By Kelsey Boudin,
President and Founder, Southern Tier Communications Strategies, LLC
Can you think of someone in your personal and/or professional life who is the go-to for information? This person could be anyone. Perhaps it’s your father, whose lawn each spring and summer appears so professionally manicured it’s the envy of the neighborhood. Perhaps it’s your company’s Chief Financial Officer, whose business experience and expertise are sought for seminars all around the globe.
Maybe it’s you. Or, at least, it could be you.
A thought leader possesses significant knowledge in an area of professional or life skills. Thought leaders are often highly sought as a source of wisdom. Not coincidentally, they enjoy distinct advantages in the business world as those seeking their wisdom are also seeking their products and services.
Building Your Brand to Become an Industry Thought Leader
At the inbound marketing agency where I worked before leaving for the nonprofit world, this was one of the most fun and exciting parts of the job. We created and curated digital content for ourselves and our client companies to achieve thought leadership for our respective target audiences. (My tactics haven’t changed much for this website.)
The goal? To offer the most helpful content possible to answer consumer questions and engage prospective clients where they reside in the digital world. If you have significant knowledge to share that’ll help consumers and open doors to conversations that’ll benefit both you and them, here are a few tips to get started:
Meet Your Target Audience Where They Are
A benefit of the digital realm is you don’t have to cast a wide net. This isn’t like the early days of radio when programs were unabashed product advertisements (recall the Iodent Hour from the musical “Annie”) in hopes of achieving brand recognition by repeatedly pounding it into consumers’ heads that the company exists.
While traditional advertising clings to a ledge of ever-decreasing importance, it’s now more important for brands to produce helpful content and promote it in the places your target audience typically hangs out.
This may take a combination of some significant demographic research, website and social media analytics, and plain common sense. Here are some great target market insights from Hootsuite.
Are your ideal buyers middle-class college grads living in suburbia who may be looking for help changing a lawn mower spark plug? Might want to schedule the link to an appropriate blog to post on Facebook just after the evening commute, when “Middle Management Matt” is more likely to stumble upon it while helping to prepare dinner and thinking about tinkering around in the garage. Are your ideal buyers C-level executives who need help with strategic planning? Schedule such content on LinkedIn during the early morning when they’re likely to be reading industry blogs and planning for their busy days. Are your ideal buyers college kids searching travel accommodations? Instagram and SnapChat may be your best bets.
The digital realm changes continuously, with new platforms emerging and fading into obscurity. But some of them are now approaching 20 years of dominance, so it’s best to know how best to leverage their capabilities. Consumers appreciate not having to traverse vast information deserts and treacherous ravines for the answers they need.
Answer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Speaking of providing answers they need, the best place to start is with the FAQs. Does your company have a formal list of questions your service department most often receives. Does your product have a service manual of parts that may need to be fixed or replaced in time? Is there a multifaceted process your ideal buyer should understand before choosing a provider? Questions like these might include:
- How do I troubleshoot my network printer?
- Why is my mower blade making a grinding sound?
- How do I upgrade my subscription using my remote?
- What are the components of asphalt?
Ideally, you should create at least one piece of content surrounding each issue confronting your target audience. Your SEO will thank you.
Stop Promoting Yourself
It’s not all about you. Marketing techniques of yesteryear hammered brand names in the minds of people and their capabilities as the cure for all ills. Your grandmother likely remembers door-to-door vacuum salesmen combing neighborhoods for their next “kill.” Suave, fast-talking gentlemen showed up on doorsteps in snappy suits — when your grandfather was at work — to charm, flirt and hype their products.
The salesmanship was all about the company and the product. “The best in town!” “No better carpet shampoo on the market — and it even works on your dog!” And of course, it was always “The steal of the century!”
It only took a few decades of malfunctioning vacuums and hairless dogs for people to get the hint. People weren’t being helped. They were being duped. They were being sold on products and brands which, at the very least, were only moderately better than the competition.
People prefer people who can help with their problems. They prefer to be appreciated and nurtured and that their business is earned without coercion or sleight of hand. Thought leaders don’t promote themselves and their products, but rather solutions.
Be Conversational and Strike an Appropriate Tone
Content aimed at the average Joe wouldn’t be very effective if it were written in technical terms only a master engineer would understand. Likewise, a master engineer wouldn’t take seriously a piece of industrial content written in layman’s terms. Communicate to your audience and their expectations.
Communicating conversationally, whether written or verbal, is an act of respect. You’re meeting your audience on their level and speaking in their language. And your target audience may also be engaged best through blog posts, videos, infographics, whitepapers or webinars. Choose the best option to reach them as they prefer.
Seamless communication eases the process of nurturing relationships from awareness to consideration to decision along the buyer’s journey, as well as from buyer to delighted brand ambassador.
Industry Thought Leaders Guide Conversations, Not Sales
Today’s consumers are just smarter. They’ve long since grown tired of the sales pitch — and they’re wary of a routine conversation subtly becoming a sales pitch. They have a galaxy of information at their fingertips, and most simply want an answer now.
Wouldn’t you like to be the voice of reason amid oceans of worthless web content?
For more guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced content marketer.