The executives we work with are busy people. They’re focused on running growing companies, which often involves anything from managing employees to setting departmental budgets to developing and executing strategies to move their companies forward.
Devoting time each week to a content strategy just isn’t something they’re used to doing. While that’s understandable, it’s not completely excusable.
We make time for what we value, and most of us value proven results. The good news is that thought leadership through content marketing has proven itself valuable time and again. In fact, the statistics that make the case for content marketing ROI get most people (our clients included!) excited about thought leadership in the first place.
However, content marketing is a long-term game, and when these busy executives are asked to quickly prove ROI to the rest of their team, they aren’t quite sure what information to provide — and the value seems to diminish.
That’s why communicating the goals of thought leadership and matching key metrics to those content goals at the beginning is imperative. Only then can these executives (our clients) understand the true value of our partnership, know how to measure ROI, and make time for their own thought leadership.
To help our clients (and their teams) see the full value in working on content marketing with us, we make sure to touch on these three critical goals:
Brand awareness is one of the first ways thought leaders see value, but you can’t limit yourself to looking only at big marquee publications to increase that awareness. You also have to look at the audiences you’re reaching.
Reaching a huge number of readers doesn’t mean much if they aren’t in your target audience — and that’s where a strategy that blends both impressive and impactful publications comes into play. A healthy mix of marquee sites offering a third-party stamp of approval to a wide audience and smaller niche publications with more targeted reach can help you increase brand awareness and build trust.
That said, measuring awareness of anything is a complicated process, so we look at a variety of factors to help thought leaders see how their content affects it, including social shares and social reach. (For more about how we calculate and analyze this info, you can check out our custom software, ICo Core.)
Don’t expect to immediately generate 100 leads from one piece of content. Lead gen through content marketing is a long-term strategy, but it’s entirely possible if you set it up correctly.
By linking to relevant articles, blog posts, or other valuable content within those guest-contributed pieces you’re leveraging for brand awareness, you can place small funnels across the internet that will continue to drive traffic from the right audiences to your content over time.
This strategy won’t work if you don’t have an engaging company blog. Content marketing and thought leadership are all about education — not pushing a product — so there must be educational content assets to link back to if you’re going to generate any leads.
Thought leadership comes with a time investment, but it pays off big on the sales side when you take the time to do it well. Your team can effectively shrink the sales cycle with content by using that content to answer common questions, address pain points, and educate prospects throughout the sales process.
While being busy is a fact of life for most execs, it should never be an excuse to let your content fall by the wayside — especially when content’s benefits are so clear. Thought leadership requires time. Here are five ways our team at Influence & Co. has helped our clients find it:
When you’re not engulfed in content marketing all day, every day, you might have a harder time connecting the dots between your personal experiences and potential article takeaways. But it’s those unique insights and stories from the trenches that make a high-quality article and increase your chances of acceptance at online publications.
We hold regular calls or meetings to uncover our clients’ experiences and unique insights to help them build strong, educational content. By communicating regularly, these knowledge extraction sessions become routine, and executives begin to connect the dots on their own, which makes those sessions run even more smoothly.
Depending on the expert, our team uses a written Q&A process or phone interview to extract that expertise and identify the experiences that make up the meat of the best articles. The key phrase in that sentence: “depending on the expert.”
We don’t make assumptions about how our clients work or put them into the boxes that are most convenient for us. Instead, we find a method that is enjoyable for the thought leader and still yields solid results. The process here matters less than the actual expertise you’re extracting and the product you’re creating with it.
Besides personal experiences and takeaways, research is a valuable component of creating successful thought leadership content. But when your execs are strapped for time as it is, it’s not realistic to rely on them to supply thorough research, too.
We don’t want our clients to spend time looking for extra research to elevate their content. That’s why our team is constantly gathering research, looking for timely hooks, and presenting stats and facts to help clients take the most informed stances they can. This allows them to do what they do best: provide unique insight and expertise shaped by their experiences.
We’ve found it valuable to create a knowledge bank to store and organize all of an expert’s experiences and insights. The knowledge bank streamlines content creation, making it easier to create high-quality content, demand less time of the thought leader, and more quickly find what we need.
A thought leadership strategy is not just a string of articles authored by one thought leader. It requires strategic thinking to be effective. When possible, we add specific campaigns to the strategy so we can gather the expertise, experiences, and personal insight needed for the entire campaign, rather than just a one-off article. This also makes linking between similar articles easier and more frequent, which only helps increase the SEO value and accomplish the goals we set at the beginning.
Here’s the thing: Any person can argue that she’s busy, no matter how important her role is to a company’s growth or what her day-to-day schedule actually looks like. That should never be an excuse to put off content or neglect building thought leadership. It’s not always easy, but these steps will help you find the time to make your thought leadership a reality.