While thought leadership is a means for establishing credibility and authority, it can actually serve a much more practical purpose. If developed and pushed in the appropriate manner, an effective thought leadership campaign can actually directly drive sales and increase revenue. Are you making the most out of your thought leadership efforts?
The Value in Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is complex. When you look at what it is, how it works in everyday situations, and why it’s valuable, it’s difficult to cast overarching assumptions and broad categorizations. Every area of thought leadership is worth exploring – let’s explore its value.
When looking at the idea of quantifying the effects of thought leadership, no turnkey solution exists for analyzing the effectiveness of a campaign, but there are ways to extract monetary value from thought leadership. You may not find a valuable measuring stick in your search for efficacy, but it’s certainly valuable to many companies.
Thought leadership has no standard definition, but Forbes.com contributor Russ Prince splits it into two parts:
- · Part One: “A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.”
- · Part Two: “A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.”
The first part deals with reputation and industry status. But it’s the second part that speaks to monetization and financial reward. In your situation, “significantly profits” may mean gaining exposure or getting a shout out, but it also could refer to earning some good old fashioned Benjamins. (And I think the latter is why most of us are in business.)
Using Thought Leadership to Drive Sales
If you look at some of the key benefits of thought leadership – mainly credibility, engagement, searchability, and spreadability – they all feed monetization. Whether it goes unsaid beneath the surface or is as blatant as a company memo posted in the break room, thought leadership is eventually meant to drive sales. While it mostly calls for time, you can try some of the following ideas to create thought leadership content specifically geared to drive sales:
- Guard your best content. If you give everything away for free, you’re leaving some value on the table. While the majority of your thought leadership content should be dished out free of charge, you may want to lock your highest quality content up. Use your corporate blog to dish out valuable samples of content, each feeding to more content requiring a registration form to access it. I like the way Anthony Kennada, VP of Gainsight, puts it: “Marketers have to assume that potential customers visit their website to learn, rather than buy.” In other words, the real pain point of your audience is a desire to soak up information. If that’s true, they’ll likely pay for it.
- Conduct your own research. Recognize the significance of reputable research. Companies in every industry use research to back up their thought leadership claims, content creation, and business decisions. Try conducting research and clearly attach your company’s name to it. If it’s valuable and pertinent, it’ll get picked up and touted in your industry. The end goal is to produce research so valuable that it gets passed along to the gatekeepers and decision makers of potential customers.
- Extract value from return visitors. You can only gain so much from conversion metrics. What you really need to focus on is automation code that cookies and tracks return visitors. While somebody who visits your blog multiple times may or may not be an existing customer, they are obviously interested in what you have to say. If you want them to move past the content consumption stage and into the product purchase stage, you’ll need to follow up. If you have access to their contact information, your sales team can personalize follow ups. Well placed CTAs gently asking for contact information in exchange for free whitepapers, ebooks, or trials should do the trick.
Throwing in the Towel
Everyone seems to think there’s something noble in not accepting defeat and refusing to give up after failure, but the pursuit of dignity shouldn’t hold you back. Some thought leadership campaigns can hurt more than help. If it’s draining your resources, it’s okay to let it go. That’s not to say thought leadership has to directly drive sales, but it certainly shouldn’t come at a great expense.
Your thought leadership campaign should give you something: exposure, engagement, credibility, direct financial profit. While the latter isn’t the goal of every company or brand, the opposite should never hold true (at least for very long). Direct financial loss should signal something is wrong. Not everyone is cut out to be a thought leader – and that’s okay. If your thought leadership is costing more than it’s winning, there’s probably a bigger underlying issue that needs to be fixed. In this case, the noble thing to do is throw in the towel.
Give Sales Driving Thought Leadership a Shot
Regardless of how you’ve done things in the past, consider using thought leadership to directly drive sales. With a little intuition and clever strategy, you’ll be on your way. Try some of these tips, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and optimize until you find something that works for you.
Have you found any specific techniques or strategies valuable in your attempt to monetize your thought leadership campaign?
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