/ By Mark Hayden

Top Three Content Marketing Strategies To Become a Thought Leader and Grow Your Business

As your brand attempts to compete for attention in today’s modern world of marketing, you’ll be hearing more and more about content marketing. This practice, as part of an overall marketing strategy, involves creating and sharing online content from engaging social media posts and photos to videos and blogs. Successful brands don’t exclusively and directly promote their products (although that can be part of it), but mostly, they want to stimulate and cultivate conversations around the ecosystem where their products or services reside.

So, where do you start with content marketing?

Content marketing is not about just internet content. Businesses have been using it for years because it’s rooted in your customer’s thoughts and ideas about your product or service. Before email, texting, social media, etc., people physically shared books and articles about products and ideas with friends. They would cut the page out of a publication and affix a Post-It Note with a short message that would read “Hey, I thought this was cool and wanted you to see it!.” You could say that Post-It created one of the first sharing platforms.

Leading through thought

Now, people are using multiple channels for content marketing including native advertising, websites, social media, blogs, email marketing and texting. All of them are enabling brands to become sources for new ideas and thought leadership in their industries.

Thought leadership is when informed leadership guides consumer opinion. As a thought leader, you become the go-to trusted source for innovative ideas that move and inspire people. Essentially, you shift ideas into reality and reveal how to replicate success.

Where does thought leadership come from?

If you set a goal of making your business a thought leader, you first become keenly aware of your audience’s big questions within your industry and/or community. That means research and, quite simply, just talking to people—customers, suppliers, investors, management team and staff. You share thoughts and values related to each others’ expertise in a product or service.

Thought leaders begin conversations and work with other industry leaders to find—or at least just discuss—solutions. They leverage their company’s internal expert talent, experience, and passion within their business and forge a trusting bond with their audience.

This is where the buyer’s journey begins.

The tools of thought leadership

So, how do you begin the process of becoming a thought leader? First, establish your “voice.” Typically your voice is tied to your brand which is a product of your organization’s mission, vision and values. If you are unsure about what your brand stands for, it’s important to do a discovery in order to nail that down. Otherwise, your voice will have no direction and you’re likely to drift off course when it comes to tone, manner and subject matter.

Your brand is your rudder guiding what you discuss and how you discuss it while these channels power your efforts:

1. Bringing the social to media

At no time in history have more people been able to participate in world-wide conversations than in the era of social media. The multiple platforms that make up social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc—give customers and prospects the power of their own mini media channels. People not only have the opportunity to listen and interact, but the power to influence how organizations act around the world. Social media provides businesses with a real-time closed feedback loop that lets them test ideas and get instant reaction.

Positive high engagement is based upon quality content. Without it, you’re posting noise—or worse, just selling. When a brand constantly promotes its products or services without a conversation, it’s like asking someone to marry them on the first date. You don’t know them!

But, when a brand does it right and nurtures the relationship, they build lasting loyalty making their stakeholders feel as though they are part of an experience.

Apple exemplifies a brand that knows its audience and how to engage them through social media. Their Instagram efforts help them tell the story while promoting their products. Apple is at a stage where they don’t need to bullet-point features because they communicate with their customers on an EMOTIONAL level. That transcends price and perceptive feature shortcomings. That’s a hallmark of understanding and executing on a strong brand.

Social media is a personal media. As the engagement volume grows, effectively managing and tracking your interactions becomes challenging. A solid social media platform can help you efficiently manage interactions while learning about your audience along the way that will help you make better decisions from a marketing and operations standpoint.

2. Blog for traffic

Blog posts can be one of the most effective ways to drive qualified traffic to your website and communicate expertise in a product or service industry. Not only are blogs great for reinforcing thought leadership positions, but they can boost organic search rankings (SEO) on key search engines like Google and Bing.

When you blog correctly, each post is one more indexed page on your website which means one more opportunity to show up in organic search results that drive traffic to your website. Blogging cues search engines that your website is urging them to check in frequently for new shareable content. According to HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform, the best performing pages on company websites are relevant and timely how-to posts, lists, informative posts, and videos.

3. Email marketing, not email blast

Email marketing is one of the more intrusive, yet permissive forms of direct marketing that keeps you in front of prospects and customers. It’s intrusive because it arrives in the Inbox that people check several times a day. If you’re a retailer, this could be a few times a week (which, even if it’s a brand you love, can get annoying), so it’s important that you not abuse the fact that your recipient has given you permission to email him or her. Doing so can cause you to lose customers.

Just about any email your company sends a potential or current client could be considered marketing. However, formal email marketing deepens relationships by communicating something of value. Things like surveys show customers your care about how they feel. Promotions deliver financial incentives that can save customers money. Company updates build on personal relationships with the company.

Using email to deliver these types of content create value for customers and reinforce your brand promise.

Custom content marketing strategy yields tailored results

We think that WHAT you say is just as important as HOW you say it. At Workhorse, we leverage the latest customer relationship management systems (CRM) like Hubspot, Marketo and Eloqua to track audience activity over time and guide our evolving content marketing strategy through every step of the customer journey.

The insights gained from solid CRM data allows us to both establish a solid content marketing strategy upfront and wisely modify it as the data dictates. With the right information, you can present the right message to the right audience, position your company as a thought leader and build lasting value in your brand.

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