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8 Steps to Thought Leadership through Content Marketing Share this white paper.


Introduction If you are an entrepreneur, executive, or business leader, thought leadership matters to you. This whitepaper is written for those interested in learning how they can turn their expertise into influence by becoming industry thought leaders. If you want to develop trust, loyalty, and engagement with your customers and potential customers, this information is for you.

About the author

Kelsey Meyer

President of Influence & Co. @Kelsey_M_Meyer

Kelsey Meyer is the co-founder and president of Influence & Co. Through her experience working with hundreds of clients and publications, she understands the ins and outs of thought leadership and content creation. Kelsey leads the teams that strategize, create, edit, and publish bylined articles for their clients, and she contributes to dozens of publications herself, including Forbes and Under30CEO.

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Why should I care about thought leadership? • Content marketing is the best vehicle to showcase your thought leadership. • People want to do business with thought leaders. Thought Leader, Defined n: An industry expert who shares his or her expertise with a broader audience for the purpose of educating, improving, and adding value to the industry as a whole

• Thought leadership matters for companies in all stages. • Wouldn’t it be great if your clients and colleagues viewed you as an expert?

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The problem You need to develop trust, credibility, and loyalty within your customer segments. Is it important that your customers trust you as a credible source? Is it important for you to educate your customers? Is it important for you to address your customers’ objections and pain points and provide solutions? Is it important for you to be more than a brand, and for your customers to connect with you on a personal level?

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It starts with a person. Thought leadership comes from an

individual, but it represents the brand. This is a way for you to humanize your

brand and connect with customers on a more personal level.

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Content marketing in action Let’s follow Mark. Mark Quinn is a Segment VP of Marketing with Leggett & Platt, a multibillion-dollar components manufacturer. He has more than two decades of experience in the mattress industry. Quinn writes a bedding industry and marketing blog called “Q’s Views.” He also serves as Chairman of the Board for the Better Sleep Council. Share this white paper.

Mark’s goals with content marketing

Position himself as a marketing and bedding industry expert through bylined articles

Drive traffic to his blog, “Q’s Views,” and expand his influence in the marketing and bedding industries

Build awareness around specific campaigns for Leggett & Platt, such as the Sleep Geek Community for RSAs and “Get Hybrid”


1

Determine your audience. Who is it important for you to appear credible in front of? Your current customers?

Your potential customers? Potential investors? Potential partners? The general public? Identify a few key customer segments and begin creating customer personas to determine who they are, what they are reading/watching, and what is important to them. This will direct the core of your content.

Mark’s Experience

Mark has two distinct audiences: Marketing professionals who read niche sites like

Consumers of bedding products who read mainstream sites like

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2

Develop your message. What do you want to convey to your audience? What are your customers’ pain points?

What objections do your customers have?

How are you different from your competitors?

What are your company’s core values?

What are the biggest misconceptions about your industry?

All of these questions, once answered, will pull out the topics you should write on. You need to envision each piece of content accomplishing a specific goal within a content plan. Creating a full content strategy can take a lot of work. We recommend working with a company with experience in this area to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

Mark’s Experience Mark’s message is that the bedding industry doesn’t have to be boring. He takes a fun, brash tone in his articles and positions Leggett & Platt as a leader in unique marketing strategies in the bedding industry. Here’s an example of his work on YourTango.

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3

Research publications. You may want to be published on Forbes, but if your audience isn’t reading Forbes, it doesn’t matter.

What is your audience reading/watching?

You can use tools like Compete and MOZ to determine the number of unique visitors/month, as well as the demographics, for each publication.

You’ll want to read the current articles on each site to determine whether the tone and personality fit with your own.

You’ll want to identify sites that are very niche and have very high engagement. If a site like The Washington Post gets millions of views, but no social shares or comments, it’s probably not a good fit to begin your thought leadership strategy.

Mark’s Experience Mark’s general audience is reading everything from BlogHer to The Washington Post, so Mark wrote for a variety of publications, reaching everyone from moms to college students. Mark’s marketing professional audience reads publications like MarketingProfs and ClickZ. Once Mark saw a great response on ClickZ, he worked toward landing a monthly column for this publication.

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4

Test topic ideas. Once you’ve determined the areas of expertise that matter to your customers, you need to develop topic ideas to write on. Here are a few tricks we’ve discovered to consistently come up with unique topics: Use a search engine like Google. Type in the first few words of a topic and let the autocomplete show you what people are searching for.

This lets you know that people are searching for articles surrounding these topics. You can write something you know people already want to read!

Test ideas on social media first. Post the overall theme of an article on Twitter or Facebook and use Buffer to see how many people click on it. Clicks indicate that people are interested. Choose the most compelling topic and run with it.

Mark’s Experience Mark worked with his account strategist to develop article topics that fit with his personality and would be enticing to his audience. Example: (general audience) Example: (marketing audience)

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5

Reach out to editors. This can be the most time-consuming and painstaking part of beginning your thought leadership strategy, but it’s worth the effort. Here are some tips:

Don’t send a completed article – send a pitch.

Actually read the publication’s site.

Describe how your content will educate readers – not what it will do for you.

Respond to feedback/criticism. Work to get your articles read to ensure you’re on the right track.

Mark’s Experience

Editors Mark’s team at Influence & Co. handled the back-and-forth with editors at publications. They received feedback about writing guidelines and helped Mark formulate his articles so they would best engage readers.

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6

Write content. Writing content is the key component of your thought leadership strategy. After you’ve determined what message you want to get across and where you want to publish it, you need to start writing. Some things to always consider when you start writing include:

What is valuable for the reader to see? Do you substantiate claims and facts? Are you focused on education, not promotion? Will this stimulate some sort of action?

If you’re not a skilled writer or editor, don’t worry. Enlist the help of others to help fill in the holes and create great content from your knowledge.

Mark’s Experience The Influence & Co. team sent Mark questions based on his article topics, and he answered them by including examples, statistics to back up his claims, and a lot of his original personality. Mark understood that storytelling makes for great content and included many personal anecdotes in his responses. The Influence & Co. editorial team polished Mark’s articles to make sure they were publication-ready before sending them to editors.

Q&A

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7

Maximize your content. Don’t think of your published article as a display ad. Its value doesn’t stop as soon as it goes live. You’ve created a long-term asset you can use in your other marketing channels over and over again. Think about sending the link in your next email campaign, to the leads who should be educated on a particular subject, or even to current clients or partners who would find it valuable. Sending content you’ve had published not only adds value to the people you’re sending it to, but it displays your credibility and industry authority.

Mark’s Experience

Mark Quinn republishes all of his articles on his personal blog, “Q’s Views.”

Since getting articles published externally, “Q’s Views” has had a 300% increase in traffic.

He also links to all of his articles from his LinkedIn profile.

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8

Live thought leadership. Make sure your sites and social media accounts are upto-date, professional, and engaging.

Does it make you more of an expert to have 2,000, rather than 20, Twitter followers? No.

Does it matter from a perceived credibility and social proof perspective? Yes.

Maintaining an engaged and authentic social media presence is the second step in showcasing thought leadership.

Mark’s Experience

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Ways to Share:

Twitter

LinkedIn

References

Google+

Personal Website/Blog

Mark Quinn doesn’t just expect a few articles will prove he’s a thought leader. Mark engages people on social media, writes consistent content on his own personal blog, and makes himself available to others in the industry as a resource. The combination of each of these efforts helps frame Mark as an industry leader.


Mark’s results Mark has gained international recognition as a marketing and bedding industry expert and is a monthly contributor to ClickZ.

Mark’s articles have been shared 1,142 times.

Published in

Mark has seen a 300

percent increase in

traffic to his blog.

Testimonial “Influence & Co. has given Leggett & Platt and me a platform to share our ideas about important topics in our company and our industry with our target audience. They have helped us create expert content that allows us to participate and lead conversations within -- and outside of -- our industry. Not only have the articles added to our credibility as experts in the bedding industry, but they also have provided us with insightful content to push out through our digital channels.”

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Next steps

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Start the process by determining who your target audience is. Find publications you should be contributing to as your niche’s expert. Use a platform like BrandYourself to update your social profiles to make sure you’re perceived as credible and authentic. Sign up for “Contributor Weekly” for weekly emails with advice on how to contribute to online publications. Subscribe to the Influence & Co. blog to receive updates and tips to help you along the way. Hi, I’m Josh. I would love to chat with you to see how we can help you get started with content marketing through thought leadership.

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About us At Influence & Co., we help companies position their key leaders as industry experts. We focus on creating bylined articles, coming from our clients, and publishing them in publications that reach their target audience. Our clients include professionals, like authors and consultants, to venture-backed and growing companies on the Inc. 5000, as well as Fortune 500 brands. We don’t “make” our clients thought leaders — we showcase their expertise so they’re recognized as the thought leaders they are.

600+ 50+

Relationships with niche and thought leader publications to date Average number of social shares that our clients’ articles receive

2500+ Articles that have We are the largest premium content provider in the country.

been published for our clients

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