Topics: Content Marketing
We’ve yet to meet a client that doesn’t want to be a “thought leader.” It’s the right goal to have, and though there are many roads to reach that destination, there’s no superhighway to thought leadership. In light of our clients’ need to be perceived as forward-thinking brands with the know-how to take care of their audiences’ needs, we wanted to delve into the mechanics of thought leadership and help you pinpoint how to best position your brand.
We’ve broken down thought leadership into three categories to help you create a more purposeful and scalable content marketing strategy.
The right content builds thought leadership
Content marketing is very much like a conversation—your brand says something through various media, and your audience can talk back with louder voices than ever before thanks to social media, comments, forums, and more. So let’s consider the Internet to be one giant dinner party, and you and your audience are co-guests. The other guests don’t owe you a conversation; you have to make them want to engage with you. So with that, consider these three levels of conversation and how to get—and keep—the right audience’s attention:
Level 1: Repetition and validation. If you repeat key parts of the conversation, it’s validating the worth of what has been said before. For newcomers to the conversation, they appreciate the repetition so that they know what to focus on.
“Link” sites like Mashable, Gawker, The Drudge Report, and others do a good job of culling specific types of content and presenting information that their audiences find entertaining or useful. They aren’t doing anything groundbreaking, but that’s not what their audience needs. Their audience just needs a source that will gather everything for them in what can only be described as quasi-syndication.
Level 2: New perspective. If you offer a new perspective as you converse, that makes you interesting and you can gain a following. You’re not bringing up new topics or presenting anything completely different, but you are providing a new take that will help the audience get more value out of existing solutions or solve old problems in new ways.
The Home Depot does not need to help its audience find completely new ways to drill holes or wire an outlet. Their audience is looking for clever ways to take the materials they have—wood, paint, lights, etc.—and do something both unique and professional. The Cleveland Clinic makes health care more accessible to its audience. The health care provider knows that its audience is going online to learn more about ailments before they visit a doctor; so instead of leaving the information to other brands, the clinic decided to become the go-to. Their content isn’t about groundbreaking research trends, but it’s a leader in giving clear, authoritative information on the aches and pains we all face.
Most brands want this type of thought leadership. This content is the most shared, most easily created, and most engaging of all three levels. That also means you are competing with a broad field of other brands trying to do the same thing, making this kind of content highly competitive. You can only remain relevant in such a field by listening to your audience’s needs (mostly accomplished through analytics) and responding appropriately and quickly.
Level 3: New information. The third level of conversation is providing new information. If you think about being at a dinner party, this is the kind of content that changes the topic. Sometimes the new topic is met with various and loud opinions; sometimes the audience doesn’t seem to have much to say, because it isn’t ready for something so groundbreaking.
This is the least safe, but potentially the most interesting type of content to provide. It creates true brand advocates who will nearly generate the conversation for you—but it takes time. The brands that fall into the Level 3 category are very often niche brands that serve a highly unique audience.
AdaptivePath serves a very specific marketing audience that needs information on user flows. AdaptivePath is definitely not the Marketos or Hubspots of the marketing universe, but they are a powerful brand for changing the discussion around how we approach creating content in the context of experience and flow. Trunk Club really broke the mold of men’s shopping, and though their blog doesn’t introduce a completely new way to wear a shirt, it keeps them at the forefront of relevancy as the brand that made fashion accessible to the sartorially inept male.
Start with the right thought leadership
The best strategies are those that can be implemented and scaled. That takes significant effort, and more than a little experience. At Axis41, we’re happy to share our experience in making your brand a true thought leader and getting your content marketing strategy concepted, created, and deployed. Reach out any time via phone or email to continue the conversation.