Your sales strategy will comprise 2 things:
- The ‘low hanging fruit’, ‘quick wins’ or other jargony phrase that means sales today.
- The long game, aka establishing the mechanisms that deliver a steady drip feed of leads that sustain your business for tomorrow.
Thought leadership content falls into the latter category because it should form part of a broader campaign that builds momentum around a particular topic/trend/idea/product/service.
That campaign will span the entire sales funnel – from initial leads through to clients won – and within the funnel, your thought leadership content typically sits around the MQL (marketing qualified lead) stage. Here, an individual has shown some interest in what you have to say – perhaps clicking through on an email link or pay-per-click advert, or converted after reading a blog. Now, they’re ready to find out a little bit more in order to make a decision on whether they can trust you.
At the MQL stage of your sales pipeline, the goal is all about obtaining permission to have a conversation – DO NOT mistake this as permission to sell to someone.
In fact, you shouldn’t actually need to ‘sell’ again. In the world of content, you’re simply helping your prospects to make an informed decision based on what’s best for them. And the most effective way to determine what’s ‘best’ for them is to have a conversation.
Gaining permission to have this conversation could come in many forms:
- Giving their details in exchange for a white paper (i.e. ‘gated’ content)
- Contacting you to find out more about your product/services as a result of reading your guide.
- Requesting to find out more about your services after reading a case study.
- Personal connection made after reading your thought leadership report on LinkedIn.
A little note about LinkedIn…
LinkedIn is the perfect example of an unexploited network of goodliness that should be an important consideration within your sales efforts. Here you’ve established a network of individuals over time that you’ve perhaps failed to keep in regular contact with and now you’re thinking about how to ‘reach out’ and see what new opportunities you can uncover.
The wonderful thing about LinkedIn is that it’s a social media platform where everyone shows up wearing a business hat, and to a certain degree they expect to be ‘sold’ to because that’s one of the main reasons they’re there too.
But nobody likes a hard sell…
Shove an update in their face screaming “Check out our amazing software” and they’re quickly going to turn the other way…
Or worse: ‘unfollow’ you.
But through thought leadership content, you can start to engage your network on a more valuable level. By sharing a white paper, guide, report or case study, you’re giving that audience the intelligence they need to help them overcome a specific challenge in their business. And because you’ve helped them, you’ve managed to ‘sell’ yourself in a much softer and engaging way, building the trust that will make them want to approach you.