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How to Evolve from Content Marketing to Thought Leadership

We are in the content business, so we would be lying if we said we didn’t know just about all the pitching templates out there. Of course, it would be impossible to know them all – but we do have a rooted understanding of the main forms from which the derivative pitches are made.

If you have been in the content industry for a while, one that you might have heard so much is ‘Content is King.’

These three words have been said so much that they have almost become the bedrock on which the content and content marketing industry has been built.

But, Is Content Really King?

If there was any other way to say ‘No’ with resounding effort, we would have opted for that here.

Before you come for us with sticks and stones, hear us out.

The saying ‘Content is king’ has led many people down a line of content marketing which just does not work. To them, simply churning out the content should get the job done – after all, it is king.

The truth, however, is that there was a time when just about any kind of content would work – in some measures – for a brand. With the level of sophistication which the target audiences are attaining these days, though, that does not cut it anymore.

To put it in clearer words, we are now at that point where we have a lot of content roaming around the creative streets, so to speak. This means extra effort needs be put into the content that will rule them all so that it does become king.

Gone are the days when content supplies are far and in-between, so your content needs to have that extra kick if it really wants the crown.

This extra kick, or in any other way you might want to put it, is thought leadership.

How Thought Leadership is Changing Content Marketing

You can take a moment to Google any topic of your choice on the internet, and we can assure you that you would come up with multiple search results promising to answer your query best. Of course, they will do their best, but you will be subconsciously drawn to some content providers more than others.

Say, you were looking for a list of the richest people on the planet, the search results from Forbes will instantly stand out better to you. That is not because they were the first to start this, but because they have established some sort of thought leadership with such content.

Every other platform creating similar content will surely do well, but will their content be king among peers? This tells you that it is time to leave the train of content marketing and join the thought leadership wagon before it takes off at full steam.

Fortunately, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make this happen.

The 7 Steps to Thought Leadership

If you are also ready to establish yourself as an authority in your preferred field – as you should be – here are a handful of paths to get you there in no time:

1. Know Your Audience

For those who have been doing content marketing right, this should neither be new nor difficult.

One of the first steps, if not the very first, in any content strategy is knowing who you are targeting with such content.

Putting this in context, it would be counterproductive to peddle a bunch of new sneakers to executives in a bank, and you might not have luck selling a life assurance policy to middle school students too. You could snag a few sales once in a while, but that would be a total waste of your marketing spends and efforts.

With a knowledge of your audience, you not only get to pick the right topics that they have been looking to get broached, but decipher the proper approach, tone and style to make it happen too.

2. Set a Goal

The first goal here is obvious already – to become a thought leader. So, we won’t even mention that.

Now that we have a main focus, what do you aim to achieve on the side?

Would you like your brand to be known as the go-to palace for a particular topic, or the brand to reach for a wider range of topics? Are you looking to boost the awareness and engagement your brand already has? In short, what are the things you hope to achieve on the path to building quality leadership in your chosen niche?

3. Innovate

We have had automobiles in the market for years now, but the Tesla brand brought something that no other manufacturer was looking to fully explore: electric cars. Same can be said for Apple who could have chosen to go with keyboards, but instead made a radical move to launch a device that had only a screen.

The people behind these concepts were not crazy – well, not in the literal sense of the word – since they knew doing the same thing as everyone else puts them in a box. They, rather, wanted to stand out.

Thus, you should be on your toes in spotting current trends, introducing new ideas and sparking fresh, insightful conversations. Instead of looking to join the old debates, be the one to throw in a new curveball to spice up the debate.

4. Curate Topics

Now that you know what you want to establish your thought leadership in, and have a strategy to getting there (as informed by your goals), your topics should come into play.

These topics should be chosen in such a way that they address the salient issues in your current niche. Easy is not always great, so you should look to pounce on the topics that others are too timid to get into. You never know who has been searching for these but never got specific answers ever since.

After going through the curation process, you should also keep flexibility in mind.

Seasons come and go, and trends can pop up at the unlikeliest of times. You want your content calendar to be so packed that you never miss any window for timely updates, but also open enough that you can fit in new ideas as the market and audience demands.

5. Reach out

Now that you have topics at hand, it becomes important to reach out to thought leaders in your industry. These people will be in a better position to not only explain the topics to the target audience with quality facts and insights, but command respect too.

It is the same way you would read a book on investment if Warren Buffet was the author rather than a small-time forex trader.

This does not mean you always have to go big. Especially if you are a start-up, securing the very big names in the industry could be almost impossible.

You could always start by looking inwards to see if there is anyone on your management team who will be in the best place to communicate the thought leadership piece to your audience.

A bigger advantage you can leverage these days is outsourcing your content ideas to research institutes. With a wealth of contacts at their disposal, they can get you in the room with authority personnel for your topics faster than you would by yourself

6. Go for Quality

We have seen brands subscribe to that whole ‘post as much as you can’ channel. We can tell you that this does not necessarily work.

Your audience will be better satisfied with a well-thought out, detailed piece of content than they would tolerate half-baked ones rolled out on a regular.

Taking a cue from mainstream media, we have the examples of two highly-successful television series – Sherlock and The Big Bang Theory – to look at.

The latter series is taped almost every two weeks, and the show has been receiving great media attention right to the very end. Sherlock, on the other hand, is only released once every two years – and it has not been found wanting at the awards tables either.

This goes on to show that brands need to find the balance that works for them and go with that. There is no rule, except the one you make for yourself, when it comes to the frequency with which you can bless your audience with that properly-cooked broth of amazing content.

7. Track Metrics

One point where thought leadership and content marketing meet yet again is with the metrics.

You want to be sure that the moves you are making are generating the desired returns, and what other way to know that than by tracking the metrics?

Here, you should check out things like:

  • Your click rate – This tells how many people were interested in seeing what you had to offer in the first place
  • Bounce rate – You want to keep this low. A high bounce rate means the content isn’t meeting the needs of the audience getting it. You should either optimize the content to work better for the intended audience, or tweak it to start hitting the right audience.
  • New followers – Personally, we wouldn’t follow a brand if their content was sub-par. Getting new follows shows what kind of content such sections of audience is interested in
  • Subscription increments – From the goals tab above, sign ups and subscriptions could be some of the aims of your thought leadership program. How about checking to see if its working?
  • And much more – The metrics above are, by far, not close to everything you should be on the lookout for. Depending on your industry and specific goals, identify more metrics that you should always keep an eye on.

Get Started Today

If you have been wondering when the best time to migrate from basic content marketing to thought leadership is, that would be yesterday. Thankfully, today is another day when you can have a go at it.

It does sound like a lot of work, but you would be building the foundation for something great. You can also outsource the task to a dedicated brand that knows just what they are doing to make your presence felt in the market.

Whatever you do, though, don’t tarry till the competition snatches the baton.

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