How to Use Content Marketing for Professional Services Marketing

professional services marketing

Why do solo professionals fail? All too often, it’s because they don’t run the business side of their businesses effectively.

Simply being good at what you do is not enough. You have to manage the basic functions of your business as well. The marketing, the financials, even keeping office supplies on hand.

Ignore any of these areas long enough, and there’s trouble. Taxes go unpaid. The printer runs out of ink. Your pipeline of new business dries up.

Of course, you went out on your own because you’re good at what you do. You want to practice your trade, not be a part-time marketer or a financial person or an office manager.

But like it or not, basic business functions have to get done. And we have precious few hours to do them in.

To keep the lights on, solo pros have to log a certain number of paid work hours every week. We’ve got to get enough work done for clients so we can bill them and get paid, and we have to do this regardless of whether the printer needs four hours of troubleshooting in order to work. The checks don’t just magically show up the way they do when you’re an employee.

We also need enough time to sleep and to have at least a little bit of a life. Many solo professionals fall into the trap of working all the time. It’s not sustainable, not healthy, and not even good for your work.  

But at least one aspect of your business – your marketing – doesn’t have to eat up so much time. It’s possible to run an effective, authentic content marketing program for a solo professional in far less time than you’d think, and in far less time than many solo professionals are already putting in.

Before I show you how to do it, let’s take a look at just how little time solo pros really have for basic business functions, so we can understand why marketing has to be super-efficient.  

Why Professional Services Marketing Has to Fit into 43 Minutes a Day or Less

We all have the same amount of time: 52 weeks in a year. Let’s walk through how quickly that gets used up.

We’ll start by giving you three weeks off every year. You get one week for vacation, one week for national holidays, and one week to do the sundry things of life, like support your family, get sick, or manage household repairs.

This leaves you 49 weeks left to work.

According to the SoloWorkForce.com blog in 2013, most solo professionals log about 1,680 billable hours per year.

 1680 hours / 49 weeks = 34.3 hours a week.

We’ll round up to 35 hours. So you need 35 hours a week to earn your income – to actually do your work .

Now let’s figure out how much time you have left to manage your business.

The average small business owner works about 52 hours per week, so let’s use that as an estimate for how many hours a week you work. After you’ve completed your 35 hours of billable work each week, you’ve got 17 hours left for everything else. “Everything else” is all the tasks required to manage your business.

These tasks split into four areas:

  • Client management and work tasks you can’t bill for
  • Finances
  • Marketing
  • Office management

You’ve got 17 hours to manage all four areas, or roughly 4.25 hours a week for each one.

If you work six days a week, which most small business owners do, that leaves you 43 minutes a day for each of those four areas of responsibility.

43 minutes a day for client management, 43 minutes a day for finances, 43 minutes a day for marketing, and 43 minutes a day for office management (things like paying bills, buying supplies, or fixing your internet connection).

If even this seems tight (“I don’t have 43 minutes a day for finances, or for marketing!”), consider how we usually deal with these essential but unwanted business tasks: We either ignore them, don’t do them at all, or we let them pile up until we have to spend a whole weekend doing nothing else.

If you want to spend a whole weekend in March doing your taxes, I understand. And maybe you only do office management tasks on Friday afternoons, when your energy level is super-low anyway. But marketing is best done on a daily basis.

Why? Because you probably want to have a steady stream of new business, right? It’s stressful to not do any marketing until your business dries up, and you have no idea where more work is going to come from.

So here’s how to get your marketing done in 43 minutes a day or less using a blend of content marketing, email marketing, and social media.

Minimum Viable Content for Professional Services Marketing

Before you panic when I say “content marketing,” no, you don’t have to write a blog post every week. You don’t even have to write one every month if you don’t want to; this content marketing strategy will still work. But you are going to have to understand the big picture of what you’re doing.

So here it is:

  1. Create and publish a piece of content every month.
  2. Promote and distribute that content.
  3. Republish and repurpose your most successful pieces of content

Here’s what you’ll need to do. (Don’t worry – you don’t have to do it all yourself.)

  • 12 blog posts.

One for every month. This is enough to demonstrate your expertise, give your clients and your prospects something to read and a reason to stay in touch, but it’s not so much work that you can’t get it done.

The average blog post takes four hours to write and is about 1,200 words long. However, blog posts that are 1,500-2,000 words and posts that take 4-6 hours or longer to write are significantly more likely to generate results. So if you can, make that one blog post per month count.

If you’re just not a writer, or you know it’s just not realistic for you to be writing even one blog post a month, cheat. “Cheat,” as in record yourself talking about a specific subject, get the audio transcribed by a service like Rev, then hire a freelance writer or editor to take the transcript and craft it into a blog post.  

To get exposure for your blog posts, you’ll need to share each post at least ten times with a schedule like this:

  • One week before the post publishes, announcing it
  • The day it’s published
  • Every other week during the first week after it’s published
  • Once a week for the first month after it’s published
  • After the first month, publish a post excerpting it about twice a month

Tools like Lately make it easy to create lots of social media posts from a single piece of content in a snap.

  • 12 email updates.

One sent every month. Each featuring your new blog post, plus a short list of the best resources you’ve found in your industry or niche in the last month. These extra resources are “curated” content, but they’re excellent for adding content to an email update, and they make you look like even more of an authority.

Here’s a section of curated content from Outgrow’s email newsletter:

content curation for professional services marketing

If you have time, give a heads up to anyone whose content you shared in your newsletter. It’s a good way to make friends and to build connections with people. Who knows, they might even be willing to share your content, too.

If you think it’s unlikely that you’ll have time to compose, design, and send an email newsletter every month, hire someone (or someone else) to do it for you. For roughly $125-175 per newsletter, including copywriting, design, list management and sending, these services can save you a lot of time.

  • Two “content upgrades.”

One published every six months. These are also known as “lead magnets” or “freebies.” These long-form content pieces are a way to build your email list, yes, but they are also a way to demonstrate your expertise in greater depth.

Larger, “gated” pieces of content are also a way to continue the conversation with people who come to your website. Unfortunately, almost everyone who comes to your website will leave without taking action. This is true of even the best-optimized websites in the world. But if you can get someone’s email address then you can reach out to them again. So lead magnets are the very first step toward turning a website visitor into a customer.

Usually, a “content upgrade” is a text-based PDF document, but it doesn’t have to be. Videos are a great option – as are any pre-recorded webinars or recorded speeches you’ve done. A brief “video series” sent out as an email sequence can work well, too.

Templates, worksheets, and other “printables” are also excellent content upgrades. You may already have a few of them created so all you have to do is get them looking nice, convert them into a PDF and get the content upgrade system set up on your website. There are freelancers and website services that can set that up for you.

Oh yes – and don’t worry about having to write the ebook. Once you’ve found a competent writer/editor, have them take 3-4 of your existing blog posts and weave them into an ebook. Ideally, you’ll add some exclusive, extra-valuable information to the ebook. But you do not have to completely start from scratch. Also, know that ebooks do not have to be 50 pages long. 3,000-5,000 words is enough.

  • One piece of interactive content.

This can be a quiz, an assessment, or a calculator. Whatever it is, make it highly useful to your audience.

Interactive content may be harder to create than a blog post, but there are a slew of tools like Calculoid, OutGrow, or SurveyAnyplace that can help you create an interactive tool.

People love interactive content. You’ll get more links, more mentions, more shares, and more business from a piece of interactive content. They’re worth any extra hassle you have to go through to create one. (And yes, there are also freelancers and services that can set one up for you.)

  • A presence on two social media platforms

Yup – only two. For most solo professionals, these will be LinkedIn and either Facebook or Instagram. If your business is heavily visual or design-oriented, Pinterest would be a smart pick, too. Or if you’re editorially oriented, Twitter might be a better choice than Instagram.

For example:

Website designer: LinkedIn and Pinterest

Attorney: LinkedIn and Facebook (possibly Instagram if you’re younger or you simply like Instagram better, Twitter if you tend to share a lot of articles)

Freelance journalist: LinkedIn and Twitter

Ecommerce site for millennial gardeners: Facebook and Instagram

If you happen to enjoy making videos, choosing YouTube as one of your two platforms could be an excellent choice, especially if you’re not wild about writing a lot of your content.

If you are reasonably comfortable on camera (or can share your screen while you do a tutorial), videos can be a superb way to share your knowledge with the world and drive business. You can make little “micro”-videos with tools like Lumen5 to share on your other social media platform, embed on your website, and include in your email updates.

So those are the platforms. Next, you’ve got to figure out how often to post. This is minimum viable content we’re doing, so we want to do as little as possible while still having a presence. We’re also only talking about posts here. Ideally, you’ll have a few spare moments every week to go on to each platform yourself, to like and comment on other people’s posts, to ask questions of your followers, or to say thanks personally if anyone has shared your post or content.

Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn: 3 posts per week

Twitter: 2 posts per day

YouTube: 2 videos per month

That works out to

3 posts per week = 12 posts per month = 144 posts per year

At about 20 minutes per post for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, you’re looking at (144 x 20)/60 = 48 hours per year per platform. But because you’ll gain some efficiency by only having to adapt different posts to the second platform, let’s cut half the time for that allotted platform, giving you 72 hours.

Does 72 hours seem like a lot? It is. Which is why you really need to outsource your social media work. The good news is that you can outsource this fairly easily, and it may only cost you $100-150 per month. There are plenty of services and virtual assistants that can help with this, and there are dozens of social media scheduling tools that make it easy.

So why invest 72 hours a year on social media, even if you can outsource most of it? Because it makes you visible. Many of your prospects will look you up on social media to verify that you’re legit. They may find you on social media, too – millennials often check Instagram or Facebook first, then only do a Google search later on.

Having a presence on social media also lets you promote your own content. And it allows you curate other people’s content so you look like an informed expert in your field.

Here’s how all these tasks and hours add up:

 

 

HOURS

TOTAL HOURS

12 blog posts

4 hours each

48

48

12 email updates

2 hours each

24

72

2 content upgrades

8 hours each

16

86

1 piece of interactive content

6 hours

6

92

Social media 3 posts per week x 2 platforms

~2 hours per week

72

166

166 hours / 49 weeks = 3.4 hours a week or 203 minutes per week = 34 minutes per day

Herte’s what it looks like if you outsource half of the email newsletter production and half the social media. It brings your marketing time down to 24 minutes per day.

 

 

HOURS

TOTAL HOURS

12 blog posts

4 hours each

48

48

12 email updates

1 hour each

12

60

2 content upgrades

8 hours each

16

76

1 piece of interactive content

6 hours

6

82

Social media 3 posts per week x 2 platforms

~1 hour per week

36

118

 118 hours / 49 weeks = 2.4 hours a week or 145 minutes per week = 24 minutes per day

Outsource even some blog editing and more of the email newsletters and social media work (much less the content upgrades and the interactive content) and you could absolutely have a functional content marketing program for a solo professional down to 20 minutes a day.

Systems + Outsourcing = Marketing Efficiency

Solo professionals have to make every hour count. We have to be as efficient as possible. And whether it’s laundry, or marketing, or even moving troops around a battlefield, the best way to improve efficiency is to have a system.

So does your professional services marketing have a system? It might not necessarily have to be a system like the one outlined above, but if you’re a busy solo professional, please, use something. You don’t have any time to waste.