Avoiding the hard sell
With such a vast spectrum of media available, from print and television adverts, to advertorial, to funded editorial, it is vital to select the correct channel for a specific message. Marketing has to be efficient and direct. Not only does a message have to reach its intended audience, it also has to resonate.
Customers (or members) are not interested in a ‘pitch’. They want to feel as if they are the agents of their own choices, and these choices are driven by collating and selecting their own information. We know that a large proportion of B2B buyers will now research a service provider or product before contacting a company. It’s within this initial stage of a buyer’s journey that the vital first impressions are made, and one element they’ll be interested in is the content and thought leadership created by that organisation.
Producing thought leadership content is one way to sell a brand and a level of expertise, especially to those with purchasing power. Content that is impartial and educational means that your material is no longer categorised as biased, but instead a valuable resource that people will learn from, and importantly, trust.
What this does is reposition the business as an industry expert, establish authority in a certain subject, and place your business opinion at the forefront of a market. By pre-empting, or reacting to, a current trend or issue, whilst simultaneously providing a potential solution, the existence of quality product is simply assumed.
This also helps a business remain relevant. Markets are dynamic and fluid and things like legislation or trends frequently change. By producing content on a number of current issues, your business is perceived as cutting edge and able to keep up and remain a reliable service provider. The content can still follow a simple problem-solution model, but omit the product for sale. Instead the solution is the expertise held by the organisation.
The human aspect
Thought leadership also gives a face to the business. This human aspect appeals to the customer, or potential client, in as such they are able to identify, and relate to, a figurehead who has proven experience and first-hand knowledge. A faceless corporation then becomes a trustworthy advisor.
However, it is important that your thought leader is selected wisely. A sales director or a marketing executive has a clear ulterior motive and may not be seen as a trustworthy source. Instead, an individual qualified in a topic area and someone who is the most authoritative in their field holds greater weight. For example, a CFO is the best placed to comment on financial topics; a Head of Cyber Security is best placed to discuss matters of business continuity and resilience.
Ensuring your message reaches the desired target audiences is clearly crucial. While opting for maximum brand awareness is great for some objectives, when trying to deliver a specific message to a specific group of people, efficiency is key. An essential part of creating content is to ensure you deliver it through the correct channel. In a B2B sphere, membership bodies and associations are direct line of communication to C-suite leaders and key industry stakeholders. Membership bodies often have multi-channel avenues to reach their (and potentially your) audience too; a membership magazine, E-newsletter, online content hub.
Equally, thought-leadership and content-led marketing by nature should only appeal and interest those who you are addressing. Creating niche content means you are operating within a small field of purchasers with an interest in what you have to say. Therefore, anyone who actively looks for, and finds, your content can be assumed to be a valuable reader (within the scope of your target audience).
Quality over quantity
A fair warning – as successful and influential as good content can be, bad content can be as equally damaging to a brand or company’s reputation. As previously mentioned, a lot of thought leadership and content is digested in the first stages of a buyer’s journey. Any poor quality content could have you dismissed before you’ve even made contact. If you’re unsure of what makes a good piece of thought leadership, and what makes a bad one, find an expert who does.
So, what should you take away from this article?
- Targeted messaging is the way forward in creating impact with specific groups, use it as a chance to speak to your chosen audience.
- Opt for an impartial approach to inform, educate and influence.
- Aim to be viewed as an authoritative voice with professional expertise
- Use content-led pieces to showcase your company as cutting edge and relevant; react to news and industry changes.
- Nominate thought leaders who can spearhead your content to put a face to your organisation.
- Create niche content to appeal to specific stakeholders
- Select direct marketing channels
- Ensure your content is high quality and engaging
- Know if it worked. Establish what you want to achieve, what success will look like and measure it.