Thought Leadership Studio Blog Posts:
Effective Content Marketing Requires Thought Leadership
Thought Leadership teaches your marketplace to be smarter customers who get more value out of what you sell. Strategic Thought Leadership can also position your business as the only way to get important, distinctive advantages.
Content StrategyIt should go without saying that a content marketing campaign needs a strategy. Otherwise, we might all be mindlessly churning out huge, smoldering piles of words and images blocking sunlight at great expense in the futile hope something will stick.
Alas, my friend, all those steaming piles that maybe just came to mind aren't an illusion - it seems many businesses make content with no strategy. In 2018, a study by Marketing Profs found 63% of content marketers were navigating in the dark by having no documented content strategy. Content without strategy is like music without rhythm. It's incoherent. That can give web using folks (nearly everyone by now?) the impression the organization is incoherent. So, yes, you need a strategy.
And, of course, it isn't about having just any ol' strategy.
It's about the right strategy.
Crunch on the salty popcorn the vendor is hawking from the aisle and allow me to open the curtains to the blare of trumpets and rumbling of timpani drums shaking the theater seats.. A bright spotlight from above throws off the darkness on center stage, bringing into bold relief the emerging shape - carved in huge stone letters - of what I consider to be the right strategy: Strategic Thought Leadership. Or, since what it can conjure takes so many myriad forms, I'd say it is the best way to build a content marketing strategy.
Stay with me awhile on this and you might think so too.
The opportunity of content marketing on the internet can give you distinctive advantage over your competitors... if you use it to truly separate your position from the herd. There's no point in creating more "copycat" content. Speaking of herds, copycat content just tries to create a cat herd. And we know about herding cats.
Instead of (copy)cat herding, if you want to be heard, your content strategy should be based on creating the conditions for clear market leadership. Effectively practicing Strategic Thought Leadership means being a leader from your prospect and customers' point of view. If you are leading their thinking, then market leadership in terms like percentage of sales of the market segment is a natural side effect.
One of the biggest challenges in business is how to take full advantage of the market leadership opportunities opened up by the internet. At its best, the web is a window to a meeting of minds. It's about harvesting the hidden potential within the best minds in your business to bring the advantages of your unique thinking to prospects. The game is to codify your distinctive view and talking points then package them into a Thought Leadership Position, well formed in media, that is magnetic and sticky.
A strong Thought Leadership position, part of a robust, strategic Thought Leadership Model, attracts customers by helping them make better informed decisions about purchasing what you offer as well as extracting more value out of whatever it is you sell.
So, it isn't about overloading them with more of the same content they get everywhere else, it's about crafting a distinctively empowering message that resonates with what is important to them. That is what is needed to cut through the clutter and be embraced by prospects: a true Thought Leadership Position.
Your Content Should Match the Stages of Your Prospects' Media Engagement
According to one study, 81% of purchasers research on the internet before making a buying decision. A study by MGD Advertising found 70% of internet users want to learn about products through content versus traditional advertisements.
That means your prospects aren't searching on the internet in the same way they are buying in your store or hiring services from your office. You may not see it, because it happens before they get on your radar, but they are much more typically in "research" mode online. That changes only once they feel they know enough to make an informed purchase.
Once they have learned enough to have confidence making a smart choice, they switch out of research mode. Instead of pulling for learning, they are now pulling for a purchase. Many businesspeople see marketing's function as only to harvest this purchase pull and make sales. But, by that point, their learning pull may have pointed them to a competitor's product or service... because that competitor invested in the empowering, informative content that satisfied their research needs... and, likely, in a way that cast their offering in the best light.
Isn't it smarter for you to be the one who invests in market empowerment and harvests those sales?
An effective content strategy feeds this "learning pull" separately and differently from "purchase pull" by knowing a fish is not caught in the ocean by the same method it is ordered in the restaurant. It has changed its state (unless locally caught) and different strategies are needed. It's the same for your prospects.
Trying to catch the attention of prospects swimming by in research mode with purchase-mode content or ads is like ordering from a menu on a fishing boat. Imagine you are out on the Gulf Stream, steadying against the boat rocking with the swells of the sea and watching the hazy sunset. You smell the invigorating salt in the air and feel the brisk, cool wind on your skin. You hear the steady, rhythmic slaps of the calm, serene waves against the boat. You pull out a menu and tell the sea "I'd like the seared tuna with mango chutney, please." No response. More so than any rude waiter, more so even than honey badger, the sea don't care.
Conversely, putting a long form thought leadership content piece in front of someone who has already reached the confidence tipping point and is ready to purchase now is like ordering the savory-smelling seared flounder in a bustling French café by casting a large net over the dish .... maybe snaring some kitchen staff along with it.
Research mode content simply isn't needed by someone who has already done their research and has confidence in making a smart purchase. (There are exceptions when you can sway someone and change their direction, but that is easier to do further upstream, before they solidify their buying criteria.)
So, have tactics for BOTH when they are swimming (in research mode) as well as in the kitchen (in purchase mode) and get more fish. Thought leadership content should have purchase options nearby that are tastefully subtle, yet easy to sea. (I know you sea what I did there and it's about the analogy.) Sometimes you can have enough impact that you move a prospect from learning mode to purchase mode immediately. It's like catching a fish on a hook while sitting on a dock adjacent to an outdoor seafood diner and yanking the reel back so the fish lands in a fryer. Five minutes later, it is served to you with a side of hush puppies.
For a vegan version of the preceding paragraphs using harvesting wheat then baking bread as the metaphor, click here
The typical "top down" view sees prospects as data to target and thus mismatches their research, engagement, and buying patterns. Instead, see your content from the "outside in" - from the onboarding suspect-prospect-customers' point of view - in order to best serve and lead them. Don't get me wrong, data is important, but it should be collected with the attitude of respectfully listening to what prospects want ... and discovering their higher values.
The most effective content marketing strategies teach their marketplaces to be smarter customers who get more value. It does so in a way that positions the product or service as the only way to get certain distinctive advantages they are led to revere.
By creating this customer empowerment-based web content to extend the sales funnel farther out, you can reach a larger audience, and migrate them to becoming customers that engage, refer, and repeat purchase. This is how to best create the breakthrough growth your company is capable of.
The most effective, organized way to do this is through the building blocks of Strategic Thought Leadership. This free report shares more on that approach.