Content from your subject-matter experts should educate readers on topics that matter to them. For example:
- A financial planner informing clients about changes to the tax code
- A valuation expert sharing common reporting mistakes
- An asset manager commenting on current market dynamics
In these and limitless other topics, your main purpose must be to educate—not to deliver a sales pitch. Otherwise, you sacrifice your ability to build trust and credibility and strengthen relationships.
But with some deftness, you can—and often should—support your key sales messages within your educational content. Doing so breaks no implicit contract with your readers. It may even serve their interests by helping them better understand your role as an expert and how you can serve them.
Here are three ways to avoid veering toward an overly salesy tone in your communications.
- Speak to your process, not your capabilities. The great thing about process is that talking about it is educational in and of itself. If you are educating a reader about a complex topic, you may be able to use your own process to explain it. For example, say you’re writing about valuing illiquid securities. Don’t announce your capabilities—they are assumed; you are, after all, writing the article. But do look for opportunities along these lines: “For example, in our work with clients, we would approach the valuation of the security by….”
- Speak to news, industry trends and third-party data. Find ways to put your article in a broader context beyond how you help clients. Let third-party data, if available, speak to the importance of your topic. That lets you avoid banging the drum in what might be a purely self-serving way. Discuss industry trends and current news to demonstrate your topic’s relevance, further supporting an educational tone.
- Structure with care. The end of your article is usually an easy place to weave in a few comments that more directly speak to how your work ties in with the topic you’re writing about. You may be able to frame those comments in terms of “what’s next”—as in, you’ve set up a problem many readers face, and now here are some options for how to solve it. Other structuring ideas:
- Find ways to empathize with your readers early on. Lay out a common problem, construct a hypothetical story, tell an anecdote or otherwise make clear why you’re writing on this topic at this time. In these ways, ally yourself with your reader.
- Walk your reader through your article with sub-headings. Be friendly to skimmers. Look for ways to frame your sections—and therefore subheadings—from the reader’s perspective.
- Consider applying a formal structure that makes and delivers on a promise. For example: this blog post. Sure, its “three ways” structure is rather trite. But if the reader knows what to expect and then receives what’s expected, the reader is likely to be more at ease. When the reader is at ease, you can more easily wrap in a few key sales messages.
High-quality educational content is good for clients. It can solve problems. It can raise the level of interaction among well-meaning and talented people. For any of that to happen—for clients to take the time to read it and for a firm to incur the time and expense to create it—content must both deliver and create value.
So, don’t break the implicit contract readers make with you when they choose to spend a few precious minutes reading your material. But do find ways to allude to how you can help them.
P.S. See how I ended this post with a few lines pointed toward The Lowe Group’s content services?