Over the past three years or so, it has become increasingly clear to most entrepreneurs that developing a personal thought leadership profile is probably a good idea. Showing off your expertise by creating an efficient content engine can help you generate the right leads, connect you with high profile partners, and / or open you up to greater opportunities, such as book deals or paid speaking engagements -not to mention that these days, many investors want to see significant website traction before they sign on the dotted line.
So yeah, there are many beneficial reasons to share your thoughts with the masses -no question. But it's not as easy as it sounds. Marketing pros are seeing entrepreneurs make the same mistakes over and over again with regard to their content; in some cases, its costing them a lot of wasted time creating useless content and in other cases, they're paying someone else to write good content that is used in entirely the wrong way. It all really boils down to these three things:
Businesses are filling their blogs with self-congratulatory content. (yawn!)
Content sounds way too salesy and makes the reader uncomfortable.
CEOs are choosing to contribute to the wrong platforms, which will not drive business.
The internet is overflowing with content, but here's the thing: today's audiences are smart and know when they're reading fluffy, ulterior motives. Or as Thought Leadership expert, Danielle Sabrina puts it: "Thought leadership marketing is not just about selling your product or service. It's also not about telling the world your company is the best. It's about being a resource."
Danielle built an entire business around telling business leaders what's up when it comes to thought leadership. One of the major issues her team addresses is integrating their clients'expertise seamlessly into conversations that are already taking place. "Strategically marketing your thought leadership assets open lines of communication and opportunity to introduce your products and services. The idea is not to interrupt the conversation, but become part of it."
Yes, through social listening, thought leaders can target their audience through conversations and insert themselves into the mix. This single piece of advice of Danielle's can eliminate those three mistakes I mentioned earlier (provided you don't hijack the conversation and immediately start hocking your wares!).
If you're thinking about utilizing thought leadership marketing for yourself, here are Danielle's three steps:
Define a thought leadership strategy that aligns with your growth strategy.
Write down three topics your organization or you as a leader are passionate about. Take those topics and expand your thought process beyond talking about your organization's products or services: demonstrate your expertise on leadership, management, communication, etc.
Remember: the goal is to be the best resource possible on your particular area of expertise, so you can start new relationships and enhance existing ones by consistently providing valuable insights and resources to your customers. Stay focused on selling ideas: the important thing is to increase your brand's value, not to sell your product or service.
Publish thought leadership assets across various distribution channels.
Turn your organization's unique intellectual property, passions, and leadership philosophy into consumable digital content, like blogs, videos, or ebooks --or better yet, all of the above. Publishing your content on multiple channels gives you the opportunity to reach potential clients who prefer different user experiences. For example, one potential client may prefer to consume their content on an audio platform such as a podcast or mp3 download, whereas another may prefer to read articles published on a company's blog.
Whichever platform you choose, think of how your organization can repurpose the original piece of content and extend it to different types of media. For example, with minimal extra effort, a video can be transcribed into an article or blog post, and the audio can be stripped for a podcast.
Engage customers by being a resource of information with education, insights, ideas, and resources.
Utilize digital marketing strategies to collect leads, build a tribe for your ideal clients, and monetize your organization's intellectual property. The key point here is to market your thought leadership itself, rather than your actual products: if you successfully prove yourself to be a valuable resource to your customers, they will automatically be more interested in your products and services. This will generate top-line growth by creating an audience of potential clients who are ready to buy from you.
Simply showcasing your products isn't good enough anymore; you have to be of genuine value to your audience--that's the crux of thought leadership marketing. In today's modern world, where customers are increasingly wary of salesy and promotional content, it's crucial that you present yourself as a resource to your client base without trying to sell them something--showing, not telling, that your ideas are the best in your field. When thought leadership marketing is done correctly, you provide genuine value to your potential customers, which earns their trust--and, in turn, earns you their business.