Sharing several blog posts a week maximizes a blog’s value. But few companies can keep up with that pace. Here’s how Content Pros helped one financial services company take its blog to the next level.
What’s the ideal frequency of blog posts? About four per week, according to John Rampton at Forbes.
For company staff who are already swamped with marketing strategy, product design, and managerial duties, that’s quite a proposition.
You might as well tell them, Just suck it up and stay four hours late every day. Actually, why even go home? If you sleep at your desk, there’s no need to waste time commuting!
But the potential rewards of frequent posting are tantalizing to a growing company. Rampton shares the following quick facts:
- Sharing 20 posts each month on LinkedIn (one per business day) will reach 60% of your audience.
- Publishing more than 16 blog posts each month gives B2C companies 4.5 times the traffic of companies that make 4 or fewer posts (while B2B companies get 3.5 times the traffic).
- A huge spike in traffic occurs after a company hits publish on its 401st post, doubling its previous numbers of visitors.
By posting four entries a week for six and a half months, a company will create over 401 total posts, notes Rampton. At that point, you’ll be able to maximize the value of your blog, he adds.
Dwindling Posts = Diminishing Leads
Like many companies, Brighton Jones was striving to produce its content in-house when it launched its blog and newsletter. Based in Seattle, Brighton Jones provides comprehensive financial planning services, from investment advice to tax planning. It aimed to produce a steady stream of articles on a wide range of financial topics in order to build a relationship with current and prospective customers.
Knowing the value of a frequent posting schedule, they aimed to post two to three times per week. But with staff immersed in other responsibilities, like meeting with clients, planning events, and implementing a website relaunch, that just wasn’t going to happen.
The lead advisors in the firm typically work with clients throughout the day, so they don’t have much spare time for writing, says Michael Stubel, Brighton Jones’ Content Marketing Manager. Thus, a lot of that burden fell on him, though he was also swamped with other duties. The lead advisors would generate bullet points or key takeaways they wanted a post to convey, he’d write a draft, and then they’d edit it. That process was proving to be pretty cumbersome, and we wanted to increase the volume of the posts we were publishing as well, he asserts.
As someone who wears many hats and might be doing four or five different things during the day, I don’t always have time to sit down and knock out a 500 or 1,000-word post in one day, says Michael.
We had sort of let our newsletter fall dormant, and we weren’t really communicating with clients on a consistent basis, he adds.
As this infographic shows, Brighton Jones’ situation was far from unique.
They also wanted more engaging, actionable content articles with a more narrative feel. Their clients are busy people who don’t want to spend time on a post that doesn’t share something valuable in an accessible way, Michael says.
Typical clients or prospects are in their mid-40s and up; most are in their mid-40s to early 60s. A sizeable number are just entering retirement or have retired fairly recently, meaning they’re figuring out how to navigate Social Security or Medicare. A high percentage are company leaders or business owners; many are parents as well. They’re movers and shakers who don’t have a lot of time to sift through content that doesn’t spell out exactly what they need to know in a clear and engaging way.
Having busy staff churn out posts in their spare time didn’t make for a compelling narrative style. In Michael’s words, it was too stilted and buttoned up. Even though he has a background in writing and digital marketing, his writing style didn’t lend itself to B2C posts, he says. When I was writing pieces and collaborating with our in-house folks, the voice and the tone was a little too technical, he says.
Working with one local freelancer didn’t fit the bill either. Freelancers often have trouble working with tight turnaround times, says Michael; they frequently have too much on their plate to provide the volume of posts that Brighton Jones needed. It can be difficult to reach them at any one time and produce a high volume of posts in a short period of time, he emphasizes.
Enter Content Pros. For Brighton Jones, partnering with them proved the perfect solution.
Launching the Customer Journey with Content Pros
Brighton Jones began working with Content Pros about nine months ago, enlisting their help in writing blog posts that usually range from 750 to 1,500 words. Topics in the finance niche span the full gamut of financial services, from college funding to retirement spending. They discuss issues like navigating Social Security and Medicare, setting up 529 plans for college spending, and managing 401Ks.
Michael and his team were quickly impressed by the writers’ ability to write in a conversational style, creating exactly the kind of narrative piece they’d envisioned. Over time, the writers honed that ability even more, tackling complex subjects in an engaging way. We’re hitting more of a groove in terms of the narrative style, he affirms.
The Content Pros team has also generated a lot of article ideas lately, bringing fresh perspectives, which Michael appreciates.
Plus, he says, the articles include actionable steps, leaving the readers with clear takeaways. They’re very tactical, he says. The posts are definitely geared toward practical things that they can do, or things that they should know, and the posts usually come with some sort of call to action, like ‘demo this retirement guide’ or ‘reach out to one of our advisors about questions,’ he explains.
A brief sampling of recent posts includes the following topics, which provide actionable advice that helps readers make decisions:
- How to Create a Sustainable Retirement Budget
- Tips on How to Combine Finances after Marriage
- How Will Fed Interest Rate Changes Impact Me?
- Is a Personal CFO Right for You?
- What to Expect When You’re Expecting Returns (Parts I and II)
Further, because the articles answer many of the questions on their minds, readers are more ready to purchase the firm’s integrated financial planning services. Coming to the website helps prime them to become clients.
To evaluate their success, Brighton Jones reviews Google analytics, including total and unique page views, time on page, bounce rate, and whether readers come to posts directly via the home page, through social media, or via the monthly newsletter.
With the increased volume of posts, we’ve definitely seen more clicks to the site, more visits, more engagement, he says. Readers often come in as marketing captured or marketing engaged leads they may have already begun interacting with the company’s content and are seeking more of it.
How soon did Brighton Jones start seeing these results? Within the first two months or so after increasing the volume of their content, according to Michael.
As we’ve been posting more, we’ve definitely seen an uptick in folks who work their way through that funnel and go down the line toward becoming a customer, he emphasizes.
Tactical Use of Content
Brighton Jones leverages the following tools to get its content in front of new leads’ eyes. These tools also help the firm maintain a relationship with current clients.
A drip campaign involves sending leads a series of emails with useful information or offers over a period of time, as John Lincoln explains on Inc. Drip campaigns help companies build relationships with leads by convincing the leads of their expertise on a particular topic. Such a campaign could span a series of five emails, beginning with a welcome note, then sharing a freebie, a testimonial, a personal story, and finally a hard close, says Lincoln.
A drip campaign can demonstrate a company’s breadth of expertise in a certain area. That’s why Brighten Jones frequently employs them to build relationships with clients, as they’ve done with their drip campaign on managing a 529 plan for college funding.
Their series of blog posts on 529 college savings plans now totals 4 posts, says Michael. That allowed them to package it as a drip campaign to target people in their database who they know have teenage children, says Michael.
Drip campaigns on specific topics and areas are really helpful, he adds. They allow for hyper-targeting of clients in specific niches, giving them a well-rounded look at why the company is best poised to serve their needs.
Similarly, after reading one post on any given topic, readers see a list of related posts, encouraging them to stay engaged.
Gated content is a special offer that readers can get by entering their contact info into a short form. This content can include white papers, checklists, or guides, and is attached to a blog post, which typically serves as the reader’s gateway to the site. The gated content can be an element of a drip campaign, or part of any newsletter or stand-alone blog post. Some companies like Brighton Jones often create their own gated content, while others hire Content Pros to create long-form pieces like ebooks and case studies for them.
The financial experts at Brighton Jones often write a white paper on a topic, and Content Pros produces a blog post that gets readers engaged, says Michael. If readers want to take a deeper dive into the subject, they can access that gated content. For instance, they paired a blog post on recent changes in Social Security with a whitepaper that provided a more in-depth look at the topic.
The director of an in-house investment committee is a prolific writer who produces market-focused pieces, says Michael. For example, he’s written on how changes in the interest rate might affect the bond market. Staff with that kind of background often share their insights in gated content, while a blog post written by Content Pros serves as the initial lure that gives readers an easily digestible overview of the topic.
Shorter pieces like checklists also make great gated content as they help readers apply the ideas they just learned. For example, a blog post on setting up a retirement budget offered readers an attached spreadsheet that served as a template for creating their own budget.
Brighton Jones describes its newsletter as a one-stop shop for content, upcoming events, and things they’ve done in the community recently. It’s a major distribution channel for their blog posts, helping them build relationships with engaged leads while strengthening relationships with clients.
Once we increased the volume of the posts, we pushed out the newsletter on a regular basis, says Michael. They include all of their posts in the newsletter, as well as gated content.
LinkedIn is the primary social channel that Brighton Jones posts on, since many clients and prospective clients use this platform on a regular basis. They also use Facebook and Twitter to share content.
Brighton Jones uses Marketo’s software for email distribution as well as lead management and scoring. The software recognizes whether an email address belongs to a current or potential client, says Michael. It will send clients directly to the content, while it will prompt prospective clients to fill out a short form in order to access the content.
As leads interact with their content, the software tracks and scores them. It analyzes whether they click on a blog post, read multiple posts, spend a specific amount of time on the site, download gated content, or return to the site a certain number of times.
This criteria helps them determine when a marketing captured lead has become a marketing engaged lead, prompting the marketing team to hand over the lead to the business development team.
Opportunities for improvement never end, Michael emphasizes. Brighton Jones is striving to understand their client base better and better, learning about their hobbies and passions, so they can understand how to serve them better. In Content Pros, they’ve found a reliable partner that is supporting them on that journey.