When Bill Gates wrote “Content is King” in 1996, he probably couldn’t have foreseen the extent to which his prediction would come true. Today, content is a driving force for brands of all kinds. Content marketers have become hyper-focused on implementing effective strategies that feed prospective customers and clients into the next phase of the proverbial buyer journey.
But not all strategies fit for every step in a marketing funnel, and not all content types are created equal. Marketing specifically for lead generation, lead conversion and brand awareness are each important and play different roles in fulfilling business goals. In the end, in my opinion, thought leadership is the most powerful type of content marketing at every stage of your brand’s growth.
In the hands of unskilled marketers (like technical founders that take on marketing duties in the early stages of startups), content marketing tends to be more of an afterthought. Announcements like product releases and company news make up the bulk of company content, peppered with blogs and articles that regurgitate overused information like basic how-to explainers and top 10 listicles. But even the least marketing-minded founder knows that nobody likes clickbait, and infrequent product launches do not fill a content calendar.
The truth is, thought leadership doesn’t have to be costly or difficult. You just need to shift your approach and let what’s unique and memorable about your company shine through. Are you ready to challenge everything you think you know about thought leadership? Based on my experience, here’s how to drive your brand’s marketing strategy with lasting and impactful content.
Approach thought leadership holistically, not hierarchically.
The misunderstanding of the term “thought leadership” can scare away any overwhelmed marketer or overworked founder. But the assumption that thought leadership content has to take the shape of long-form think pieces or wordy, overwrought blog posts is off base. Content in the category of thought leadership can take any number of forms, from videos and short-form writing to just having a consistent presence on social media. To meet the criteria of true thought leadership, content should provoke reflection and discussion or move someone to action.
The power of real thought leadership, in my opinion, comes from generating or contributing — meaningfully — to conversation around an industry topic. Based on my investigation into large data sets of Huffington Post content, I observed that audience engagement and post-performance had less to do with the format or the medium of the content and more to do with topical relevance, tone and contextual delivery. Approaching thought leadership this way, all content formats have equal potential value, and no one medium is inherently better than another. It’s just a question of how you use them.