Content marketing and thought leadership continue to be hot buzzwords. But, the market is flooded with blogs, white papers and infographics. Is any of this leading to new business for agencies?
It’s impossible to keep up with all of the webinar invitations, trend reports and industry news. With so much content out there today, yours needs to do more than simply demonstrate that you’re “smart.”
Consider this maxim: Your thought leadership should be so valuable to your dream client, that they’d pay for it. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be out there.
The only difference between $1 and $100 is the message on the paper.
To capture and hold the attention of your dream clients, your content needs to share new insights from your agency’s unique point of view. Agencies with this content strategy are dramatically more likely to breakthrough, get meetings and win more new business.
Standing Out in a Content Crowd
The overuse of thought leadership as a marketing tool has created a real challenge for driving agency new business. Today, everyone is publishing and distributing content.
With such a strong belief in the need for content, agencies are falling into a trap. They’re regurgitating material that was already done … and often done well … by a competitor. What’s needed to stand out among thousands of agencies is to be a true thought leader, not a thought follower.
For agency new business, the challenge is figuring out how to stand out from among thousands of agencies.
Here is a scenario playing out among agency principals today:
We’re great at what we do, but we’re struggling to get that message in front of our dream clients.
Our emails and calls are going unanswered. Our website traffic hasn’t moved. We need more meetings, and we need them fast.
We’re producing thought leadership, but it’s not resulting in meetings or new business. We thought content marketing would lead to more inbound leads, but it’s merely been a few nibbles from unqualified prospects.
Why are we spending all this time and money on the creation and distribution of thought leadership if we’re not getting any results? It’s frustrating. It isn’t worth it unless we start getting a better return.
If we don’t start winning business, we might not make payroll, may need to downsize the staff or, even worse, close the agency. At a minimum, the outcome could be embarrassing. At worse, it could be a disaster.
Thought Leadership or Thought Follower?
Playing it safe does nothing to differentiate or create a meaningful competitive advantage.
The data backs it up. According to Forrester Research, 82 percent of buyers have viewed at least five pieces of content from a winning vendor. Among buyers, 74 percent select the sales rep that demonstrated insight and brought value.
Look at it from the buyer’s perspective. There’s lots of content written by experienced, smart and insightful experts. There’s a lot less time to consume it and react to it. Reading content that’s not truly insightful is underwhelming and feels like time wasted.
It’s no longer good enough to just have content. The successful agency’s thought leadership must provide new insight from a unique point of view.
That POV needs to be through a brand-driven lens through which all communications – particularly content – is delivered. The POV must reinforce the agency’s story in the marketplace and through its thought leadership. An agency’s content strategy has to align with its brand strategy. It needs to provide a roadmap for creating thought leadership that others are not providing.
Sharing new insights from your agency’s point of view is what differentiates between thought leadership and thought followship.
Avoiding the ‘Me Too’
New business is essential for economic viability of agencies. For professional services firms, thought leadership is one of the most powerful approaches to new business.
Yet content often fails to deliver. Why?
- A lack of understanding about the intended audience
- Failure to distribute content to the desired audience
- Content lacks value via new insight from a unique POV.
Content that reproduces from another thought leader means the agency is saying “me too” instead of “me first.” It hinders an agency’s ability to differentiate or be seen as an authority.
That said, there is a place for calculated re-purposing, but only if it offers new interpretations, better insights and stronger solutions.
A Case Study
While working at Catapult, a client believed it was doing everything right. Experts within the agency were writing industry-specific content regularly. The website was robust. There was a targeted list of prospects, a CRM, marketing automation and people, including me, picking up the phone and sending emails.
But the thought leadership was not moving the needle. The few responses often were, “Thanks for sharing, no questions,” “Not interested” or “Appreciate you sending, but we’re already doing much of this.”
It became clear the content wasn’t adding enough value to their dream clients. The thought leadership was not sharing new insights from the agency’s POV.
While the agency had experts and a unique POV, in the haste to produce quantity, the content lost quality and value.
After some soul searching the agency started producing less content, but going deeper and sharing new insights from a point of differentiation.
Almost immediately, the dynamics changed. Dream clients were eager to meet and new business was soon thereafter won.
Are You Really a Thought Leader?
Evaluate your content to decide whether it’s thought leadership. Does it meet the following?
Trait #1: It provides true insight.
Your content should add to what’s in the public domain. It needs to enrich an understanding and influence behavior. Does your content help people see things differently, provide new solutions, or find new opportunities?
Trait #2: It reframes.
Thought leadership gives the audience something to think about. It helps readers learn, seek information, and challenge accepted presumptions. It embraces new approaches. It shows your agency’s unique point of view.
Trait #3: It’s credible.
Thought leadership content needs validation. There needs to be evidence about how it was discovered, who discovered it and whether it’s been independently verified. Insights today can have short lifespans, so you need to confirm that the insights remain relevant.
Trait #4: It’s forward-looking.
Thought leadership must look forward. Good thought leadership does more than inform. It frames an idea, provides foresight and is bold. That notion can be risky because it means taking a stand and pronouncing that stand. But that’s the difference between leading and following.
What Happens Next
If your agency takes a bold approach to thought leadership, you’ll see results. You’ll feel back in control. Confident. It will lead to more meetings. And the dynamics of your meetings will change. Instead of selling, you’ll be teaching. You’ll be viewed as the expert that you are. You’ll close more business with your dream clients.
Does your marketing content pass the test? Before you publish your next thought leadership, honestly ask yourself, if you didn’t already have this information, would you have paid for it?