Posted at May 21, 2019 10:56:00 AM by THAT Agency | Share
To understand thought leadership, ask yourself why you clicked on this link. The title alone tells you that it's going to describe a new inbound marketing strategy that you want to know about. You want to learn about that marketing strategy from a Florida inbound marketing agency. You're looking to this article for leadership on a particular line of thinking. That's exactly what your customers and clients do.
When people search online for articles that educate them, they often find content published in the industry. It ranks high on Google because certain keywords are used. Google prioritizes these keywords in terms of assessing which articles it should present first on a search.
Inbound Marketing Gives us the Basics
For instance, maybe someone wants to know how BMW's xDrive works. They could find out from Wikipedia or an online automotive magazine, but when they search the most local BMW dealer is what comes up first. They'd be the experts, so of course you click on that article. Now you're at their website, reading their article, clicking through to their links that sell you a car that features xDrive.
This is a very specific example. What someone's searching for here is already branded, and the article defining it is very straightforward. All this does is help clarify the basics to understand how thought leadership plugs into inbound marketing. Here, BMW hasn't gone out and pushed an ad. Someone specifically searched in the hope of finding a result that could teach them something.
They trusted the result they found to give them an answer, which means they trusted the business providing that answer. Traditionally, half of any kind of sales is convincing the customer or client that they can trust the person or brand selling to them.
Evolving the Elements of Content
The customers already searching for you by brand are not the ones you're worried about. They're already interested, so let's take this a step further. Maybe they want to know how watches work underwater. What luck! In this example, you sell high-end, luxury watches.
They're not looking for your brand, but because it contains good SEO, your article comes up high in the Google results. They click on it. Your article is concise and fun. It tells them what they want to know in a way that's easy to understand. It features beautiful images of your waterproof, luxury watches. It also points the way for them to learn more – how these watches are made, for instance, or the history of waterproof watches. Like those additional articles, it also points to the watches whose images are featured so beautifully in them: “See these watches in action.”
Maybe these articles even feature videos where you put your watches to the test, such as submerging them and showing them working perfectly right after. (Videos help Google prioritize your results even more highly.)
All they wanted to know was how watches work underwater. You provided that answer to them in a way that was fun to learn, while also using your product as an example and directing them to learn more about a topic they're already curious about. This still doesn't quite get us to thought leadership in its entirety, but we're getting close.
Thought Leadership in Action
Let's stick with that last example and bring it fully into thought leadership territory. Now someone knows how waterproof watches work, but is their perspective changed or broadened in any way? Probably not. They know something they didn't, and that's good content. It has strong SEO, answers a precise question, it helps visitors trust your brand, and it features your products. That checks off a lot of boxes for effective inbound marketing.
Thought leadership pushes even further. It is often disruptive by nature. It teaches something you're passionate about and connects with customers on a level that goes beyond brand. Why did you start your watch company? What don't customers know that would change their perspective?
Perhaps you saw an opportunity to make luxury watches sustainably. Here, you can teach about using sustainable materials, vetting sources, using green power. Show your passion for what you've embraced that makes your industry better.
Maybe customers don't know how to tell black market fakes from real luxury watches. They could buy something black market that will fail and that's less valuable than the real thing. You can feature content that goes into how experts tell a luxury brand watch from a black market one. You can feature another article that talks about the black market exploitation of child labor working with low quality toxic materials, and how brand-name watches avoid this. You can talk about how you stand against it and make your sourcing and production transparent.
Another article might be about how watches evolved as a status symbol. Talk about how you view this – where you agree and disagree.
For that matter, why are men's watches status symbols and women's aren't? Perhaps you think women's watches should catch up, and women self-purchasers should feel braver about showing off new luxury watches. Make that argument.
Completing the Thought
Take stances that you do believe – your writing on these matters should be engaging and passionate so it's inclusive of the readers and invites them in. Don't make things up or claim something that isn't true – there's already enough of that out there, and it severely risks customer trust.
Chances are to create this kind of content, you'll probably outsource some of it to an inbound marketing agency. You can let the agency take lead on many subjects, but for thought leadership, you should be involved in shaping the articles and the stances they take.
Now these are just examples. Most reading this aren't selling luxury watches. Yet you understand now how each of these hypothetical articles teaches, takes a stand, and evolves thought on a subject.
That is what makes up thought leadership. You start with the basics of inbound marketing and how it draws visitors by answering a precise question. You understand that reading that content encourages visitors to trust you. Content with strong SEO encourages more visitors. You'll work on how to feature your product in an unobtrusive way. Finally, you can link all these concepts together in content that teaches customers and expands their way of thinking about what you sell and why you sell it that way.
Lead, Don't Sell
The point is never the sale. The point is never to push advertising into the content. It's there, but you never want it to interrupt the content. That makes the content feel disingenuous, which fractures one of the building blocks of thought leadership.
The point is the content itself. It will drive traffic. It will get shared. If customers connect to it and find value in it, they will find value in your product and your brand. If they find value in your brand as a thought leader, they've already decided to buy.