Thought leadership content to position your brand

Positioning your B2B or professional services brand as a thought leader is a pillar for your content marketing programme. High-value authority articles lead to greater client engagement, trust, sales and ultimately a more rewarding business.

Andrea

Andrea Stevens
Oct 2019

thought leadership content diagram

‘… every move you make comes from [the] place of wanting the lives of those you serve to be better.’ – Rochelle Moulton, brand and business consultant.

The most successful businesses solve deep client needs and articulate this clearly and frequently to the market. Clients seek trusted advisors; to be known as an expert in your niche – and ideally become the default choice – you need to be visible and to educate, entertain, engage and inspire.

Blogging, vlogging, publishing and speaking are all broadcast options you can use to reach existing and new clients.

Thought leadership is nothing new, but how we do it in 2019 is quite different to how we practised authority building in 2009.

For B2B and professional services companies, authority content is one of the pillars of a content marketing strategy. It requires a strategic choice of topics based on content for the customer journey and a targeted content promotion strategy.

Let’s quickly take a few steps back before looking at how to roll out your programme …

 

What is thought leadership content?

It’s no surprise that thought leadership content is content published by you or your brand based on topics you are an authority on. Topics are usually inspired by your products, services and/or purpose as they relate to your customers.

You are not trying to teach clients how to do what you do. The aim is to enlighten them. Make them smarter. Show them how, for example, they can be more efficient, make more money, save money, solve a problem, have a better quality of life. An agritech company, for instance, might show farmers how to optimise farm management with drones.

Whether you publish an article or give a presentation, your tone needs to be editorial, not advertorial, and backed up with data, evidence and examples. 


Arup's website 'Perspectives' page

Image: Arup regularly publish articles and publications on key industry topics to demonstrate their expertise and thought leadership. I wish I had written some of this!


 

The benefits you get as an authority

The advantages you gain include

  • a higher profile,
  • more trust in you and your brand,
  • higher fees,
  • more sales,
  • a greater choice of clients,
  • better projects,
  • a more fulfilling career,
  • a chance to make a difference,
  • and much more.

Pretty compelling reasons, right?!

 

Tip #1: every company is a media company

Tom Foremski popularised the idea that ‘every company is a media company’. He explains: ‘...we now live in a multi-platform, multi-channel, micro-media world, and the trend is moving towards ever greater media fragmentation – vidcasts, podcasts, blogs, micro-blogging, Twitter, etc. … Social media is not enough: companies have to focus on their entire media strategy; it becomes integral to their core business strategy.’

Most companies today have taken control of their direct public relations – publishing via their ‘owned’ channels as compared with going via a media company or third-party website. But the challenge I see for businesses is how to maintain consistency and quality, and get the highest return on investment.

For the small- to medium-sized businesses I work with, I recommend the following:

  1. Be realistic about your resources so you create a publishing calendar you can actually maintain.
  2. Publish quality over quantity.
  3. Make your website your main publishing channel (because you own it).
  4. Grow your email database (because you own your list and it’s more personal).
  5. Use social media as your secondary ‘outreach’ channels (because you ‘rent’ these).
  6. Choose only those channels your clients spend time on (why are you publishing on Twitter?).
  7. Choose and master a few channels first.
  8. Be consistent over the long term.

There is far too much mediocre content out there. Make sure your media is exceptional by investing in a proper strategy, and in professional copywriting and photography – because your clients notice the difference.

 

thought leadership articles

Image: A series of articles I wrote for AUT School of Art and Design about their masters and PhD research projects. 



 Tip #2: think like a magazine editor

Strategic lead-generation content answers common customer questions at key stages of the buyer journey – from stranger to lead to convert to repeat client.

Most B2B and professional services websites are great with content at the end of the sales funnel – decision-making content, such as case studies. But they are often very light in awareness content – the information clients search for before they are aware that your brand exists or can help them.

In the drone example above, a farmer might research ‘farm management technology’ completely unaware of your drone solution. Your article could be on the higher-level topic of farm management and include drones as one of the sub-topics – a similar approach to what a business magazine editor would take. 


Article example

Image: My 2017 blog about content marketing has been the highest-performing blog on my website for over two years, attracting more than double the traffic compared to other posts.


 

Tip #3: plan your keywords

When you invest time and money in creating great content, how do you get the greatest number of eyeballs on it?

For website content, make sure you research the high-volume keywords. For our agritech example above, there are 380 searches a month for ‘drone farming’ in the US and 660 searches a month for ‘farm management’. You can target blogs for each and even create a series.

 

Tip #4: increase content reach

A single blog article can be spun out to six channels or more. Called ‘atomising’ your content or ‘content-on-content’, these strategies help you get your article in front of more people. Not everyone reads your newsletter and not everyone checks LinkedIn weekly, so the more places you publish, the more reach you’ll have.

Many brands also use paid promotion tactics for content reach, such as search engine and social media marketing and retargeting. A lot more expensive than organic search, it can suit larger organisations who are publishing high-value e-books or an in-depth blog article on a trending topic.


Tip #5: consistency is everything

Several marketing gurus recommend that a business website has about eight hours of content to browse. The more time a prospect or existing customer spends reading your articles, watching your webinars or reviewing your case studies, the better they get to know and trust you.

Being consistent with high-quality content demonstrates your purpose and values, grows your website and email audiences, raises your Google organic rankings, and inspires new clients to get in touch.


Closing thoughts

Your publishing topics need to be part of your larger brand story. Start by imagining the book your business would write. The title and cover would pitch your purpose and big idea, the chapters would be your pillar topics, and your subheadings would be individual articles.

This gives your content focus, structure and direction.

 

Andrea-copywriter

About the Author
Andrea Stevens

Andrea is an experienced writer and content strategist living in Auckland, New Zealand. She has an unhealthy obsession with her work, consuming books and podcasts about content best practice and entrepreneurship, daily. She started Folio in 2007 as the GFC hit (a feat in itself), has authored four books, been a finalist in the NZ Book Awards, written hundreds of website pages and social media posts, more captions than she'd like to remember, and some very, very long white papers. In its ten years plus, Andrea has developed Folio into a busy writing agency, attracting clients who have the same love for quality writing and brand storytelling as she has. Read more about Folio or contact Andrea directly by email – andrea (@) folio.nz.

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Sign up to my monthly newsletter to learn the latest thinking in brand story, authority content and digital marketing. I'll share articles, book recommendations, tips and examples. We respect your privacy.

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Sign up to my monthly newsletter to learn the latest thinking in brand story, authority content and digital marketing. I'll share articles, book recommendations, tips and examples. We respect your privacy.

Grow your authority and reputation with communications best practices.

Sign up to my monthly newsletter to learn the latest thinking in brand story, authority content and digital marketing. I'll share articles, book recommendations, tips and examples. We respect your privacy.

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401A Richmond Road
Grey Lynn
Auckland 1021
New Zealand

P +64 9 275 444 502
E  studio (at) folio.nz

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Grey Lynn
Auckland 1021
New Zealand

P +64 9 275 444 502
E  studio (at) folio.nz

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