These days branding is everything. It’s not only the branding of your company that is important, but a personal brand that carries significant weight can make a big difference to your profitability. Customers want to buy from someone real. Someone who knows what they are talking about, and who has an established reputation in the industry. Someone who has high visibility and is considered an expert. In other words, someone who is a thought leader.
This might sound like a tall order for a business owner of a small to medium-sized company, but since the evolution of content marketing it’s not necessarily. All you need is a blog. Yes, that’s right. That’s all.
Here’s how to use your blog to develop thought leadership in your industry:
Generate Content of Value
The premier misconception about content marketing is that it’s a forum for advertising your wares. That’s about as likely to result in “expert” status for you as your last print ad was! A blog needs to deliver content of value to your reader. That means it has to provide him with information he wouldn’t expect to get free of charge. And he isn’t getting it free of charge! He’s getting it in exchange for his time, his attention and—hopefully—his contact information when he’s ready to enter the sales funnel by becoming a lead.
Publish material that provides value for your readers, such as advice and tips, even when they aren’t directly related to your product. If you’re a building contractor, for example, there’s nothing wrong with blogging about DIY projects. That way, when your reader really needs an experienced contractor, you’ll stand out in his mind as someone who really cares about your clients, not a business person just looking to make a buck.
Distribute to the Masses
You won’t achieve thought leadership unless you have followers, so getting eyes on your blog is important and it doesn’t happen by itself. Promote your blog using inexpensive, online methods such as social media, pay-per-click advertising and participating in discussion forums. All these options make it possible to publicize your content marketing material and your business in a targeted fashion to people whose listed interests correlate with your products or services.
Build Your Audience
Other ways to build your audience include:
- Add a strong call to action (CTA) in every blog post, that drives users to a landing page where they can enter a contest, download free material or benefit from a special offer. Whatever the option, it depends on them providing their contact information, which helps you to build up the list of known prospects you have access to.
- Start communicating regularly with your list of contacts. You can do this by means of a round-up of blog posts they might have missed, delivered directly to their email inbox. Alternatively, write a personal message to them, send links to video clips and photo galleries, or email them industry news and events.
Stay Relevant and Innovative
Content marketing simply must be up-to-the-minute and relevant at all times. Nobody is going to take seriously a so-called “expert” whose information is out of date. It makes no difference that the blog post you published about those food recalls was true at the time; it needs to show clearly that it was specific to the time frame covered. It’s also got to be relevant to the changing needs of your market: you won’t see Apple talking about iPhone 4 or even 5 now that iPhone 6 is out! It’s irrelevant.
Write Guest Posts
Guest blogging has gone up and down in popularity lately, but it’s still an important component in developing thought leadership. If you can get a regular slot on a relevant industry website or in a publication, it’s worth your while to spend time creating a guest post that showcases your expertize. It gives you exposure to the site’s audience, many of whom may not yet be following you. It also boosts your credibility, because if the site or publication feels you are worth featuring you must have something going for you. And if you can include a link to your site, it builds up your online presence, your SEO and your ranking in search. What’s not to love?
If you’ve been thinking that content marketing is entering its final days, think again! Hasta la vista, baby.