I logged into my LinkedIn account last night and immediately rolled my eyes. My news feed was littered with the same update being shared over and over by my connections in the financial arena. “Act Now on Estate Planning Changes” was the titled status update and linked to an article provided to the advisor by a product sponsor. Rinse, wash, repeat. It was the same update four to five times in a row in a one-hour time frame. This is nothing new. In fact, with RIAs gravitating more to social-media marketing, it’s setting up what I refer to as “the content bubble.” See: 6 ways that RIAs can hone their expertise in social media by acting more like journalists.

As a communications executive with clients in wealth management, I keep seeing financial advisors, big and small, making use of the same stale marketing content to promote their practices, and it drives me crazy. Advisors looking to attract new business need to have effective marketing strategies in place and part of that strategy needs to be generating their own content. See: Advisor Tested: How LinkedIn can truly build your business and not just feed your ego.

What’s “content?” Content marketing is the practice of creating and sharing valuable and relevant information to attract and engage a specific target audience in order to increase sales. Essentially, you are communicating with potential customers without actually selling them. Content is more than just words — videos, charts with audio, photos with captions, animations, etc., are all great tools.

Unmire from the mediocre

If you’re an advisor asking yourself why your business is stagnant and you have no new leads, take a look at what type of message is being conveyed via your marketing efforts. Is it even your message? Or is it some template white paper that you post on your website in the hopes that someone finds it relevant enough to call you to do business? Potential clients notice that you’re sharing the same boring article about the Dow reaching new highs. People see that you haven’t tweeted since Halloween. They see that your website looks about the same as the brochure you gave them two years ago. See: How RIAs can maximize their web marketing with nary a 'friend-ing’ or tweet.

Sharing other people’s content is lazy and impersonal, and mass-marketed content has no real value when it comes to your SEO (search engine optimization) marketing campaigns. Ultimately, a lack of creativity in this area will hurt your business because you aren’t increasing your chances of being found on the web. Smart consumers are looking for you online, and fresh content will help them find you. See: How Google Love can put an RIA onto an equal marketing footing with BlackRock.

Creating engaging, sharable content goes a long way towards marketing your business and, much like any bubble, being ahead of the curve and recognizing an increasing trend is a key element of success.

Ready-for-primetime content

Bill Gross, founder and co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co. LLC, writes a monthly column on its website that covers a wide range of topics. People absolutely love his column; they know they can count on it every month and they share it across their social channels. Mr. Gross grabs viewers with provocative headlines, such as “Money for Nothin’ Writing Checks for Free.” But he backs up catchy headlines by offering thoughts designed to connect dots that news sources are not designed to.

In this column Gross is explaining what he believes Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben S. Bernanke meant when he made a cryptic-to-most comment about how the United States finances its debt for “free.” Gross writes: “What Governor Bernanke may have been referring to with his “essentially free” comment was the fact that the Fed and other central banks such as the Bank of England actually rebate the interest they earn on the Treasuries and Gilts that they buy. They give the interest back to the government, and in so doing, the Treasury issues debt for free.”

Gross’ Pimco twitter account (@PIMCO) has well over 100,000 followers.You don’t get there by re-tweeting The Wall Street Journal 10 times a day.

Waterfront Financial Group in Golden Valley, Minn., regularly posts short videos on the home page of its website in which managing partner John Geenen gives his thoughts on topics related to retirement planning. He does so in a concise and practical manner, addressing topics he knows are of issue to clients and prospects, mixing in a bit of humor. Mr. Geenen is a nationally recognized speaker, and his unique marketing approach has generated a great deal of business for his firm. In his latest video, the scene opens with him under a sink with a wrench — an attention getter.

Lynn Ballou, managing partner of Ballou Plum Wealth Advisors LLC in Lafayette, Calif., uses her blog, It Really IS All About You! as an outlet to feature her clients’ charitable endeavors while also providing insight on financial planning and wealth management. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, Forbes, Time, USA Today, and Reuters, among others, and much of this material originated on her blog.

Standing out

To make it in today’s business world, financial advisors need to place a greater importance on content as part of their overall marketing and communications strategy. Your goal should be to market yourself, enhance your credibility, and show your expertise in the field. Businesses are rising and falling faster than ever before, which means you need to emphasize innovation and differentiation to carve out your spot in the marketplace. All too often, we see advisors fall into a herd mentality where, if they see their peers marketing in a certain way, they assume it will work for them as well. Maybe it will, but the chances are small. Demographics, region, practice type, expertise, educational background: the list of variable factors is enormous. See: How exactly RIAs can leverage the new transparency as a marketing tool.

Positioning yourself effectively in the digital world is a major part of the equation, and content creation is a cost-effective way to market your services, build your business, and assist in developing your brand.

Content marketing provides you with a unique platform to share your voice and differentiate your services from your competitors’, while also providing a big boost in SEO. The overwhelming majority of Internet users say they use the web for product research today, so increasing your SEO is a must.

Contrarian stance

There are many ways to create content and share your voice, and believe me, you don’t need to be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg to be effective. Utilize your social-media platforms as a way to give your take on relevant current events or industry trends. These pages are likely your key asset in distributing content to your target markets. You can insert your own comments on related content that you’ve found on other blog posts or social media sites. Start a blog or e-mail newsletter that gives potential clients some basic financial advice and offers your services. Introduce yourself through a short, creative video or podcast and share that on your social-media sites.

[For example, below the aforementioned status updates was an update from an RIA who decided to discuss a contrarian opinion to a current event and linked to a piece of content on their company website that explained more clearly a controversial topic regarding a specific investment approach. Curious to read more, I clicked on the link and read the article. That’s the kind of thing we’re talking about here, people. ]??

Be inspirational. Be edgy. Have a voice. Engage your followers. Track your results. And if you don’t want to do this yourself, hire someone or outsource this function so you can focus on what you do best — advising clients. See: Top marketing trends for 2011, and checklists for handling each.

Herding traffic

You’ll also want to take a look at your website and make sure that appropriate calls to action are in place. Does your home page provide links to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts? Can people easily sign up for your blog or newsletter? Is there any video content or a link to a YouTube channel? You need to use your website as a way to drive traffic to your other platforms and sources of content.

The key is to personalize what you put out there and be engaging. Your social-media channels will be most effective when you blaze your own path and share your voice. Good content is something you create yourself, so move away from the herd and do your own thing. Today’s consumers and investors want online relationships with both individuals and businesses, and you can provide them with both. You just have to make it a priority and jump in. Once you get comfortable sharing your content regularly and often, you will definitely start to see better results.

Kevin Dinino is president of KCD PR, a boutique public relations and marketing communications firm providing consultative support to clients in the financial and professional services industry since 2009. For more information on KCD PR, please contact kevin@kcdpr.com or 619-955-7759.