Every company these days wants to position itself as a so-called thought leader. We are all exhorted to write blog posts and create white papers and conduct industry research in a quest to get ourselves recognized as being experts in our fields relative to our competitors. The problem, of course, is this: How do you get people to pay attention to all of the material you are creating and pushing out into the marketplace? How do you make sure that, in a world drowning in white papers, yours finds the right audience?

At Social Media Camp, an event organized by Inc.com blogger Howard Greenstein at the Hotel Roger Smith in New York City yesterday, I heard an interesting tip. 

A company was looking for ways to engage more workers in social media in order to get its message into the marketplace. So the entrepreneur asked groups of employees from different departments to come together to brainstorm. One employee from accounting mentioned that the company sent out dozens of invoices each week, and that most of the page was blank. Why not use the blank space to engage customers? So the company began publishing in that space links to its white papers and blog posts from members of the company's senior management.

And guess what? The click-through rate for the links on the invoices hit 20 percent. The guy in charge of direct marketing for the company said he had never seen such a response rate. The campaign succeeded in part because it was targeted at the company's existing customers, for whom the material was highly relevant.

It also succeeded because it turned a one-way conversation ("balance due") into something more useful and meaningful for the customer.

At a time when so many businesses are striving to stand out from the crowd, a tip such as this is a good reminder that a company has many opportunities to engage clients. Being smart about seizing these opportunities is what separates the typical business from the exceptional business.