Content Marketing: The Long and Short of It

April 29th, 2014

by Meghan Elliot

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Attention spans are short. The world moves at lightning speed. If you want to capture the eyes of clients, prospects and centers of influence (COIs), you need to keep your content short and sweet.

Or so goes the conventional wisdom.

But the reality is more complicated. While capsulated content – tweets, Facebook posts, 30-second videos and snappy emails – has an important place in your marketing strategy, you have to make room for longer content that educates and informs on more complex issues.

Think people won’t read anything over 500 words? Think again.

Long versus short content

When should you keep content short, and when is it time to go long? There are no hard-and-fast rules, but for content that is more ephemeral and meant to be consumed quickly, shorter is better. (In some cases, it’s essential – your tweets are limited to 140 characters, while Vine videos are just six seconds long.) Generally, blog posts, client emails and newsletter articles can be kept brief. A few hundred words is usually sufficient to get your point across, and newsletter blurbs and social media posts often consist of just a sentence or two. These messages are meant to share an interesting article, highlight an important fact or review a straightforward topic, so making them too long will actually make it harder for people to grasp the point you’re trying to make.

But some things can’t be thoroughly discussed in a 500-word blog post, 100-word email or 140-character tweet. In these situations, it’s time to develop longer content.

Use longer content to educate and inform

Your prospective clients and COIs are hungry for information about the issues that matter to them. You can sate that hunger by sharing your knowledge and resources through a lengthier piece, such as a white paper, e-book or guidebook. If writing isn’t your thing, webinars and longer videos can serve the same function.

For example, if you work with people who are nearing retirement, draw on your expertise to write an e-book on Social Security-claiming strategies or a guidebook on shopping for long-term-care insurance. If you have a unique service offering or specialty (say you help corporate executives manage their stock options), use a white paper to explain how you could help a client solve a particular problem (such as avoiding stock option “tax traps”). Mention how your firm can help, but don’t make it a hard sell – this type of content is supposed to be informative, not a sales piece.

What is the advantage of sharing your expertise in this way? Not only will prospects and COIs be more empowered, they’ll learn more about your firm and services and hopefully develop a positive attitude about what you do. Sharing long content also helps build credibility and demonstrates your expertise.

Capture leads and reach a wider audience

Here’s the important thing to remember when developing longer content: Don’t give it away for free.

Instead, make people give you something so they can get what you’re offering. Ask people to provide their email addresses (and sometimes additional contact and demographic information) before they can access or download your resource. Of course, that means that not everyone will see your content. But if your white paper, e-book or video is interesting and promises to teach readers something new or how to solve a problem, they’ll be eager to share their contact information with you.

Even if you don’t make people “pay” for what you’re offering by sharing their contact information, long content can still play an important role in your overall marketing strategy. Last August, Google rolled out changes in its search algorithm so that high-quality, in-depth articles (2,000-plus words) are highlighted for people who want more than a quick overview of a subject. And consider the popularity of a site likeLongreads, which connects readers with online stories of 1,500 words or more and 500,000 followers on its website and social media accounts.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your clients, prospects and COIs don’t have the attention span for longer content. If you take the time to develop articles, videos and e-books that provide thorough and thoughtful analyses of subjects people really care about, you will be surprised by the results.

Megan Elliott is the senior copy writer with Wealth Management Marketing, Inc., a firm specializing in outsourced marketing department services to Registered Investment Advisors and fee-only financial planning firms. For more information, visit www.wealthmanagementmarketing.net.

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