Content marketing is all the rage, and for good reason when it comes to building your consulting firm. Your consulting firm’s thought leadership is a cornerstone of your efforts to be perceived as a credible, compelling resource for prospective clients.
If you’ve spent any time and/or money on content marketing, you’ve likely discovered that creating outstanding content is like folding a fitted sheet: it’s harder than it looks and more often than not you end up crumpling your work into a ball.
Fortunately, the checklist below will guide your efforts to write a great article, book chapter, lead magnet, white paper, podcast script or other marketing piece for your consulting firm.
Consulting Firm Content Creation Checklist
Determine Your Lesson
Is the topic of your marketing piece something your prospects will find valuable?
Stay Right-Side Up: no one is interested in learning about your consulting firm; they’re interested in learning about themselves and how they can improve.
Brainstorm/Choose a Device
Play with at least a handful of stories, metaphors and/or examples that could introduce and/or convey your lesson. Choose one.
(Advanced methodology: Eat sweet treats while brainstorming and insist to your staff that it’s actually part of the creative process.)
Write Your First Draft
Start with a short articulation of the problem your lesson addresses, then lay out your consulting firm’s recommendation or solution.
Trim the Fat
Edit out every section of your draft that isn’t absolutely necessary to convey your lesson. Cut out tangents.
You can anticipate setting aside at least half of what you wrote—maybe you’ll use the deleted parts in a different chapter, article, whitepaper or when you need paper to pack a return for Amazon.com.
Trim the Muscle
Work out how your readers can implement your lesson or make the lesson useful. Remove every paragraph that isn’t absolutely necessary.
Trim the Bone
Discard every sentence and phrase that isn’t necessary. Most writers include too many parenthetical phrases—delete 75% of those.
Most writers also repeat themselves. If you’ve already made a point, eliminate every sentence that repeats your point.
Improve your Tone
Rewrite every sentence that contains a formal, academic tone to convey a friendly, casual-yet-professional quality. Even whitepapers can utilize an engaging tone.
Replace any statement that is theoretical, hypothetical or general with a concrete statement about your reader. The exception is negative characterizations, which generally shouldn’t be about your reader.
For example, in this step, I replaced “the reader” with “your reader.”
Clarify Your Writing
Revisit every noun and pronoun and substitute descriptive, enticing nouns for unclear or lazy nouns.
Inject color, humor and spice by including fun adverbs, exaggerated examples, and humorous expressions.
If you read this step as “Add pizzas” you’re forgiven. You can add that into your checklist too.
Delicately sprinkle in invitations and incentives for your audience to interact with your consulting firm. Avoid heavy-handed, salesy calls to action.
Enlist Your SUPER Person
Your SUPER person will challenge everything you’ve written and how you’ve written it. (Learn more about a SUPER person here.) Use their advice to develop your next draft, then work through the checklist again, starting at the “Trim” steps.
Format for Consumption
If you’re producing a written piece, add white space, graphics, callouts, illustrations and other visual devices that enhance readers’ ability to skim, scan, and enjoy your work.
If you’re producing audio or video, insert pauses, music and visual variety to keep your audience’s attention.
Title to Maximize Uptake
Spend at least 10% of your marketing piece’s total development time on the title. (And your thumbnail if you’re producing a video for YouTube.)
If you’re putting together a significant piece (e.g. a whitepaper, book, or five-minute-or-longer video), then test your title. Trust your audience and the data, not your instincts.
Are there any other items you’d add to this checklist to create an outstanding marketing piece for your consulting firm?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
David, Thanks for the practical tips on content creation. There was one thing about the right side of your Venn diagram that caught my attention. I’ve mistakenly created pieces where my topic selection was driven by “problems the client has”. I figured that was solid footing. It wasn’t. The pieces that really worked were the ones where the topic selection was driven by “problems the client has and know they have.” A lot of times, I’m aware of a struggle that’s prevalent in my target audience, but they don’t know it’s a struggle. If I point content at that topic, it doesn’t resonate – even though it should. Speaking to acute, known pain is much more engaging.
Excellent point, Mike. What you’ve noted is at the heart of making business development for your consulting firm easier: look for prospects who are aware of their problem and urgently want to solve it. (I refer to this as Fishing Where the Fish Are.)
Your content performs better when you focus on your target’s salient challenges. For the same reason, your content can inform you about your market. Pieces that garner more attention and create buzz tell you where the pain points are.
Thanks for highlighting those ideas, Mike!
From your intro email: “while good content is relatively easy to create…”: I must need to eat more chocolate as I find making good content really difficult. Your weekly emails are always an inspiration when it comes to writing.
Regarding your Venn diagram – why would you focus on topics that your prospects want to talk about which don’t interest you? I would think that the overlap would be the sweet spot for articles.
You’re very kind, David, and you’ve pounced on the question I hoped someone would raise. (Hooray for you!) The sweet spot is whatever your client wants to learn about.
When you try to operate at the intersection of the Venn, you end up frolicking in your own circle more than your prospects’ circle. Also, pushing yourself to learn about your clients’ interests and needs improves your understanding of their world. (And boosts your ability to talk about what they want to talk about in ways they want to hear it.)
Bonus points for pointing out that quirk in the illustration, David.
Without a doubt, creating the perfect proposal is my most challenging task. I have noticed that if you have a service template it helps shape the document for me.
A good proposal will help you seal the deal, Gary. You’re right on that. (I’m assuming you’ve downloaded the Perfect Proposal Template.)
One of our clients also walks their prospects through a proposal template and asks, “What parts of this do you want in your proposal?” That way, the consulting firm finds out exactly how much detail to include or leave out. It’s a smart practice.
I’m glad you chimed in today, Gary!
Excellent checklist to create a great marketing piece for your consulting firm. Here are two additional tips for consultants to chew on:
1) Once you (or your consultants!) create the great piece, you’ll want to amplify it to reach those in your network who are most interested – whether via email newsletter, social media namely Twitter and LinkedIn, podcasts, video, the works.
2) And it’s never too soon to build and continue building your network.
Right on, Laurie. Imagine going through all that work to create a great marketing piece, then not taking the steps to distribute it broadly. Yikes!
Adding a, “How will we gain distribution and readers/listeners/viewers for our piece) is a terrific addition to the checklist. Well done.
Great article, as always.
To add pizazz to my own writing, I keep the passive voice to a minimum. Filtering out all “to be” verbs helps with this.
So instead of “this article was written by David” we get “David wrote this article.”
You can definitely improve your writing with active verbs, Sean! Verb choice, in general, separates great writing from mediocre pieces. Thanks for highlighting that!