body of published work to be accepted into the platform. The benefit includes increased reach and audience as these posts are part of a larger and more robust website engine.
- Periodic newsletter. If you can create useful content regularly, a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter could increase engagement with prospects. You can either create a standalone newsletter or one that offers titles and introductory copy for each article, with a “more” link to the location of the full newsletter. Serving these via email, social media, or LinkedIn, or via a membership site (see below) can be a great way to boost visibility for your content.
- Book/eBook. Authoring a book based on expertise is a common practice for professionals promoting their services. You can self-publish a book and sell it on sites like Amazon, or, for less cost and time, you can create an eBook and offer it as a download (with or without the email opt-in step).
- Tutorial or course. If your area of expertise lends itself to a structured educational format, offer a free tutorial or course designed to showcase your services and their value. If part of your business is to offer structured sessions, for example consulting or coaching, you can set up one or a series of free sessions that promote your main offerings. YouTube is a good option for this content.
- Podcast. You can offer one or periodic surveys that relate to your services and to your prospects’ areas of interest, then report on the results. A best practice is to keep surveys very simple with no more than five questions, preferably fewer. A podcast takes a bigger time commitment, but your area of expertise and type of prospect may fit this content type well. Podbean and Buzzsprout are two of several podcasting services that include the essential parts of publishing and promoting your podcast episodes.
- Membership site. Use tools like Slack, Discord, or Patreon to set up member-only communication spaces where you can interact with your audiences. You can offer exclusive perks to members that fit your business.
- Livestream. You can livestream as a membership perk or simply as another method of publishing content. Discord and Twitch are great live streaming options that include a real-time chat with your viewers, and Twitch lets you publish the recording of your stream to your YouTube channel. Facebook and Twitter also have livestreaming features. This is particularly popular for those in the Creator Economy.
This is not an exhaustive list but should be a good springboard for you to brainstorm the types that fit your situation best.
Repurposing content is a good way to get the most value from a single piece. Write blog posts about the results of surveys you’ve offered. Aggregate blogs post to create an eBook. Or chop your eBook into logical sections to make a tutorial or course. Think about how you can reuse pieces you created into new forms and new ways to deploy them.
How do I share my content?
With your list of content types in hand, the next question is how to present them for the best results.
Keeping in mind that the primary purpose of your promotional content is to gather email addresses for further engagement (or to draw direct inquiries for work via email or other outreach), think about how you can lead the consumers of your content to those all-important opt-in forms. The important thing here is to include a call to action that sends the reader to your site or another location where they can enter their email address. Avoid using social media platforms or other external sites to serve as your prospect repository. While it is certainly smart marketing to engage with your market in those places, circumstances could change that interfere with your connection to prospects. It’s best to route their information to your own database.
There are two more “hows” to think about. First, consider the medium for your content. You can write copy, create visuals (e.g. infographics), record yourself (e.g., a podcast or audio tutorial), or create videos (for tutorials, courses, or other uses). The other “how” is how to combine your content types most effectively. You can blog post or promote your various types of content in your newsletter. Offer special content to participants on your membership site. Think about how you can connect multiple content types to each other in order to increase prospect engagement.
With a wide choice of content types and methods of deployment, it’s a good idea to create a diagram of how each type is launched and is connected to other types. Use this as a roadmap as you build content promotions that sell.