'You're committing career suicide...' 

... An assertion that I've heard in response to my career choices more than once in the last 20 years. 

But you know what? Looking back at what I've learned and now know, I wish I'd done it more often and been even more adventurous.

The last time I heard this statement (from someone whose views genuinely matter to me), was just over a year ago, shortly before I joined the business that I currently head up: a newly created, increasingly tech-based brand in the legal sector.

Now, I'm not an expert marketer, or a technology expert. So why am I writing about content marketing and sales? Or indeed passing on tips for how to do it well?  

It's really quite simple. It's because today, roughly 12 months on from writing the business plan and getting investment approval for our business, it's already clear that our decision to include content marketing in our strategy has paid off.

In fact, the results have been better than we could have imagined.

I'd encourage anyone considering embarking on this activity and investing in setting it up to go for it. Content marketing is far more effective and successful than any of the traditional methods of marketing and advertising that we've encountered. And it makes sales networking and conversations substantially easier.

In the 5 months that we've been engaging in digital content marketing, (and really that's only been 3 months of properly focused activity, by only a handful of our experts so far), our stats already show that we are 119 times more active and prominent than the industry average for content production and reach amongst the top 200 UK law firms in 2015. 

For consumer brands, our stats would still not look that impressive. But for our sector, it means that without paying for it, we're already becoming a heck of a lot more discoverable to our target audience than a considerable number of our rivals. And even if you were inclined to nit-pick and to point out that the top 200 of a group that numbers 10,000+ firms probably don't need to market as hard as the rest of us, you can't avoid the fact we're getting attention, much of it belonging to our target audience.  

What does that' mean in terms of return on investment (ROI)?

To monetise that at such an early stage isn't a precise science. And since we have a multi-channel and multi-stranded marketing approach, we measure our overall success at content marketing by blending a host of different metrics and measurements.

However, taking our least successful content marketing channel, LinkedIn, and using a simple algorithm that draws on our number of posts, number of content shares, average connections of those sharing it and compare that with the standard costs of paid advertising (which we don't do) on this channel, our content marketing can be expected to have an ROI value of over £60,000 per year. 

Just for this channel. 

Which is not our main or most content active digital interface with our target audience. 

And we've currently only deployed a very limited number of our willing experts.

Now £60k might sound like a flash in the pan if you're a big business handling weighty marketing budgets. To a business like us, that's incredible value. Not only have we not spent that amount, but we've gained a lot more traction, brand awareness and leads than if we'd advertised by more traditional methods, including digital advertising campaigns. (And we know this because we trialled the alternatives and compared our stats during the same period.)

So what has this content marketing activity and ROI really generated? 

In short; sales; exciting collaborations and partnerships with leading and innovative brands we didn't dream of appealing to or being considered a solution for; and a huge injection of brand awareness that's pole-vaulted us from behind the start line to quite some distance beyond it, (though there's still a tough race course ahead and we have ambitious growth targets).

What makes content most likely to result in these kinds of ROI? 

The linked article below says it all in its final tips section especially. It's worth a read (including for the useful discussion of measurement and tracking technology to help assess content marketing success and granular level). 

What it boils down to is 4 key elements:

1. Content that your audience (not you) considers consistently relevant and engaging. And they keep coming back to it. Keeping you front of mind and well positioned for when they want what you have to offer.

2. It feels personal and conversational - like a coffee shop conversation not a generic pronouncement; especially not one that leaves the reader asking 'so what?' Write as if you're writing or speaking only to one person and ensure that what you say makes it worthwhile for them to spend the time paying attention to you. Don't write for the hell of it. You'll undermine yourself and waste everyone's time, including your own.

3. It's authentic and credible, trusted. In short, it marks you out as someone with the right expertise.

4. It is SEO-friendly, making you more easily discoverable and prominent whenever your target audience or their influencers go searching for someone who does what you do.

Oh, and a final tip (one that I hesitate to share, given how successful and brand differentiating it has already proven for us): team up with a user-friendly and surprisingly cost-effective blogging technology provider, like @Passle. Created by serially successfully entrepreneurs for startups as well as established businesses, you won't find better. Anyone who can rapidly convert bankers, lawyers and conservative CEO's into successful, committed journalists, ranks right up there with miracle workers in my view. It's certainly a partnership that has taken our brand from strength to strength.

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