Use Content Marketing to Establish B2B Thought Leadership

Online Thought LeaderAt our company, my team and I have the pleasure of being involved in a lot of content creation, curation and propagation initiatives. Sometimes, a company is new to content marketing and sees the benefits of being a thought leader/branded authority but they aren’t sure how to get there. In other cases, the company has taken some initial steps towards thought leadership but has plateaued and wants to get to the next level. Either way, there are are six essential questions about content marketing that need to be answered before you get too far along the path.

  1. Can we be industry thought leaders?see the benefits of being a thought leader/branded authority but aren’t sure how to get there.
  2. If so, what do we talk about?
  3. Can we create enough quality content?
  4. How do we get people to read our content?
  5. How do we get people to engage with our company?
  6. How do we measure results and get better over time?

Great questions, yes? The first three should determine your go vs. no-go content marketing strategy and the second three how to make it happen assuming the decision to proceed is affirmative. I’ll cover the first three questions in this article and the final three in the next.

Can we be industry thought leaders? First of all, is it you who is going to be the thought leader, is it several individuals in your company, or is it the company itself? And do you have enough knowledge and stature to be a credible industry spokesperson? By the way, the fact that you don’t have these attributes going in isn’t a show stopper. There have been many cases of individuals who are relatively unknown who emerge within a year or two as well-followed and well-respected industry opinion leaders.

What do we talk about? This is the key question. As mentioned above, you need to have “perceived” expertise in a specific area (hopefully backed up by genuine expertise). However this must be matched by another factor: There must be a sufficient enough number of people interested in your topic area that are willing to read or listen to what you have to say; and this audience should provide real business value. In the business world, it is not enough that people find you interesting – you want them to engage and either buy something or encourage others to do so.

Assuming you have the critical audience numbers, try to avoid the temptation to be just another voice spouting the same content. While this may seem like a safe path, it is rarely a good idea to be perceived as just like your competitors. You need to create a perception of differentiation. To establish yourself and/or your company as a branded authority, you will first have to decide the breadth of your focus. Marketing yourself with a very broad focus (e.g. general practitioner) is a different proposition than a narrow niche focus (e.g. specialist). There is truth to the statement, “the riches are in niches” and across most industries, those who have a reputation for specialization earn more and face less competitive pressure.

How do we create enough quality content? Let’s talk about your options for quantity and quality of content. People naturally feel angst about creating a steady stream of fresh worthy content. As a book author and eight-year blogger, I agree – this is not easy. You may need to opt either for a more consistent flow of okay (decent) content or go for a model where you produce fewer pieces of content of higher quality. A good example of this is the type of evergreen content I write for CustomerThink – in-depth articles of 1000-1500 words that are meant to be “evergreen.” By this I mean the content will still be valid and useful for years to come.

An alternative to creating your own content is to become a content curator. Content curation is the process of discovering, compiling and propagating (sharing) content in a particular subject area. The key is to present content that is fresh, relevant and high quality. Many content curators present externally discovered content alongside their own. For example, our GreatB2BMarketing blog not only contains my original posts but also a “Guest Experts” section where we reproduce articles from smart people in the B2B marketing industry.

You can either create (or curate) the content yourself or hire consultants to do this for you – but either way, don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort required. Fortunately, there are some useful (and sometimes free) tools to help you either find ideas for original content or curate third-party content.

Content Marketing Tools:

Buzzsumo: Very easy to use and free. Just input your search term and Buzzsumo shows you the top content in terms of engagement and shares. This tool will help you find topic areas that have high potential marketplace interest.

Buzzsumo

Quora: This is a question and answer site to learn about what people are talking and writing about. As with Buzzsumo, you simply type your search term and Quora will show you all the content on that particular subject. You can also ask your own questions and get answers from a wide variety of experts (and not-so-much experts).

Hashtagify: While primarily used for Twitter marketing, you can use Hashtagify to find great keyword ideas for keywords to use in your blog posts. For example, the top hastags identified when you start with “B2B Marketing” are: sales, digital marketing, content marketing, marketing, SMM and CMO.

SEMrush: This is a great tool for figuring out what your website (and your competitors’ sites) really looks like to search engines in terms of organic and paid search. This will give you some ideas not only for articles and blogs, but also helps to ensure that your website content portrays your core message.

Hootsuite: Hootsuite is well known as a social media management program but you can also use it to track what industry leaders are saying about a particular topic or series of topics. This can be a great source for tracking and socializing curated content.

For more thoughts about B2B content marketing, read my recent CustomerThink article titled, 6 Keys to Transform Your Marketing Content from Subpar to Superior. And stay tuned for my next post where I will answer the final three questions about content marketing and content curation.