Many marketers who say they want to create a thought leadership program actually need a content marketing program.

The differences between the two are small and large, at the same time. This post will help you understand the difference and set the stage for creating the right program that meets your needs.

Becoming a thought leader is a big deal in today’s business world. Being seen as an expert in a particular area brings attention to your ideas, as well as you and your business. Thought leadership can create buzz, but if you are looking to drive revenue and customer engagement, you should be developing a content marketing strategy. Content marketing is the idea of taking real, useful information relevant to your business and using it to help buyers find you.

It Takes More Than Thought Leadership to Close a Deal

Understanding the difference between thought leadership and content marketing is the critical first step to actually generating revenue with the written word (or video). Others may disagree, but the facts don’t lie:

Content dominates consumers’ online experiences

  • 50% of consumer time online is spent engaging with custom content (Hubspot)

Content is a leading driver of brand engagement on social media

  • Interesting content is one of the main reasons people follow brands on social media (DemandMetric)
  • 60% of people are inspired to seek a product after reading content about it. (DemandMetric)

Content is essential to developing loyal, trusting relationships between brands and consumers

  • 61% of consumers say they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from a company that delivers custom content (Custom Content Council)

Now That You’re Convinced… 

It’s time to take the next step toward creating a content marketing strategy that will launch your customer engagement and revenue into the next orbit. First things, first. Remember your purpose –

Educate your audience

Educating your target audience is a cornerstone of your content marketing strategy.  As the research has proven, providing custom content increases engagement and loyalty with your audience.  It builds you and your brand as an expert in your field, someone that can be trusted and considered an advisor – leading to long lasting, profitable customer relationships.

Just the facts ma’am

There’s so much content out there. You need to stand out or your content won’t be read. You need to be engaging and charismatic, but there has to be a level of credibility behind the façade. You have to back up your ideas with actual facts, figures, and statistics to create a level of sincerity and believability. Without that level of credibility, you are merely a flash in the pan waiting to be extinguished.

Facts and Statistics  – These are great way to prove that your claims are true. Conducting a survey or experiment and then sharing the results in an infographic, report or video can provide your audience with the proof they need to move forward with a purchase.

Social Proof – Not all content is created equal, nor is created by us. Recent studies have shown that audiences rely heavily upon consumer reviews of products. But, you can’t just hope that your users will supply these reviews. You need to be proactive and encourage them to do so. Building in requests for feedback and making it easy to share experiences with your company on social media will go a long way in increasing the number of users that provide reviews or recommend your product or service.


How to develop new content

When I am developing new content, I always start off with a framing section that includes the following – Audience, Buyer Stage, Desired Result.  The purpose of thinking this through is to guide ourselves toward understanding what the reader needs to ‘hear’ to move closer to purchase.

Download my content planning worksheet here.










Take a few minutes to fill this out to help you crystallize your ideas and ensure that you get your point across.

Understanding your audience and their needs is key to creating smart content that drives behavior changes.  What stage are they at? What kind of information do they already have? What information would help them change their mind or do something different? News about the industry, how-to’s, and evergreen lists can provide the answers to the questions your customer is asking. In future posts, we’ll talk more about what types of content to supply for each buying stage, how to come up with loads of content ideas, tools for organizing content, and how to manage your editorial calendar.


Action is the key to success

Having a compelling call to action gives the reader a next step – it tells them what they should do next.  One of the best ways to know if your content is hitting the mark is to evaluate how many readers completed a call to action.

Whether it be a new program to download, an area to research, or a person to contact, the customer’s next step should be to do something. Creating a compelling call to action takes advance planning and strategy. How can we get a reader to take another action when we don’t have the luxury of talking to them? Check back for a future post dedicated to this topic.

Now that you know how to use content marketing to drive action, it’s time to put this knowledge to work. Next week, we’ll talk about setting goals and objectives for your content marketing strategy.


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