Assuming you have any kind of long-term ambition for your business, you need to invest in marketing. That’s true across the board, regardless of the industry or nature of your company — there’s just too much competition out there to rely on new prospects simply happening upon you, with the online marketplace becoming more crowded with each passing day.
At this point, most halfway-competent business owners realize this and know enough to commit substantial resources to the cause. Where they differ is in how they use those resources. Some focus on old-fashioned advertising methods: getting mentioned in as many places as possible through influencer collaborations or PPC ads. Others go for content saturation, spooling out blog posts and social media copy in the hope of converting attention to visits, interest, and ultimately, purchases.
Those aren’t the only options, though, and we’ve left out one that’s increasingly important: cultivating recognition and respect in your industry through thought leadership. The question we’re going to consider in this article is whether you need a thought leadership marketing plan and whether you should be specifically dedicated to this tactic. Let’s get started:
Today’s world of digital advertising is heavily saturated, despite the many ways people can consume content. When it comes to content marketing, you have to device whether you want to truly help your target market, or appeal to their baser instincts. The former is at the heart of a thought leadership marketing plan: you’ll build confidence and acquire customers by showcasing your expertise. The latter is viral marketing; you’ll get people to share your content far and wide, but the customer conversion rate is appallingly low.
For B2B companies, especially companies that sell highly technical products and services, taking a thought leadership approach the best way build your brand and build confidence with potential customers. Here are the benefits of creating a thought leadership marketing plan for your company.
Let’s say you want to make a large purchase (perhaps for a B2B deal) but you’re not entirely sure what you need. What’s your next step? Unless you happen to know someone with the required expertise, you’ll likely look for it online through Google and/or social media. You might look for "[topic] expert", or simply look up the topic on a platform like Twitter to see which names come up. Either way, the first people you find will have opportunities to influence your decision.
By creating content to showcase your knowledge, collaborating with experts from other fields, and making appearances in relevant marketing channels (podcasts, for example), you can increasingly get your business associated with expertise — and, most usefully, pick up valuable links. And the more your website is linked to in the vicinity of your topic and the word "expert", the more Google’s algorithm will interpret you as holding that lofty position, improving your relevant rankings. This strategy lies at the heart of organic SEO.
As noted earlier, one marketing option involves working with influencers (a particularly effective tactic on Instagram) to promote your business: either paying them to mention your products or services or using some kind of mutually-beneficial arrangement involving giving them additional exposure. This can work very well, but it leaves you at the mercy of those influencers. There will always be a risk of them suddenly changing their rates, deciding to stop working with you, or — even worse — disgracing themselves and significantly tarnishing your reputation in the process.
It’s reasonable, then, to consider the obvious alternative: becoming an influencer. By repeatedly showing valuable thought leadership, you can steadily build your own following, leaving you with carte blanche to cover whichever matters you want to cover and promote whatever you want to promote. Not only can you market your own business, but you can also supplement that process by marketing other businesses you’re willing to recommend.
I mentioned the practice of producing massive quantities of content to get attention, but there’s a big problem with that approach: it rarely works. Only when the producer already has a significant audience can the scattergun method get results, and even then the results are questionably worthwhile. Even mediocre content takes time to create. If one in every hundred pieces gets you a handful of relevant visits, why bother at all?
This is why you should focus on creating high-quality content. Just one exceptional piece of cornerstone content — outperforming anything comparable in your field — can win you acclaim, pick up hundreds of significant backlinks, and make your brand truly memorable. It can achieve far more than a thousand pieces of thin content.
Churn is a stubborn foe in today’s business world, because it’s so easy to pivot from one company to another. It doesn’t really matter what the industry is: sure, it’s easier (particularly when it comes to B2B deals) to stick with an existing arrangement, but the prevalence of new customer deals and incentives — often driven by desperation to replace churned customers, perpetuating a tricky cycle — makes it sorely tempting to keep looking elsewhere.
Considering that a loyal customer is far more valuable than a fresh one, there’s a powerful motivation to work on customer retention, and a strong thought leadership marketing plan can really help with this. Customers want to get excellent prices and superb service, no doubt, but they also want to associate with respected companies because it reflects well on them. If you can get your brand into a position of industry prominence, it’ll push those all-important customers to stick with you through patches of discontentment.
It should be clear from everything we’ve looked at here, but to be completely direct, let’s return to the titular question. Does your business need a thought leadership marketing plan? Yes. When executed well, it confers so much value: it drives relevant traffic, allows you to serve as an independent influencer, resonates more than generic content marketing ever could, and gives customers reasons to stick by your brand.
At NWES, we work with technology companies in the electronics, optics, and software industries. We provide product development services, and we’ll construct a thought leadership marketing plan for your new product. Contact NWES today to learn what we can do for you.