Thought Leadership and Digital Marketing

Yes, I can see it now. One look at the header, a quizzical furrowing of the brow, and then dawning realisation. It’s another new must-use fad to succeed in the digital marketing world of 2018.

Almost, although thought leadership has been at the forefront of successful content marketing for several years. The chances are you’ve already read articles which were planned using the process of thought leadership marketing.  You just didn’t realise it. So what is it?

‘By definition, thought leadership is a method of marketing, which solidifies you as an expert and authority within your industry. The goal of thought leadership marketing is not to create sales heavy content, but to provide an entry point to your business by branding yourself as an expert.’ - Outbrain.com. Although you’ll find many thought leadership articles aimed toward B2B, the process can be used as successfully on a B2C basis.

Projecting an Image

The principle of thought leadership based articles is tied to the process of inbound content marketing. Providing good quality articles which draw your clients to your site, because they look on you as someone they can trust.

With a physical bricks-and-mortar business, your biggest concern is getting consumers to know where you are and giving them a reason to visit.

Once inside, during face-to-face conversation, you answer their questions and queries. You make suggestions to resolve their problem, or offer alternatives. You may even suggest a competitor if you can’t supply their needs. All of this imparts a subliminal feeling they are dealing with an expert, someone they can trust. It is also the main reason they will keep returning.

Thought leadership articles should be crafted in a similar manner. A manner which projects, through words and content, these same feelings to the reader. That they are reading an article from someone who knows what he’s talking about, and not from someone trying to sell them something.

Consumers the world over prefer to believe they make the final choice when it comes to purchasing a product or accepting a service. It’s why people walk into a superstore, and walk out with twice as much as they wanted. Because nobody tried to sell them anything; they picked the goods off the shelves all by themselves.

Site Optimisation

Back to our bricks-and-mortar example. Being an experienced rhetorician won’t count for much, if the building he’s standing in is a mix of crumbling plaster and flaking paint. Likewise, your carefully crafted thought leadership article won’t attract the attention it deserves if your website is poorly optimised, or your social media presence is lacking.

You still need strong foundations to build a good website. You need accessibility across all search engines. It needs to be mobile compatible. It needs to load fast, be easy to navigate, and locally optimised. Once the basics are in place, you can concentrate on the interior.

Search Engine Optimization

From the early days of the internet, marketers have been using SEO to improve branding. Two things in particular have remained at the forefront of SEO best practises: good quality content and keywords.

Keywords remain important. While the old days of keyword stuffing have disappeared, long-tail keywords have overtaken the single keyword in SEO to improve branding in the marketplace. Google is also finding an increasing amount of question type searches are being asked, as more people use voice searching. (For your next thought leadership based article, try using a question as your main header.)

Marketing thoughts change. It wasn’t so long ago the written word was going to disappear, and infographics and video were going to become the new content. The truth of the matter is, while infographics and video may suit some subjects, well-written content and images better suit others.

To Summarise . . .

Thought leadership is the effective use of inbound marketing content designed not to advertise your brand or products directly. Instead, your marketing thoughts should be focused on both the sharing of information with clients, and setting yourself up as a client’s go-to source for information, via high quality content. In this way, you will be indirectly promoting your brand, products, and services – with no hint of a marketing pitch.