Thought leadership content marketing combines some of the most successful weapons in your arsenal to promote your business. It’s a high-investment strategy that will require you to spend a lot of time or a good chunk of change creating the required content. That said, it’s well worth the effort.
Thought leadership content has the power to drive powerful change. It’s one of the most potent forms of content you can create for your business where SEO is concerned (even more so if you double down and create a video version), and it can elevate you above your competitors.
Online content is a slush pile these days. Most businesses are online, and if they have any inclination to rank on SERPs, they have content. Blogs, articles, videos, and podcasts cover essentially the same things. Unless you’re in a niche niche, you have an industry with specific topics, issues, problems, needs, and solutions.
Y’all talk about the same stuff.
Trust me on this, after years of specialising in writing for health and wellness businesses, there are certain topics I can fire off 3K words on without thinking, pausing, or blinking.
Half hour, job done. Why? I’ve written about them so many times. While I strive to make the presentation and delivery unique, and craft each piece in the voice of the brand I’m writing for, unless I’m writing a thought leadership piece on a topic, the information is the same. And the same is true for you. Whatever you’re creating content about, you’re still basically saying the same things on the subject as everyone else.
Why Thought Leadership Content Is So Powerful
Thought leadership content is a game changer because it gives you genuinely unique content rather than spinning the same points everyone else has already regurgitated.
Having something fresh and original to say comes with many benefits:
- You’ll more easily outrank your competitors.
- You’ll impress your audience.
- You’ll gain a reputation and stand as your industry’s go-to person or brand.
- You can justify raising your prices (your way isn’t like everyone else’s).
- You’ll find it easier to gain traction on social media because people engage more when someone says something different (even if it’s controversial).
That all sounds great, but how exactly are you supposed to do it? Well, it’s not as tough as you might think. Here’s how to use thought leadership content to quash your competition.
What Is Thought Leadership Content Marketing?
In a nutshell, thought leadership content marketing is like regular content marketing (using high-value content to attract an audience of potential customers and convert them), with one key difference. While traditional content marketing hinges on quality content, that content is often quite generic. Indeed, if you’re looking to rank for a specific keyword when writing a blog post or article, you need to read the content currently ranking for that term and ensure your piece includes information that is as good or better.
That doesn’t mean you copy your competitors, but if you’re trying to write a guide or a tutorial, you will need to be as detailed, thorough and informative as they are and then some. That inherently leads to you covering the exact information they do.
Creating thought leadership content is a great way to get around this because of the very thing that makes it ‘thought leadership’: originality. Something fresh, innovative, and thought-provoking elevates your content above the rest of the content competing for that keyword.
At the same time, it establishes you as a trailblazer in your niche or industry. You’re suddenly the one saying things that nobody has thought of before. Suggesting ideas, new ways of thinking, and discussing controversial topics get people thinking. And that’s what it’s all about (hence the name): provoking thought. Driving innovation, change, revolution, evolution, addressing inequality, controversy, injustice, or poor standards.
Outshine The Competition By Elevating Your Content
If you’re looking for a way to get ahead of the competition and really stand out from the pack as a leader, crafting this type of thoughtful content is the way to do it. For one thing, it demonstrates that you have a greater understanding and concern for the area you work in than anyone else. Most prospective customers do some research before hiring or buying from a company. They read their blog, stalk their socials, check out their reviews.
What prompts those prospects to choose one brand over another?
Part of it is a sense of connection, the feeling they will be a good fit, and an ineffable quality that leads those prospects to feel a company is trustworthy. That they know what they’re doing. That the product or service they’re offering is the best possible solution to whatever issue, situation or need they are currently facing.
When your marketing hinges on generic content, there is little for those prospects to latch onto to distinguish you from the rest. You’re all saying the same things, which means knowledge and understanding are on a parr. There’s nothing to convince them that your brand is better at what you do than anyone else, so they will base their decision on other factors. Those factors usually revolve around social proof.
If you’re using thought leadership content in your marketing, they have a very different impression of your brand. You’re the ones saying and doing things nobody’s thought of before. You’re the company other companies are emulating to try and keep up. You’re better at what you do than everyone else because you understand it well enough to not only repeat the facts but analyse and forge them into a new reality.
In academic terms, it’s the difference between a 2.1 and a First. One shows you understand the subject. The other demonstrates that you have full command of the issue and can contribute to your field’s continued development.
Whom are you going to choose to hire? Someone who can repeat what everyone else says and does about their offering? Or someone who has all that generic knowledge but can also tell you more. Go beyond. Discuss their industry at the next level. Help you more profoundly. Offer a more elegant solution.
And let’s remember that social media is the fallback for judging who to work with (if not the primary means of deciding). When your content says something new, it will get shared. When your brand breaks the mould, it will get shared. When you’re saying something controversial, it will get shared. It will get shared when you’re doing something old in a completely new way.
Thought leadership content not only sets you apart from the competition in terms of your content, but it will also naturally elevate your social proof simultaneously. In the engagement you get on social media, in the reviews and testimonials you receive. In the user-generated content that your clients and customers create as they rave about this thing they just learned or saw or experienced or got from you, that’s so different.
Leaders Lead. Followers Follow.
There’s a fun fact about Instagram that many businesses – and indeed, people – need help understanding. Following many accounts in the hopes that they will follow you in return is not a good way to grow your account. Following tons of accounts only to unfollow them as soon as they follow you is an even worse way to grow your account.
Growing your account like this is terrible for several reasons. The Instagram algorithms will penalise you for you, and you may find yourself in Insta jail or even with a deleted account for doing it.
Even so, many people still use this tactic to grow their accounts. I’ve interviewed enough hopeful content marketers to know that an alarmingly high percentage of ‘professionals’ actually believe this is an excellent tactic.
For the record, this is one of those questions that automatically excluded candidates from consideration in my book. If the answer to the question ‘How would you grow an Instagram account?’ includes the phrase ‘follow to unfollow’, it’s a hard no from me.
Why? Because leaders lead, and followers follow.
It’s true on Instagram and in life in general. If you’re running around following after other people, desperate for their attention and approval, you’re not leading.
You’re a sheep.
Not only is this bad for your growth as a content creator, but it could be more counterproductive to trying to become a leader (or, in social parlance, an influencer). Because people SEE those numbers. They can see how many Instagram accounts you follow versus how many followers you have.
A high following number next to a low follower number is a huge red flag to me when I look to see how effective a person is at social media marketing. Just as a massive follower number but a low engagement rate (the number of those followers who interact with your content by liking, commenting, sharing etc.) indicates that an account has bought followers (another red flag).
This behaviour indicates an account that needs to learn how to build an effective organic following using great content. Instead, they rely on ‘tactics’ to gain followers, and those followers are ultimately uninterested in what they do and, consequently, worthless to them as business owners.
A successful Instagram account doesn’t require hundreds of thousands of followers. I’ve earned thousands through @TheWriteCopyGirl and only have about 300 followers.
At the same time, following other accounts will prevent the people you follow from buying from you.
Why? Because leaders lead. If you’re following them, it comes across as a little desperate. It tells them you’re unable to gain followers through quality content and instead rely on poor tactics. You either don’t know enough to know you’re doing it wrong, or you’re aware and don’t have any other option.
You’re either ignorant or desperate. Neither will engender trust and make people want to buy from you.
And this is a great lesson to use throughout your content marketing, particularly when creating thought leadership content.
Leaders lead. Craft content that ignores what everyone else is doing and shows you’re striking out on your own path, rather than running after everyone else down the path they’re already on.
If you interact with your competitors, do so on an equal footing. Do not attempt to curry their favour to boost your own visibility and profitability; it’s counterproductive. It clearly signals that you’re looking to them rather than leading the way.
This may be the most challenging part of thought leadership; stepping into the role of a leader and leading your audience somewhere new (metaphorically speaking).
Using Thought Leadership To Quash The Competition
The great thing about using thought leadership content marketing is that it sets you apart from your competitors. But, unfortunately, the very nature of competition can quickly get quite icky. I’ve seen business owners feel the need to tear down their competition, pointing out all their flaws and issues, as they believe it’s the way to elevate themselves.
How well it works for them is anyone’s guess (it’s not exactly a measurable metric), but for me, it’s a poor tactic to employ while growing a business. If you’re making it to the top by trampling everyone else and using their bones to build a ladder, you may become the front runner, but it’s only a matter of time before someone else tramples you on their ascent.
Attaining the status of thought leader through creating genuinely thoughtful, innovative, unique content creates a much more robust platform. In addition, it’s considerably tougher for competitors to come along and topple you from your perch; to do it, they would need to out-think you, and thought leadership is very subjective. So even if you get competitors who start to rival you as thought leaders, you’ll end up with different ‘camps’ of supporters within your industry rather than your audience automatically defecting to your up-and-coming competitor.
Quashing the competition, at this point, comes down to philosophical and practical differences in methodology and ethos. Those who follow your thoughtful competitor are unlikely to have ever been genuine fans of your brand; something about how you do things doesn’t quite sit right with them. A different way is a better fit. This would be the case whether that competitor existed or not.
In other words, your audience will self-select when you’re on an equal footing with competitors and the only thing distinguishing you is your thought process. Those who are a good fit for you will work with you or buy from you. Those who aren’t will go elsewhere.
And that’s a good thing. It ensures that the audience base and pipeline of leads you are building are an excellent fit for your business. Your ideal clients. This is the foundation for success.
How To ‘Do’ Thought Leadership Content Marketing
You can employ several strategies when using thought leadership in your marketing. The simplest is to include thought-leading content in your regular content marketing plan where possible. This is the most stress-free way of looking at it; there’s no pressure on you to develop a brilliant piece of innovation every week. No need to force yourself to have something meaningful to say on every subject you’re creating content around.
Instead, you go deep on the subjects you have a lot to say about, which you can genuinely give some original insight on.
If you want a more strategic approach when you’re putting together your content marketing plan:
- Identify the most important topics and keywords you want to be known and rank for; high traffic, high competition terms that will be tough.
- Identify the easy ones; low traffic, low competition, and considerably more manageable.
- Focus on the terms that will be challenging but highly rewarding.
Thought leadership content is high-investment content. If you’re doing it yourself, it takes a lot more time than regular content. If you’re outsourcing it, you’ll pay a premium, not only for the originality but for being allowed to take credit for someone else’s visionary take on your industry. So, while you can look at making every piece of content a thought-provoking masterpiece, you don’t need to.
Focusing on the areas that will get you the biggest bang for your proverbial buck is a great way to do it.
And, of course, if you’re looking for someone to pen those thought-leadership pieces, you know where to find me. You can order individual thought-leadership articles (or Charisma Content, as I like to call them) directly from the site or contact me to discuss a more comprehensive or long-term strategy.