Content marketing is the new king when it comes to creating customer engagement and loyalty. With the explosion of social media and mobile apps, reaching your customers where they are with valuable and engaging information is imperative. And for entities with limited marketing dollars, content marketing can be a much more cost-effective way to reach audiences with more targeted efforts.

Content marketing isn’t just about posting a marketing message on your Facebook page. With a targeted strategy, you can combine your earned media (coverage by media and influencers), paid media (your traditional and digital advertising), owned media (your website and blog) and shared media (your social portals, word-of-mouth) to move more people to action.

We Look at Content Marketing Differently

Many marketers are talking about content marketing, but we believe there is a formula to how you create a content strategy that actually drives customer action. The key is integrating ALL efforts that involve content: that means looking at your overall strategy to create thought leadership and getting the most out of each piece of content. It’s thought leadership fueled by smart, relevant, valuable and engaging content.

So what does all this mean and what is thought leadership’s real ROI anyway? We’re guessing this is what you might be asking right about now – so let’s dig in.

Content is all around us at every second, on every portal, in every glance of our incredibly smart phones. Those who use all of this wisely, strategically and intelligently (hint: based on data) come out ahead – meaning they capture more attention, more clicks, more likes, more purchases and, inevitably, more customer loyalty. They create raving fans through being really, really smart with their content. 

Smart, strategic content marketing also creates a platform for you to become a thought leader. Putting words behind your thoughts and sharing them with the world in a strategic manner creates the basis of a thought leader – someone who is looked at as an expert and a top source of knowledge and inspiration. 

Thought Leaders Aren’t Magically Born Into the Universe

Yes, it’s true, there are smart people out there that have words of wisdom that make us sit up and take notice. But you would never know about those people unless they had something unique to say and said it in a million different ways and forums. 

Basically, you may be brilliant and hold the keys to an extremely important door but no one is ever going to know unless a) you tell them, b) you tell them again, and c) you tell them yet again  in a different forum.

That is where strategic and integrated content marketing comes in. You can use the power of content in all its many facets to become a thought leader. And what comes with being a thought leader is the real ROI for any business or organization. 

Creating Influence that is Actually True Influence

The words “influence” and “influencer” are thrown around a lot these days when you bring up marketing. Influencers are everywhere (Snapchat for the Gen Zers, Instagram for the Millennials and LinkedIn for the B-to-B folks). But what really makes you an influencer? What drives people to follow others and actually put their words of wisdom to use in some way? 

We believe it’s relevant and valuable content that is strategically used to form two-way relationships that mean something. These relationships create respect, loyalty and action. And ALL of these three things translate into everything our clients long for: increased leads, increased sales, brand loyalty and referrals.

But it’s not just about posting a blog or tweeting words of wisdom. The key is integrating these stellar thoughts into a comprehensive strategy to drive action. It’s not one funnel that you should worry about; it’s many funnels. 

The Power of Media: It’s Still a Thing

We’re not going to deny the power of social media and people speaking their minds on direct channels, but there is no doubt that the media (traditional and digital) still wield lots of power when it comes to persuading people.

Self-published content is essential, and we believe an important part of the equation if given strategic distribution points. But the key is that your content must have an audience, and there is no denying that many media outlets have those readers, listeners and viewers. In fact, they have spent years cultivating those audiences and are masters at reaching targeted audience segments (retirees, lovers of Star Wars, lawyers, baseball fans, mothers-to-be, patients, YOU NAME IT).

Many media outlets – traditional, digital and trade publications – are trusted sources for information. When it comes to news, they focus on factual, balanced stories. And the facts are told in sound bytes, headlines, tweets and blogs. 

It’s why at Ghidotti we place a HIGH premium on earned media. We take your curated content and ensure we seed it with the media who cover your industry. We want your thought leadership to be seen by the reporters and editors that can help spread that message to their very important, extremely loyal and highly coveted audiences. 

Removing Risk from the Buying Process

If we can tell you one thing about thought leadership that will matter to you (we’re talking to you, C-Suite!), it’s this: Thought leadership is key because it removes the risk from the buying power. It empowers buyers to engage and feel confident that the decision they are making is the right choice.

Why? Because the psychology behind expertise is all about building trust, a quality that is VERY hard to come by in today’s world of “fake news” and shallow influencers. Someday soon, we’ll write a whole blog post just on this psychology and how our brain decides who and what to trust and why (coming soon to a Ghidotti blog near you).

But, remember, just because we write something that sounds really cool and innovative doesn’t mean people will put their trust in it. That’s why thought leadership is key; it provides a platform for us to use third parties to validate our awesome thoughts. Also, key for everyone to remember reading this: You can’t fake thought leadership. You actually have to have something to say that is relevant, interesting, factual and provocative. We can’t take weak ideas and turn them into gold. But if you have something to say and it matters, we can ensure it’s validated and shared.

Finding a Space You Can Own

Once you build your thought leadership framework, you need to find opportunities where your brand can own the space and lead timely conversations. This isn’t easy; it takes work to a) find your people and where they are talking about the things that matter and b) seed yourself in that group where you begin to gain that trust we just talked about.

But here is why it’s REALLY important to find that space you can own: This is where your potential customers are vetting you. According to the 2019 Edelman LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, 55 percent of business decision makers use thought leadership as an important way to vet organizations they’re considering working with. In fact, 58 percent of business decision makers said thought leadership DIRECTLY led them to award business to an organization. 

To spell it out … the majority of the people you need to sell to are making decisions based on content! But it’s not just content in one space that matters – you need to consistently use that content and thoughts in a variety of platforms. 

Building the Lego Version of Your Thought Leadership

Consider that amazing Lego set you had as a kid … it was about taking different sizes and shapes that all have the same interlocking platform and creating new designs. 

In fact, six 8-block bricks of the same color can be combined into 915,193,765 designs. Every brick is “backwards compatible, fitting with every piece manufactured.”

Our philosophy is taking your thoughts and content and putting them to use in a variety of creative strategies that create business results. Just like that Lego set, there are so many possibilities. Your pieces (paid, earned, owned and shared media), though structured, can configure into a vast number of combinations and are infinitely reusable. You can take those pieces and use them on their own or together, and every time you can create something new and interesting.

And even better? The more times you build new and interesting combinations, the less work you actually have to do due to thought leadership’s best kept secret. Once you’re established as a thought leader, instead of YOU pursuing all the opportunities to speak, write or provide commentary, your PROSPECTS begin to seek you out and you become the go-to resource.

Taking the Next Step

Once you’ve developed the content creation strategy and built your thought leadership platform, it’s time to get serious about measuring your efforts. And the beauty of an integrated approach to thought leadership is that there is plenty to measure. 

No longer is it about advertising equivalencies and media impressions … we’re looking at lead generation through e-marketing, domain authority, search engine rankings and what our sales funnel looks like in each phase.

There is no reason to put time and effort (and it DOES take tons of time) to create a thought leadership program grounded in content marketing if you aren’t going to measure it. The C-Suite loves numbers, and the fact is there are plenty to report on when it’s time.

Bottom line: in today’s digital age, you have to connect with people through valuable content that drives them to action. The unicorn of thought leadership truly is strategic, consistent content marketing.