As we have discussed once and again, a thought leadership strategy is key for financial services companies and professionals to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Here we just want to share the simple steps to follow to create and maintain a strategy without losing yourself in the process.

Step 1: What are your business goals and objectives?

The first step is to carefully consider the business outcomes you are setting out to achieve. What does success look like, and does everyone agree on that vision of success? Are you looking to gain exposure, create leads or educate your prospect on your offering? Be clear on what your objective is before embarking in any content development or channel creation.

Step 2: Competitive audit

Create a list of your competitors and do some detective work. Where do they publish content? What kinds of content do they prefer? Look at their publishing frequency and what topics they cover. See if they focus on long-form content with lots of value. Know what you’re up against but also use it to inspire your content, either by imitation or by differentiation.

Step 3: Content audit

Take a complete inventory of the content assets you currently own. Include details for each piece of content including what type of media and its intended marketing channel and audience persona. Evaluate what content is performing, what needs to be updated, and what can be put on the back burner. If you haven’t done any content marketing, review the content you have developed for marketing purposes, which should inspire some of your content verticals that you will develop later.

Step 4: Customer Personas and Content Verticals

Develop a complete persona of each type of existing or potential customer you want to reach and their main pain points. What are their desires, fears, and interests? What keeps them up at night?

Then, based on each persona, develop a content strategy on what will be discussed for them. Think of the main questions they have when thinking about the problem and define the content vertical. For example, if one of your targets is investors planning for their succession, the content vertical for that target will be practical tips and discussions on wills, succession strategies, investment planning, etc.

Step 5: Brand Voice

Your brand voice is your communication style. Define how you want to communicate. Will you be serious and research oriented? Will you be more informal and establish a closer connection with the customer?

Step 6: Content distribution plan

Determine how you will get your content in front of your intended audience. Find out where they are already discovering content—for example, social media, email, video sharing sites—and what type of content they prefer. Research which channels are the best fit, and constantly update and refine your approach. Then, think of your pieces of content as they feed into the distribution channel, and adapt to each of the channels depending on their style.

Step 7: Measurement

How will you measure success? What are your most important KPIs, and what are the smaller KPIs that ladder up to helping you achieve the objectives you set from the beginning?

Step 8: Toolbox

What tools will you use to create content? For example, does your company already use a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress? Figure out if you will use your own writing staff or utilize vendors.  You’ll also need good analytics software to track and measure