In this tech-saturated age, customers have become skeptical about traditional advertising and marketing techniques, as they are seen as yet another attempt to sell them something. Equally, small businesses are finding that they aren’t generating enough leads or the cross-selling opportunities that they would like and, more importantly, are failing to open doors or start conversations with potential new customers. These disadvantages have led to thought leadership, a new type of content marketing that is more targeted than advertising with absolutely no self-promotion.
What is thought leadership?
Thought leadership is a relatively new concept for entrepreneurs who want to establish credibility within their particular sector. It taps into the expertise, experience, knowledge and passion of a particular professional inside the business to answer major questions that an audience has on a specific subject.
Thought leadership offers new ideas, good advice, practical solutions and a unique perspective, showing prospects and customers alike that you are an expert in your field and, therefore, trustworthy. In this way, your startup’s brand begins to stand out from the competition, which increases sales.
Creating a strategy
A successful thought leadership strategy is an effective way to rise above the noise in order to be heard by your customers. This strategy should be easy to understand and practical to implement. You can get started on the process by answering the following questions:
- What problems are we trying to solve?
- Who is our key audience and what do they want to hear?
- What customer challenges do we want to address or become known as an expert in?
- What channels are most used by this audience?
- What’s different about us and our company?
- What do we want to achieve from our thought leadership strategy?
Once these questions have been addressed, a strategy will start to take shape that will shift the business from talking about its products and/or services to solving customer problems and becoming a trusted adviser. Once this happens, the business has moved successfully to being a consultant, and pricing has less of an impact on customer purchasing decisions.
Content marketing is defined as, “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Thought leadership is a type of content marketing in which the professional or business is positioned as an expert to educate and win the trust of customers.
This can be done through original research, client case studies or best practices.
To fully grasp content marketing and the role of thought leadership, it’s useful to understand the four stages of the customer buying process:
- First, a customer has a need, but is unaware of the solution
- Second, the customer is aware of a solution and does research to find out more about that solution
- Third, the customer starts comparing different products on price and quality
- Finally, the customer makes his or her decision and completes the purchase
Traditional advertising and marketing come in at step three and four, whilst content marketing works for the first two steps of the buying process by raising awareness of solutions and educating customers about a product they may have never considered.
In order for your startup to move forward and grow through content marketing, it’s crucial that it focuses on meeting the needs of the target audience at every stage of the buying process.