This article was a collaboration among Influence & Co. team members from various departments.
It’s halfway through 2014, and you suddenly realize you haven’t hit your goals for marketing, sales, recruitment, or even professional development. You do, however, have a little bit of money left in a few areas, but you just can’t figure out how to make it work.
I’ve got a solution for you.
Thought leadership through content marketing can help accomplish goals in many areas of your company, and the budget for it can come from a variety of sources.
It’s logical to look to the marketing budget to cover most of the costs associated with thought leadership (though it’s not the only place you should consider).
Marketing is the main reason most of our clients get into thought leadership in the first place (and where they find the budget for these efforts). Writing and publishing thought leadership content raises brand awareness and shares your message with the right audience. It’s one component of your marketing, but it fuels all of your other efforts, too (e.g., social media, email marketing, etc.).
Thought leadership can also generate leads and potential relationships for an organization, which is generally a function of marketing. We often receive positive feedback from clients — and our own marketing department — that our thought leadership content generates qualified leads that often result in sales.
Speaking of sales, thought leadership can help them, too. (And your sales team likely has expense accounts that allow them to try unique strategies to reengage and add value to prospective clients to make a sale.)
Thought leadership is a great way to accomplish both of those things. It also helps educate leads and build trust. Our sales staff regularly sends articles to potential clients that help shorten sales cycles.
I was recently talking with a prospect who was struggling with the decision to create content internally or partner with a company that specialized in content marketing. I sent him an article that addressed common questions companies have when deciding between internal or external content creation.
Helping potential clients make informed decisions shows that you care and want the best for their companies. You’re not just looking for a sale, and clients will respect you for that. If you’re providing them with valuable information, it will only enhance their trust in you and your company.
As a salesperson, I’ve found that the leads who have read a lot of our content are far more educated when they get on the phone with us. They understand expectations (the time, expertise, and energy that go into developing high-quality content) and the strategies our organization uses.
There’s also value in staying consistent with what clients see online and what we tell them in person. Publishing content that discusses the exact benefits we’ve pitched them on adds validity to what we’re saying.
Look at what your sales team is spending money on to close sales, take part of that budget, and put it toward thought leadership to try a new approach to building trust and loyalty.
Just as your clients want to work with the best, so do potential employees. Publishing content that showcases your company values, philosophy, and plan for growth can help you attract top talent who would be a great culture fit for your organization.
You’re likely already allocating time and funds toward posting job descriptions on LinkedIn, attending career fairs, or hiring a headhunter, but if you put part of that budget toward thought leadership content to maximize the efforts of the recruitment team, you’ll get higher-quality candidates knocking on your door.
Content is great for educating potential employees about your company, and that education should continue long after employees are brought on board. You should always provide resources for your employees to improve and succeed.
When a leader in an organization takes the time and effort to share her expertise through thought leadership content, she’s creating resources the entire team can learn from and refer to. How many times have you been asked the same question by multiple employees? Taking the time to write your thoughts down will help educate employees and save valuable time.
Take part of your training and professional development budget and put it toward thought leadership content. You can focus some of your content creation efforts on educating external audiences and part of it on educating internal employees to accomplish multiple goals.
Research and Development
Finally, you can use content to gather feedback on which products and services you should tackle next. Hopefully, you’re reading about hot-button issues and trends in your industry and presenting your own ideas to elicit feedback from specific segments.
Write articles commenting on trends you see in the industry and ways you’d like to address them, then sit back and listen. Read the comments, and see what people say when they share your content. Send the articles to individuals who are influential in your space, and ask for their input.
Content is a great catalyst for starting conversations around specific products or services you may pursue in the future. Take part of your R&D budget and put it toward thought leadership; you’ll gain a lot of insights your latest customer survey didn’t tell you.
All of these departments can benefit from producing high-quality thought leadership content, and taking a little bit from each department’s budget can make the cost of content development much more manageable.
Let’s say you decide to spend $5,000 each month on thought leadership efforts. All it takes is pulling $1,000 from each department’s budget, and you’ll be on your way to accomplishing many more of your goals by the end of the year.