How thought leadership content can bring you new business
When we talk to our clients about producing thought leadership stuff, the reaction is always ‘sure, that’s something we know we should be doing but we don’t have time’. It’s true, establishing and maintaining a position as a thought leader is a resource-intensive activity, but one that in some cases can provide real benefit for those that put the effort in. Huge firms like Deloitte invest in producing white papers each year – why? Because it positions them reputationally at the forefront of their field and gets their brand in front of decision makers. But not everyone is Deloitte, far from it, so is there value in SMEs putting out thought leadership pieces?
What can you do to make it a success?
1) Originality – thought leadership should be just that. Rehashing old ideas, last year’s data and well-known arguments won’t cut it. Some businesses naturally won’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said, although this doesn’t often stop them! Generally, if you have a small audience and following, you’ll need to produce something really insightful, something people will want to share for it to be worth your time and effort.
2) Occupy a niche – smaller businesses tend to be experts in niche areas. Make that work in your favour and tackle topics that relate to your core proposition. This will drive the right kinds of people to read it and raise awareness of your work amongst those likely to buy your products and services – this alignment is really crucial to provide ROI.
3) Brand values and personality – your personality as an organisation should shine through the output. Let it be a window into what you’re like to work with; what your values are and what your take on the subject is. Whilst it’s good to present data and evidence, original analysis is what gets people excited and more likely to share.
4) Format – thought leadership pieces range from full-on primary research over years, or can take the form of an informal blog series like this one. There’s clearly a balance to be struck between investing loads in a huge project and not hitting the mark because of insufficient research. This is why it’s important to play to your strengths, it’ll allow you to make the most of your time. Often a level of research will be required, otherwise, you’re in the realms of an opinion piece – people usually expect some fresh evidence in thought leadership. For SMEs, this could be a great project to involve (paid) interns in – they’re fresh out of researching full time for the university and can tackle the time-consuming stuff.
5) Timing – releasing your piece at the right time and through intelligent channels is obviously a key part in creating impact. Will industry press sponsor it’s release, or at least mention it? If not, perhaps it’s a sign it’s not ‘leadership’ enough.
6) Don’t play your whole hand – ultimately, these things are designed to drive people towards your organisation, showcase what you know and your take on the world, but should leave them wanting a little more. A reason to get in contact is key, so provide questions and some answers, but perhaps hold one back for face-to-face discussion.
Oh yes, and make it easy for people to get in touch with you. Like this. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any of this, and how we can support with the production of thought leadership pieces and strategy.