How To Start Creating Content To Keep Your Prospects Engaged
Given the awkward state of Sales and Marketing, many Managed Service Providers are realizing that education and content-focused strategies are the best way to stay active and keep adding to their sales funnel. Unfortunately, these type of campaigns can be difficult to get off the ground for those with little experience in doing so. Not only can it be a challenge to find the time, but creative execution can often feel unnatural.
I have found that there is something very personal about creating content that some introverted IT Providers tend to struggle with. Creativity is one thing, but putting your creative work out for the world to see is another. I help MSPs create content on a daily basis, and I can tell you first hand that even the most bashful IT Business Owners or Operators can break through this wall with a little bit of help.
Here are a few tips that I often share when helping MSPs become content creators, that may be helpful if you are pivoting toward this type of strategy:
Set A Recurring Calendar Appointment
The first step in launching a content strategy is to commit to executing on a frequent basis. For me, I have what I call “publishing hours” which are blocks of time that are baked into my weekly calendar where no other appointments can be scheduled. What I had to realize in doing this, was that there were very few issues that could possibly occur that couldn’t wait 30-60 minutes until I was done.
Whether it was an email or phone call requesting my attention, it is very easy to get distracted and suddenly waste the block of time that you have allocated doing unimportant things. When you commit the time, really commit, and shut out any outside noise that may distract you. After awhile this will become easier, especially once you realize there is no harm in doing so.
Choose A Medium That Works For You
Whether you are recording videos, podcasts, or writing articles, each of these mediums will appeal to your audience in different ways. Afterall, these are called “mediums” because they are a connection point between you and your potential customers. A successful content marketing campaign often strikes the right balance between your creative comfort level and the preferred means of the consumers.
Before starting this blog, the length of my creative writing experience never exceeded a Social Media caption. However, I did realize that I much preferred to send business correspondence through email than getting on the phone or hosting a video call. This is what led me to begin outlining my thoughts and then filling in the paragraphs in-between, almost as if I was writing and instructional email to a partner or co-worker. This has now become my content medium of choice and is proof that any of these skills can be refined with repetition.
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Seek Out Potential Collaborators
Momentum is everything when it comes to content marketing. Getting that first taste of positive engagement and earning those initial few followers can give you a jolt of motivation to keep you creating more. Collaborating and cross-promoting with others at your company, your vendors, or customers will help to expand your reach and get more organic activity on your frist few pieces of content. There is also a lot of comfort in knowing that you are not doing it alone.
This can also be a great business development tool to use to meet potential prospects without a “sales forward” pitch. Reaching out to Decision Makers in your target vertical and asking to feature them on your podcast (or quote them in your articles) is a great way to start conversations that may bud into real relationships.
Leverage Resources, Tools & Freelancers
There are a lot of great tools, resources, and freelancers that make light work out of creating content, it is just a matter of finding the right ones for your application. Rather than give you a generic spiel on what is available, I figured it would be most beneficial to tell you which of these we use and recommend.
- Graphic Design – Pixabay, Pexels, Canva, Adobe Spark
- Video Production – Powtoon, Wavve, Rawshorts, Videopad
- Audio Production – Anchor, Wavepad, Mixpad
- Freelancers – Fiverr, Upwork
Many of these are free to use (at least on a trial basis) and can produce high quality creative, even when used by those who lack these skills. Even experienced Marketers and designers take a few shortcuts by using templates and automation tools. Overall, these tools in your toolbox will have a very high impact on the quality of your results and will be well worth the investment.
Keep A Running List Of Topic Ideas
The most important time period within your “publishing hour” is the first ten minutes. If you are not almost immediately productive, it will be very difficult to gain enough inertia to keep going for the entire time allotted. This is why it is important to always keep a list of potential topics that you want to cover and have them readily available.
I keep a document that is accessible on my phone and PC which I use to log all of my content ideas whenever they cross my mind. I even jot dot down potential sub-headers that I may want to include in the article. Then once I am ready to create, I open the list and start running with any topic that feels right at the moment. Sometimes there is nothing there that I feel like writing and when this happens, I spend my entire block of time just thinking of new topics that I can work from next time. This way I always have something to do in those first few minutes that I set aside and I can let that momentum carry me through.
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Address Your Target Audience Directly
When working with MSPs, one of the most frequent things I must remind them about it speaking to their target audience directly when creating content. Great marketing is often conversational, even if it is entirely one way. This begins with knowing who your audience is, what is important to them, and then being able to speak their language (not yours). This can be the difference between someone loosely relating to the topic and someone deeply engaged with what you have to say.
One way to figure out if your content is too “indirect” is to look for the use of possessive pronouns (such as “You” and “Your”). You should use these terms frequently enough to where the audience feels as though they are a part of what you are saying. It is also good practice to sometimes swap these pronouns with non-possessive versions that describe the audience. For example, if your content is targeting Lawyers in the Philadelphia Metro area, then you could occasionally reference the “Philly Legal Community” or “Philadelphia Law Firms” within your content. Sprinkling these in helps to reinforce the relevance to your audience and will increase their likelihood of engaging.
Stagger Your Posts On Social Media
After you have something to show for your time spent creating content, now it is time to put it out for the world to see. Since you want to post to multiple platforms (such as Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Etc.) it is best to create and schedule these posts all in one sitting, even if you don’t plan to publish them until later.
After you have put a few posts up, you will start to realize what days and times often work best for each platform. Use this information to your advantage and stagger the release of your posts for when they are most likely to perform the best. For example, I have found that LinkedIn posts perform well when posted on Tuesday and Thursday around 7:30am EST, or 1:00pm EST respectively, so I schedule my posts for around these times if possible. Different types of content will yield different results, so it is best to experiment before you commit to a firm posting schedule.
Use Engagement Data To Create Ads
After you begin to collect data on your posts (such as engagement rate, click-thru, videos views, etc.) you will start to realize what topics perform well with your audience and which do not. When you stumble across a post that out-performs the rest, turn it into an ad and launch a sponsored post targeted to the segment of the audience that was most engaged.
For example, we recently published an article about the popular MSP verticals that were potentially at-risk. This article had a high click-thru on our organic post, almost double our average. We have since created an ad from this post, targeted to Owners, Operators, and Financial Admins in the IT Industry. These ads are performing just as well as our organic post (sometimes better) and are generating quality traffic to our blog.
Have A Way To Opt-In For More Content
After you have done the dirty work of getting eyeballs to your content, you need to always present your audience with the option to get more. This could be some kind of digital collateral, events that you host, or simply a weekly newsletter. No matter what you decide to offer, the important thing is that your audience is able to opt-in to receive it at the point upon which their interest has piqued.
The expectation of many MSPs that first start creating content is that their efforts will lead directly to their audience completing a contact form or calling their office to request a quote. If this is the only option that you present your audience at the point of consumption, you will likely lose a large part of that audience that would have otherwise opted-in. These opt-ins can be nurtured into legitimate prospects, which is really the long term goal for any brand-focused content campaigns.