If you’re a B2B marketer and you don’t hear the term “thought leadership” at least 14 times a day… you’re probably busy doing actual work. Jokes, Jokes!
In all seriousness, thought leadership is the lifeblood of any sound content marketing strategy. BUT, the thoughts you’re leading with need to address actual customer pain points. Unless you’re working on your reputation for your future consulting company, don’t just blow hot air for the sake of making sure the world knows you’re a big thinker. So, let’s start with the basics…
By definition, thought leadership is a method of marketing, which solidifies you as an expert and authority within your industry. The goal of thought leadership marketing is not to create sales heavy content, but to provide an entry point to your business by branding yourself as an expert. There are still opportunities to highlight your product or service, but first and foremost you want to be viewed as knowledgeable and willing to help. Here are 6 tips to use when building a thought leadership marketing strategy:
The first thing you should do is identify the questions your target audience, and current customers are asking—and build your thought leadership marketing strategies around the answers to those questions. Consider how people search for things online. When you have a question about something, there’s a good chance you’ll type it into Google, right? By identifying the questions, and strings of words your customers type into search engines—you can create your content in a manner that will answer those questions. To get started, ask yourself the types of problems your products and services solve, and find the questions one would ask related to those problems. If you have a good enough answer Google might even scrape it right off your page (lucky you!):
Check out the following sites and tools for finding out what questions are being asked by your target audience: Quora, Yahoo Answers, Twitter, Google Keyword Planner, UberSuggest, hook Google Analytics up to your help desk search results, and the best of all… ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS!
This is the oldest trick in the thought leadership playbook, but it still works like a charm. As long as you are engaging and providing value on a given platform, directing people on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or a niche community to one of your well written blog posts that answers a timely question is a completely acceptable way of showing people your company is an expert in the industry, and there to help.
In my opinion, your company blog should always be the hub of your audience-building efforts, but it’s critical to discover other audiences by posting your thought leadership content on other platforms. We recently started posting to the beautiful publishing platform, Medium, to reach the early-adopter crowd. Guest blogging is another great way to discover a relevant audience interested in your thought-leading commentary.
When your thought leadership marketing strategy is built on a foundation of customer questions, you must revisit these questions constantly. As industry trends change, you develop new products and services, and general business trends evolve—your answers to old and new questions need to evolve as well.
Google Trends is a great way to stay ahead of the curve. For example, if I focused on being a social media expert, looking at this comparison between searches for “social media marketing” and “””, I would probably want to shift my focus to content, as it’s trending up while social seems to be plateauing.
Since the goal of your thought leadership marketing strategy is to create an entry point, it is the perfect opportunity to brand your business. You can do this through your writing style, the level of creativity in your videos and images, and by demonstrating how well you understand your B2B client’s wants and needs. When creating new content, ensure that it supports how you want to be identified as a brand, especially since this may be an online reader’s first experience with you.
Just because your competitors are killing it with thought leadership already does not mean that YOU can’t do it better. But if their content has already touched a nerve on the inter-webs, demonstrated by those share buttons with big numbers on the top, bottom and side of their post…
…why not leverage that signal, by creating a similar, better piece of content?