<This post was first published on the Leading Thought website>
We live in the age of information overload. Today’s consumers are unable to digest the deluge of data that they are exposed to every single day. Consumers have become immune to advertising. They are more receptive to intriguing content.
As clichéd as it sounds, good content IS king.
Part of my role as head of marketing at Compassites Software involves inbound marketing where thought-provoking content plays a vital role. It’s important that we only offer content that is truly beneficial to the consumer, thus showcasing our thought leadership. We’ve discovered that when content is tailor made to what the audience is looking for, in terms of providing solutions they couldn’t have thought of themselves — or find anywhere else — then you get more points on the thought leadership scoreboard in the consumer’s mind! We have improved our thought leadership by talking about niche topics that are intended for a targeted audience using a solid narrative.
Selling your thought process
The days of making a sale through just a handshake or meeting are over. Customers want to know about your thought process. They will do research about your company and will be keen to know your opinions on various factors in your industry. This is where thought leadership through well thought out content can be a differentiator.
While chasing the elusive “thought leader” title, you need to have an agenda. For instance, we recently accomplished the target of writing 100 original blogs across the company. This is fairly unique for a company of our size and this differentiates us in the eye of the customer. But each blog needed to provide content that was useful to the reader, not just blatantly pitch our services. We have avoided self-serving content as much as possible.
I’ve also made mistakes–by not engaging in dialogue with our followers on Twitter, for example. This oversight is high on my radar this coming quarter and we intend to change our approach on Twitter so it’s more conversational!
What helps me is being inspired by how my favorite thought leaders think and what they do. I absolutely love the content produced by websites like Cracked and HuffingtonPost. Also dig the articles on www.hubspot.com. In India, everyone knows that you need to read The Hindu newspaper, if you need quality content. For many years, I used to subscribe to multiple magazines like India Today, Outlook, The Week & Tehelka. But now I subscribe to only Open Magazine, due to the sheer quality of thought-provoking content! My 7 years in marketing has taught me that good content does get you a loyal fan following.
So how do you create content that inspires thought leadership? Here are some of my thoughts:
1. Attention spans are notoriously short; ensure that your content is crisp. Ideally you want the consumer to skim through your content immediately, rather than the bookmark the link for later.
2. Whitepapers & press releases are passé; everyone writes them. Witty blogs and creative info graphics are examples of content that are more likely to compel readers to act.
3. Track websites like Quora, Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn, where your potential prospects are asking questions. Then answer them in ways no one else has thought of!
4. Remember that thought leading content needs to be original as well as relevant. Be paranoid about quality.
5. Have a clear vision of the reputation you want to build. Revise that vision, based on feedback from customers.
6. Drop the salesy approach. Think of content marketing as a way of contributing to your community.
7. Set an intention to become better at storytelling so your content becomes infectious. One way to ensure your content is sharable is to do what I do when I tell the Compassites story: Make the client the hero!
Remember to set milestones and be patient about results. You won’t be a thought leader overnight, and considerable effort needs to be put in for people to recognize you. Curating others’ quality content in the interim is a great way to discover what makes your thinking and perspective unique.
Good content is like the Venus flytrap. It draws you in and hooks you! No one can guarantee if your content will go viral or not, but if you ensure that your content is compelling, relevant, and thought provoking, it may inspire others to consider you a thought leader. The fact is, people are tired of being sold to. They only want to engage with brands that make them feel genuinely happy.
Every consumer is on the look-out for something new and inspiring; for something they hadn’t thought about before. Set aside that sales pitch and let your content inform them how you have a different perspective on their problem that they likely haven’t thought of before. After all, that’s what thought leaders do, isn’t it?