Thought leadership. A bit of a marketing buzz word, because who doesn’t want to be seen as a thought leader? I can’t imagine you sit in your board meetings saying:

“Oh yes, the best way to achieve 3x coverage for our pipeline is being a sheep and following what our competition is doing.”

Or maybe you do? In which case that’s going to cause you much bigger problems.

I see thought leadership content as a way of sharing the skills, knowledge and experience of your organisation. You’ve hired some really clever people – in reality, they’re the reason for your success. But while many thought leaders aspire to set the agenda with their predictions of future trends, I think it’s far more exciting to share your organisation’s collective brain power.

The reasons being:

  • Your customers can learn from the mistakes that your team has encountered previously.
  • Your customers can even learn from your customers – sharing case studies is a great way of explaining how you helped someone with a similar problem.
  • If you do have people in your organisation wanting to build their personal brand, thought leadership is a great way to get their name in lights.

Where is thought leadership used?

The most common forms of thought leadership content are:

  • White papers
  • Guides
  • Research reports
  • Ebooks
  • Case studies
  • Webinars

Essentially any story that you have to tell that is a bit meatier, explores a particular subject in more detail and seeks to educate your audience about something. Where blogs simply share an opinion, thought leadership content backs that opinion up with in-depth commentary.

How is thought leadership content different?

One of the attributes that makes thought leadership content stand out, is that it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your differentiators and position you clearly in the market…

Where tactics like blogging are great for pulling people into the top of your sales funnel, thought leadership is the big-ticket item that’s going to convert them by demonstrating what value you have to offer.

Packed within those pages you can tell a story that’s interesting/relevant/useful to your audience, injecting it with your brand values and the things that make you different from the competition. Through your words you can let your brand personality shine and make an emotional connection with the reader.

And should you wish (and there are good arguments both for and against), thought leadership content, like reports, guides and white papers, can be gated. Because the content is more valuable, people are more likely to give you their contact details in exchange for them being allowed to view the content.

Who should by-line thought leadership content?

The obvious choice is a managing director or CEO – afterall, they set the ultimate vision for the business. And yes, there are many occasions where they would be best placed to share their insight.

But…

There are many other, perhaps more suitable people in your organisation. The ones interacting with your customers on a daily basis and finding answers to the big business questions, might be better suited, or at the very least be able to provide input into the piece.

Whoever you decide to by-line the content to, it’s important that you capture their tone of voice through the copy so it’s authentic. You need that person to be the same whether they’re sharing a white paper, presenting on the stage, being interviewed by a journalist or talking to a customer.

How to get started…

There’s no point in creating content for content’s sake, so take the time to properly plan the content you need in order to convert people within the sales funnel. Some good places to start are:

  • Asking your sales team about the common objections they face and produce content that helps them to overcome these.
  • Ask your clients if they’d be happy for you to write a case study about their project – case studies have so many applications within your marketing efforts.
  • Decide what you want to be ‘famous’ for – when people utter the name of your brand, what do you want them to instantly link it to?
  • Think about whether you want/need to push a particular product/service and develop thought leadership content that helps to ‘sell’ that proposition.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash