Imagine you’re at a party and someone asks you a question about something you have a tertiary understanding of; say, how to play cribbage. You recall what you can about the rules and summarize as best you can, but your knowledge has holes and the person asking will still need a lesson before they can play. Or perhaps you give an unhelpful non-answer; “Oh, you know, it involves cards.” But then another person asks about one of your passions: swing dancing. Suddenly, you become a fount of wisdom, providing a mini Ted Talk on all the most important elements of swing. Maybe you show them some moves or point them to classes. This person will walk away with a much more satisfactory answer to their question and will be more likely to return to you with any follow up swing dance questions.
This dynamic provides a rough idea of the difference between thought leadership and content of a lower calibre. And what is thought leadership? Thought leadership is thorough, insightful, and innovative. It says something unique on the subject and provides expert opinions and information. It is the person nerding out at a party about their passions.
What is Thought Leadership Content?
Thought leadership aims to provide the best, most comprehensive answers to the questions that concern your audience. The key here is providing real value. Readers should finish a piece of thought leadership content armed with the insight they were seeking.
Non thought leadership content can range from pure fluff to a good article that simply does not contain the level of depth that industry leaders are seeking. Think about a fun Buzzfeed listicle, something like, “10 Times Zendaya Turned Heads on the Red Carpet.” This article will probably get a lot of clicks. Fans of fashion and Zendaya will enjoy it. But will it ultimately teach them anything new? Not really. It’s for entertainment. Which is fine if that is your goal; but for digital marketers looking to leverage content to promote a business, entertainment is not enough.
Why Thought Leadership Marketing Matters
Regardless of your industry, whether you are B2B or B2C, no matter who your audience is, thought leadership represents the most effective form of content marketing. Now, the level of depth may vary somewhat depending on your audience. For example, an X-ray manufacturer targeting medical professionals will need much more science to back up their claims than a furniture business selling couches. But while the thought leadership strategy will look different for these two businesses, they both need a form of thought leadership. After all, consumers purchasing couches have very real concerns and questions, too.
For example, couch shoppers will wonder things such as, “What type of couch material is best for dogs?” or “How to maintain a leather couch?” If a person types one of these queries into Google and clicks on a result from your site, they will be severely disappointed if the article doesn’t answer the question properly. If it answers it only somewhat—but not as thoroughly as needed—they will likely return to the search and continue opening other articles, thereby leaving your site in the dust. But if your article is the best resource online about maintaining a leather couch, they may not need to look anywhere else. You’ll have successfully satisfied their curiosities and impressed them with the quality of your content. They may return for more information or to make a purchase, trusting that a company with this level of expertise knows what they are doing. With one article, you can cement your company as an innovative subject expert—a thought leader—in the mind of a potential customer.
That’s the power of thought leadership. Strong, masterful content evokes customer trust and establishes credibility.
How to Produce Quality Content
A strong content marketing strategy marries Search Engine Optimization (SEO) with thought leadership. Without a good keyword strategy in place, no one will read your brilliant articles or landing pages. But without excellent content, no one will stay long enough to make a purchase.
To produce quality content, I recommend following these steps:
Define a Clear Content Strategy
Don’t just go in blind! Determine priority subjects for your content, types of content to focus on, posting frequency, etc. Get everyone on the same page before you begin actually implementing your content strategy.
Keyword research should form the backbone of your content marketing campaign. Use competitor and industry research to identify the prime search queries for your audience, then compile and prioritize these keywords.
Before writing, use the selected keywords to create content recommendations. This can involve generating a title, suggested URL, secondary keywords, article inspiration, internal linking guide, and even an outline or content brief. This is helpful for getting organized whether you have in-house writers or are working with freelancers.
Ideally, subject matter experts should write the content. This way, they will have the industry knowledge needed to produce thought leaderly articles. If this is not possible, be sure to provide as much data as possible for them and encourage thorough research, in addition to having it vetted by someone who knows your industry inside and out.
Try to have an editor or someone else in your company review articles. Even if you have the most amazing, smartest writer in the world, a second pair of eyes will enable you to catch errors. Remember, good content marketing examples are compelling, informative, thorough, and grammatically correct. After all, a missed typo or poorly written article can turn away a potential customer.
Ideally, you should publish two new pieces of content per week. This will not be realistic for all companies though, so aim to at least establish a regular posting schedule of some kind. When doing so, prioritize quality over quantity. Thought leadership takes time, and if that means publishing fewer articles per month, it is worth it.
The Power of Thought Leadership
You know your business like the back of your hand. You stay up to date on all the latest trends in your industry. You understand the pain points of your customers. Understanding what is thought leadership content provides an opportunity to communicate all of this to your audience and blow them away with your insight. It lets you establish authority and build trust. It shows that you can satisfy customers before they even make a purchase.
So, go ahead; be that person at the party who lights up when asked a question about their area of expertise. Share everything you know. Express your unique point of view. It’s just what your audience is seeking.