While the reports of SEO’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated during 2013, there is little doubt that its fundamental nature and delivery mechanisms have changed considerably with the advent of content marketing. This year will finally content marketing emerge as the primary aspect of business outreach strategies, with Econsultancy’s State of the Marketing Report for 2013 suggesting that an estimated 45% of British companies will integrate content marketing as the focal point of their SEO strategy during the next twelve months.
Content marketing relies on the creation of informative and engaging outbound materials, which focus on educating the reader rather than selling them a specific product or service. By pursuing this quality-orientated course, businesses would essentially become thought leaders within their chosen industry and earn recognition as influential market leaders. As a consequence of this, thought leaders hope to achieve profitability and build a successful commercial relationships on the foundations of trust, knowledge and mutual respect.
With this in mind, what practical steps can you take to embrace the concept of thought leadership and become a recognised leader within your market? Consider the following:
Identify Relevant Questions and Develop Answers
When Seth Godin introduced us to the innovative concept of ‘scalable customer service‘ in 2012, he was effectively tapping into the idea that customers were more susceptible to marketing when they were actively engaged with the brand. More specifically, their questions or queries would open up direct lines of communication with businesses, along which marketers could share information and stimulate genuinely emotive conversation. This is central to thought leadership, which should serve as the entry point to a business relationship and deliver tailored answers to specific consumer questions. As a starting point, you first need to understand the topical and real-time questions that your customers are posing, and prioritise them before using your outbound content to answer them directly.
Answer these Questions Across Multiple Media Channels
While identifying the specific needs of your customers and offering definitive solutions are crucial aspects of thought leadership, however, they mean little unless your answers can be delivered across multiple formats and media outlets. This includes both text and audio-visual resources, with social outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube offering instant access to a global audience. It is important to create an integrated and streamlined strategy, which identifies the most popular channels among your target market and enables you to access them in a way the adds value to their experience as consumers. This is crucial, as the average customer is becoming immune to the dubious charms of viral marketing and demand more thoughtful and targeted content from brands.
Ensure that your Content is Accessible and Liable to Encourage Customer Participation
Have you ever located a genuinely interesting article or editorial piece that you wanted to read, only to be redirected to a registration or subscription page? This is extremely frustrating, and goes against the core values of thought leadership and content marketing. While your output must be thoughtful and aimed at a specific audience, for example, it must also be accessible to all and capable of challenging alternative perceptions and opinions. This will ultimately afford your business access to additional target markets, as intriguing content is known to inspire debate and interaction between diverse social demographics. Another key benefit of this is that it will naturally encourage customers to participate in conversation and engage with your brand, which in turn inspires loyalty and empowers them as key contributors to your long-term success.
Laura is a business and marketing from the UK, who writes regularly on commercial strategy and outreach trends. She also workers as a part-time researcher and content writer for E-Marketing Partner.