By Anthony O’Brien for Professional Planner, 26 February 2018

Agencies have different ideas about how to produce cut-through content. Some will tell you that the key is the quality of the writing or videos you’re dishing up. Others will tell you that if you don’t have your search engine optimisation and reach down pat, you’ll be behind the pack. But this advice addresses only the delivery of your content. You also need to make a decision about its purpose.

You must decide whether the content you are creating is to be used for thought-leadership or as sales.

Being a thought leader

The term ‘thought leader’ or ‘thought leadership’ is a beloved catchphrase of the marketing and communications fraternities. Regarding content, a thought leadership blog, article or video should focus on longer-term outcomes. A valuable thought leadership program is designed to engage your client in a way that makes them think and challenges their view of your organisation. It won’t be a hard sell, and the content should focus on what will engage and inform your client. The content won’t necessarily be about you, or what your business does.

For example, if you’re talking to Millennials, a blog about the costs of international travel, especially if you get in wrong, will more likely grab their attention than say content about estate planning. There will be a finance aspect to the travel story or video that ties your firm to the content, but it’s not a hard sell.

The point is, that thought leadership whether it’s a blog, article, video or podcast will be better received if it’s newsworthy and educational. It should also demonstrate to clients and prospective clients that you understand the topics and issues, which engage them and how they relate to the services your industry provides.

Content to drive immediate sales

On the other hand, sale driven content aims to directly stimulate a person consuming the content to buy a product or service from your business. Think here the 30-second spot used for television advertising for the last six decades. Sales content is often shorter, sharper, and more to the point. It may involve offering the reader a specific call to action, such as a free no obligation consultation about their financial health.

Given the content is a sales pitch for you and your services, the messaging will be more overt. It can be delivered in the same channels and media as a thought leadership piece, but it’s apparent that you’re selling financial advice services.

Is thought leadership better than sales content

Of course, there is no right or wrong answer. Thought leadership focuses on creating long-term engagement. You’re seeking to portray your business as knowledgeable and informed about the considerations that drive clients to create and protect wealth. Moreover, by association, this content sends a message that your firm can deliver excellent financial advice.

Sales content is focused solely on creating immediate business for your financial planning firm. It presents the client with access to content that will sell your services and how it will benefit them.

Ultimately, choosing a sale or thought leadership approach to your content hangs on the outcome you’re seeking to achieve. There’s a place in your content marketing for both forms of content; you just need a strategy to make them work for you.