In this episode of “The Know, Like & Trust Show”, host Britney Gardner discusses the importance of a content plan for service providers. She explains how content can help build client relationships, establish expertise, and fill the gap between one-on-one interactions. The episode guides listeners through creating a complete content marketing plan tailored to the needs of service providers.
Highlights in this episode:
- 00:02:02 Coaches and service providers have different needs. Content is important for a small client base. Marketing services is crucial for success. Relevant content helps competitors gain advantage.
- 00:03:57 Progressive content builds skills for future clients.
- 00:07:40 Join email list, share content, build trust.
- 00:12:58 “Content database, strategy and system needed.”
- 00:13:28 Streamline content strategy for service providers online.
Creating a Complete Content Plan for Service Providers
In the world of service providers, staying ahead is no longer just about offering the best services–you have to market your services just as well as provide them. It’s also about adding value to the client’s journey through engaging, informative, and relevant content. The process of organizing and planning all of this content is called Content Planning, and it’s a crucial part of any serious digital marketing strategy.
How and why you plan your content as an online service provider (someone who engages with clients online) will be different than if you were a local business or another kind of online business, like a course creator. Some concepts will be the same but others need to consider the unique needs of a service provider that many only want five-ten clients at any given time. This article will guide you through finding the content marketing plan that works for your business.
What Is An Online Service Provider?
First things first, let’s call out the zebra in the room… an online service provider is a business owner, typically a solopreneur or at least solo-ish, who engages with clients online. Some of these people are easy to categorize–a website designer, a virtual assistant (VA), or even a social media manager.
They’re often people who could perform there services in person, but choose to do business online. Think of a divorce therapist working online as a divorce coach, as an example. Most business coaches fall into this category, technically, but coaches and service providers often have different needs.
Planning Your Content Is Like Building a Coop
Recently my husband built a chicken coop at my dad’s house–and since this is the fourth chicken coop he’s built (long story) it’s definitely getting easier as he goes. He had a plan for purchasing supplies to avoid five Home Depot runs in a day, a general plan for layout, and even a plan for getting the main coop built quickly with the add-ons coming later.
As the chicks started outgrowing their brooder indoors and needing literal space to stretch their wings, they moved right on out into the new coop–even though the nesting boxes and run weren’t fully ready. They still wouldn’t need the nesting boxes for another two months, so the staged progression made sense.
We’re about to explore how a complete content marketing plan for service providers follows the same path.
Understanding the Importance of a Content Plan
The success of a service provider in the digital age hinges not only on providing high-quality services but also on effectively communicating with clients. Organizing that communication through a strategic content plan can make a significant difference to the bottom line.
When it comes to digital marketing, content plays a vital role. It is more than just words on a page or a post on social media. It has the power to:
- create a buzz around your brand
- captivate your audience
- and drive them to take action.
It is also a way to communicate with your audience without selling directly, thus nurturing relationships and building trust. This is key for those leaning into content as a way to build a warm pipeline of leads ready to hop in when they have an opening! A well-crafted content plan can help you achieve all of this and more.
The role of content in digital marketing
Imagine a scenario where a potential client stumbles upon your website. They are looking for information, answers to their questions, or a solution to their problem. Your content can be the guiding light that leads them through their journey, providing them with valuable insights and building credibility for your brand.
Moreover, content can take various forms and formats, catering to different preferences and consumption habits. It could be through blogs, audio or podcasts, infographics, video content, social media posts, and more. By diversifying your content strategy, you can reach a wider audience and engage with them on multiple platforms.
Benefits of a well-structured content plan
A well-structured content plan allows you to manage and maximize your online presence. It ensures consistency in your communication and gives clarity to your brand messaging. With a content plan in place, you can align your content creation efforts with your overall business goals, ensuring that every piece of content serves a purpose.
One of the key advantages of having a content plan is that it helps you avoid the stress of last-minute content creation (otherwise known as spray and pray posting or random acts of content!). By planning ahead, you can allocate time and resources effectively, ensuring that your content is well-researched, well-written, and well-optimized for search engines.
Additionally, a content plan enables you to set measurable objectives and track the performance of your content. By analyzing metrics such as website traffic, engagement rates, and conversion rates, you can gain valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t. This data-driven approach allows you to constantly refine your content strategy, optimize your resources, and improve your return on investment.
In conclusion, a well-structured content plan is essential for any service provider looking to thrive in the digital age. It not only helps you effectively communicate with your clients but also allows you to drive traffic, increase conversions, and build a strong brand reputation. So, take the time to develop a comprehensive content plan and watch your online presence flourish.
Online businesses have to embrace creating content as a regular part of building their authority and trustworthiness.
Setting Clear Content Goals
As a service provider myself, I know the power of an intentional content plan. Around the interwebs of private program Slack channels and Facebook groups filled with colleagues, you may here others say that a robust content strategy isn’t necessary for a service provider. I couldn’t disagree more and here’s why:
- There’s a limit to referrals, and you’ll eventually outlast your friend pool
- When you’ve moved beyond gaining clients by word of mouth, you need a ready pipeline of leads urgently desiring to work with you
Content for relationships versus content for traffic
When you’re in a wide net situation (like a course creator might need), your goal is to get as many eyes as possible on your content. This is going wide, rather than deep. In a typical funnel, 3% is a great conversion rate. So if 100 people see your sales page, 3 purchasing is a good expectation. If you want to sell your course to 25 people, you need more than 800 sets of (best client fit) eyes on that page.
Service providers that have a limited amount of clients at a time need to go deep, not wide. If you’ve only got three openings for Q4, you don’t want 25 people applying for those spots. The sales calls alone would become a job!
What does this mean for your content plan? You aren’t aiming for viral posts, but thoughtful, intentional content that brings your audience along a journey so they know, like, and trust you. You’re deepening the relationship with content as part of the process.
Your content’s ultimate goal
For each piece of content you create, you want to aim for these three hallmarks:
There is an intricate dance of communication at play, my friends. If you’ve ever dealt with kids, you know that listening means more than hearing–it means comprehending (understanding) and then acting on it.
Now, let’s apply this principle to your content, shall we? Think of your words as guides, leading your audience step by step. Each piece of content should be a roadmap, guiding your audience on a journey of understanding.
Applying the listen-comprehend-apply model to each piece of content you create will almost completely remove “random acts of content” from your practice.
The power of storytelling
Ah, the power of stories! Throughout history, tales have been our reliable companions, helping us navigate the complexities of life. From Aesop’s fables to Greek myths, stories have illuminated the path, even explaining the rumble of thunder!
Bridging the gap between where your audience stands now and where your offerings can take them is so much easier by including stories in your content! It’s like assisting them in reaching their ultimate destination.
So, let’s wrap this up with a neat bow, shall we? Every piece of content, every word, should embody the sequence of listen-comprehend-apply, guiding your audience through a journey of insight. By doing this and incorporating storytelling along the way, like the chicken coop story, you use your content to deepen relationships with your audience–and future clients.
The 3-3-4-4 Content Planning Guidelines
Much like the previous complete content marketing plans I’ve shared, I’m going to follow a listicle-style format for the rest of this article.
Over the years, I’ve introduced a lot of concepts that relate to building up the Know, Like & Trust factor in your business. And many of them are the three steps to this or the five steps to that.
These 3 or 4-step processes are not meant to be used in a vacuum but together, building upon each other. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re putting them all together.
The three M’s: make, measure, and multiply
My way of thinking about content is pretty simple. First, you make your content, then you see how good it’s doing, and finally, you do more of it.
Make: Content Creation
Think of marketing like a big experiment. Smart marketers make good guesses, especially at the start.
When you have a new client or something new to offer, even if you know your audience well, you’re still making guesses. Making content, and seeing if it resonates and how well it works, is the first thing to do.
You have to start somewhere, and starting with content is easy. Most of us are already making content in some way. How do you make it? We’ll cover that in just a bit.
Measure: Check Your Content’s Effectiveness
Once you’ve got content to test, it’s time to see how well it’s doing. No matter what kind of content it is—like emails, blog posts, videos, or social media stuff—there are two main things you need to look at.
The first thing is what I call “vanity” stuff—like how many likes or comments you get. These things show others how engaged people are, but they’re not the most important. Still, they can give you a hint. If not many people are engaging, you might need more visitors or a different topic.
I focus more on the second thing, which is lead-generating metrics. They lead to action. This means things people do after seeing your content. Like in an email, it’s when they click on a link you give them. On social media, it’s when they click your link or share your post. These actions show that your audience wants to do more with you.
Multiply: Do More of Your Content
When you know which content gets people doing stuff, you can do more of it. I have a complete guide to content repurposing right here on the site for a full breakdown, but I’ll briefly cover the highlights here.
The main idea is, when you find a topic people really like, you can do more with it in different ways. Sometimes you talk about the same thing in a new and interesting way. Other times, you share it on a different website or platform. I often suggest trying both. The trick is, when you use what you’ve already made in more ways, you work less, but your content keeps working for you.
So, how do we make all of this happen? That leads us to the next foundation of content marketing for service businesses.
Content planning must-haves
Content marketing leans heavily on content planning. That is, if you’re not systematizing your planning, you’ll probably fall down on content marketing as a whole. The three content-planning must-haves are:
- A content database so when it comes time to multiply, you save oodles of time because all words and related assets (videos, graphics, thumbnails) are in one place and organized well.
- A content system you follow for each main piece of content you create, so each of those pieces has all the assets you’ll need to promote it and earn that same-day traffic when you first post.
- The strategy your content is created from in the first place. This answers the where to post and what to post daily questions.
The content planning must-haves and three M’s have a lot of crossover. Together, they make up your content marketing foundation, weaving in and through each other to create a stronger platform.
Think of it like basket-weaving or wire mesh–the weave strengthens it.
Old, new, borrowed, and blue for chaos-free content planning
I lead a life, and I’m guessing you do too – my aim is for both of us to enjoy a well-balanced life that doesn’t revolve solely around our content and marketing efforts!
And that’s where the “old, new, borrowed, and blue” approach to content planning comes in. If you’re interested in a detailed and complimentary guide on how to implement this strategy in your business, you’re welcome to join the five-day email course. You can either follow along for the five days or binge it, Netflix style.
To sum it up succinctly, the concept involves regularly cycling through different types of content:
- New: fresh creations,
- Old: revisiting older content,
- Borrowed: incorporating ideas borrowed or sparked by others (infused with your own unique perspective), and
- Blue: introducing unexpected content that helps your audience connect with you on a personal level, deepening your relationship.
Remembering these four content categories is a helpful way to recognize that the constant creation of new material isn’t the only path. In reality, a well-rounded content plan combines generating new content with other content types, freeing up your time for other essential aspects of your business.
Chaos-free content planning depends on you having an ebb and flow of original and older or borrowed content.
State-of-mind content angles
My BE SEEN workshop walks you through this in far more depth, but the ‘S’ in BE SEEN stands for state-of-mind–as in, what’s the state of mind your potential client is in as they are walking through their problem? Or what state of mind are they in as they happen upon your content piece?
This is one of the easiest things to address in both long- and short-form content. Here are the four angles:
Goals and desires
Goals are the spoken aspirations, while desires often remain unspoken. In your service business, the first answer you receive when you ask a client what they want to accomplish is usually a goal. It’s true, but it’s not the real, deeper reason. Desires are often unspoken and sometimes not even realized.
In our chicken coop, the goal is for the coop to be finished by July 4th. The desire is a dust-free (no longer brooding chickens indoors) home and a longing for a clean house again.
Anxieties and hurdles
While not a fan of pain-point marketing, I do believe in calling out the symptoms of that pain–aka, anxieties. Some good ways to do this:
- Make your personal training appointment more effective by ____ (this both acknowledges training can be expensive and you’re making the most of it, while also acknowledging training is work)
- Make a wiser investment with ___ (again, you can acknowledge they’ve made poor investments prior without harping on it and starting your content in a positive way)
Hurdles are those potential obstacles that could stop your audience from working with you. Worries and fears are also hurdles, so use your content to address them! However, hurdles can also involve money constraints and time issues, which are unrelated to your offer (unless your offer explicitly pertains to money or time, of course!).
Once you’ve mastered incorporating these state-of-mind angles into your content, repurposing becomes so much easier. You know how to use the same content with a slightly different twist and save yourself a ton of time in the process. And you can address your best client in slightly different ways, so if one message doesn’t resonate you have another that will.
Online service providers have different content needs than most online businesses–but that doesn’t mean ignoring content all together is the right choice. Building a content plan to bridge a relationship rather than gain traffic is the primary difference, and that informs quite a bit of the content creation process.
Attention shouldn’t be easy, but content shouldn’t be hard, either. Look at the frameworks shared here and list out each time. Give yourself a quick rating on each one. You’ll find the holes, the high marks, and everything in between. If you need help on this self-audit, I have a handy tool for you!
For more ways to practice Uncommon Content, stay tuned for future articles!
Need help setting any (or all) of this up?
You need a content marketing specialist–and not one who bills themselves as a social media manager or a SaaS content writer. Those are incredibly important jobs–but they’re not the same as a content marketing specialist, especially for service providers who depend on relationship-heavy content.
Remember, we’re not aiming to be the next Boss Babe with viral, generic posts. We’re against commodity content that anyone can create.
Q: What is content marketing and how does it differ for online service businesses?
A: Content marketing is a strategic approach that involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a target audience. This guide is for established online service providers, discerning between general content marketing advice and that which is meant for their unique kind of business.
Q: How can I create a content marketing strategy?
A: To create a content marketing strategy, you need to define your goals, identify your target audience, research keywords and topics, create a content calendar, and measure your results to make improvements.
Q: What types of content should I create?
A: The types of content you can create include blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, case studies, ebooks, whitepapers, podcasts, webinars, and social media posts. Solo-ish online service providers don’t need to create all of this list, but choose what’s best for their unique business and audience.
Q: Which social media platforms should I use for content marketing?
A: The choice of social media platforms depends on your target audience (or best client, as we online service providers prefer to say). You should decide where you’re good at hanging out, find out where your audience spends their time, and focus your efforts on those platforms.
Q: How can I use social media as a marketing tool?
A: Social media can be used as a marketing tool by sharing your long-form content and gaining first-week traffic, engaging with your audience, collaborating with “competitors” and influencers, and monitoring social media conversations around your niche and thought leadership topics.
Q: Why do I need to create content?
A: Creating content is important because it helps you establish your expertise, build brand awareness, attract potential customers, engage with your audience, and drive traffic to your website. In an age with increasingly noisy content out there, setting your content apart is imperative to staying relevant.
Q: What is B2B content marketing?
A: B2B content marketing is a strategy that focuses on creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract and retain business customers. Most service businesses are either B2C or B2E (Business to Entrepreneur), and most content advice is meant for B2B.
Q: How can I use content marketing to market my services?
A: To use content marketing to market your services, you can create informative blog posts sharing your thought leadership, case studies showing real results, client testimonials, how-to guides, and videos that showcase your expertise and the value of your services.
Music by Michael De La Torre. Thanks, Mikey!