When creating a thought leadership marketing strategy, you should focus first on three elements: customers, competition, and content. In this post I’ll give a brief overview on what you need to think about these elements and go into more detail on each one in my next three posts.
Who are your customers, and what are their information needs? I find that a lot of companies, particularly small and mid-sized companies, don’t have a really clear picture of their customers. By that I mean, what their title is, what their function is, what kind of people they are, what issues keep them awake at night — a really detailed description of their customer. I find that going through the process of developing buyer personas to create a clear picture of your customers to be well worth the effort.
Then once you’ve clearly identified your potential customers, you need to think about their information needs. What do they need to know, and when? There are various ways to determine this, but I find that having conversations with your salespeople (heaven forbid) about it can be a fruitful and inexpensive means for coming up with some answers.
Thought leadership marketing is actually a competitive positioning technique. By that I mean that what you are trying to do is position your firm as a thought leader on some topic or topics to set yourself apart from your competition in those topic areas. Of course, you want to choose a topic area that’s related to your core business goals. Never forget that your ultimate goal is to grow your business, and that positioning your firm as a thought leader is a technique to help you achieve that goal.
So, in the area you want to be a thought leader, who is your competition, and what are they doing to hold a thought leadership position? If your competitors aren’t doing much, it can be relatively easy to gain that thought leadership position. If they’re doing a lot, you’ll have to be prepared to make a concerted effort, or maybe you need to narrow the topic area in which you’re looking to position yourself. Either way, you need to know what your competition is doing and how they are perceived by the marketplace.
Thought leadership marketing is executed through content. You’re seen as a thought leader by what you’ve written in your blog or on your website or in magazines or books, etc. and by what you’ve said — in webinars or at events or even person-to-person. So, what content do you need to position yourself as a thought leader? The answer, of course, depends on what you’ve learned when you’ve determined what your prospective customer’s informational needs are and what your competition is doing.
Once you clearly understand your customers and your competition you need to determine the following:
- What content choices are possible (check out the Content Marketing Playbook)?
- What content types work best in your marketplace (where do your prospects hang out)?
- What content types are best for achieving your marketing goals?
- What types of content are you capable of producing (budget, effort, skill)?
By focusing on customers, competition, and content you’ll be well on your way to creating a great thought leadership marketing strategy. In our next blog we’ll go into more detail about what you need to do to understand your customer’s information needs.