Effective content marketing has inefficient communication built-in to get customers to reach out. For example, effective content marketing relies on repetition, incomplete information to tantalize customers, and promises, hooks, and emotional tugs rather than just providing information or answers. Practitioner influencer marketing has integrity, but it still capitalizes on effective but seemingly inefficient communication.
At Fixate, part of our job is helping our clients connect their marketing strategies and communications to particular types of practitioner influencer-generated content. We help our clients map their content needs to fulfill three types of content: thought leadership, education, and product information. In this post, we will focus on thought leadership.
Defining Thought Leadership
There are many ways to define thought leadership. We often discuss where to draw that line. It’s not cut and dry, but generally speaking, it’s easiest to define if we look back at what the piece of content is supposed to do within the context of the buyer’s journey.
Thought leadership content addresses the customer at the awareness stage, when they first realize there is a problem that needs to be solved, or when a buyer first becomes aware of a particular brand or company. Thought leadership may be tactical or strategic, but it raises an issue.
Awareness content is characterized by keywords like issues, problems, gaps, and trends. While the content may be very technical and specific within the context of these types of topics, it is not about a specific product. It is not about a specific solution. It is not even about solutions or product requirements. It is primarily about characterizing a problem, opportunity, gap, or overlooked area that is important, and can affect a particular market segment.
Measuring Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is one place where share of voice (SOV) or conversation share of voice (CSOV) is an effective metric. Thought leadership content helps increase CSOV and SOV, which are two metrics that can be used to measure brand awareness. Of course, more in-depth brand awareness measurements can be made using surveys and other research tools. But, the calculation of SOV and CSOV is easily within reach of any company, and there are tools available to help.
Building Thought Leadership
In any market, but particularly for technical markets like DevOps or scientific instruments, the authority of a company within a particular subject area is very important to building a company’s credibility. Before a company can receive credibility for their solution, they must convince their customers that they understand the problems their customers face. These customers deal with technical problems that are somewhat general, but require specific knowledge. Becoming the company that demonstrates an understanding of their world is the first step in building credibility.
There is nothing stopping a company from creating its own thought leadership content. One must remember, though, that this process is inherently inefficient. A company can’t just repurpose their sales enablement material. It is too product-specific. It’s hard to deploy one’s own technical experts to write general problem pieces when one can barely get them to write a product-specific piece.
For thought leadership content to move the needle on SOV and CSOV, it must be frequent. Blog content needs to be published at least twice a week. Additionally, case studies, white papers, ebooks, and other types of content should be produced.
This is expensive in money and time when it is done within an organization. It’s even more expensive when one realizes how a skeptical audience receives that content. They tend not to trust or believe it. They are just waiting for the other shoe to drop—the product pitch.
Using influencer content marketing generated from practitioners from outside a company is much more effective, and results in a much better content marketing ROI. It allows a company to demonstrate that they are thought leaders by recognizing an important area, and giving a platform for an influencer to raise the issue. The credibility for the company comes from taking a position, not writing words. Aligning one’s company with the reputation and words of an influencer practitioner gives the distance from the product that lowers the trust barrier.
The Role of Inefficient Communication in Thought Leadership
It may seem more efficient to just tell people about the value proposition your company offers. However, it’s likely it won’t be taken at face value, unless you have set the stage as an authority on something besides your product. Thought leadership demonstrates that your company understands the problems that your customers face. But they won’t believe it if you only state those problems once.
- Repetition is important to effective thought leadership campaigns. So the effective thought leadership campaign tackles raising problems and issues from a number of angles. It involves exposing nuances. It connects the dots between issues that were previously treated singly. It reveals patterns.
- It invites brainstorming. While not necessarily talking about specific solution requirements, it talks clearly about what is most important to solve and why. It invites discussion. It postulates and invites ideas, angles, perspectives. And, if it does so credibly and successfully, it gets shared and builds brands.
- Analysis underpins thought leadership content. This might mean revisiting a topic several times analyzing it from different perspectives. It may mean including more details to support a particular conclusion.
- It can be casual or formal. The same content, formalized as a white paper or study, can also be referenced in a snarky, conversational blog post filled with the personality of the influencer.
Persuasive thought leadership requires persistence, repetition, creativity, and a variety of styles, formats, and even authors to be persuasive and credible. While it may be tempting to tackle the inherent inefficiency in-house, it’s more cost-effective to leverage influencer-generated content marketing. This makes it easier on your organization to be persistent with what seems to be an inefficient process, and derive value from the investment in time and money. And that persistence and consistency is what will eventually move the needle on your SOV and CSOV to point to brand awareness and authority.