Unearthing Thought Leadership
Your customers are tired of hearing sales pitches and want to get genuine insights that offer practical advice for vital issues. That’s the path to becoming a thought leader — through relevant content. So content is king, but marketing technology is his chariot.
I just visualized the current scene. The chariot is running loose. I sharpened my gaze and found no king on top of it. I retraced the path on which the chariot traveled, and found the king neck-deep in sewage, on the roadside. His high-tech chariot had bucked him. Despite being fixed with cannon to fire communication, a missing king means it misfires in all directions.
Welcome to the world that is full of clutter and noise, all over. Clients are tired of hearing sales pitches, like “buy now” blasted through promotional loud speakers; “we are the best” message claims; irrelevant email; “how to brush your octogenarian teeth” articles; and meaningless, brand-boasting social rants.
Our fraternity of marketers often admit that quality content creation is a challenge. Let the treasure hunt for thought leadership start.
Map the Map
Indiana Jones movies have a first half in which Harrison Ford or Junior run for the map. The second half takes moviegoers where the map leads.
We will follow the same formula in our treasure hunt. Where is your content map?
Content marketers have defined the map in line with the buyer’s journey. Depending on the journey stage, the type of content is mapped to gain buyer trust, resulting in business. However, when the standard content lands to marketing clutter, it loses their attention. Hence, redefining the content map gains importance.
The new map starts backward from the customer challenges, their behavior, and the latent needs. It connects the dots to identify the resourceful people — heads within your organization. Indeed, your people are the fountainhead of deeper insights.
I think the Indiana Jones quote of fame is apt here, “I think it’s time to ask yourself; what do you believe in?.” The king doesn’t have a crown, he is inside it. All this while he was hidden in a chamber, forgotten, lost and fading away. Let us identify him, pull him out and coronate him.
Create the Journey
Neither your customer journey nor the map is in a straight line — as indicated in many marketing articles. It is complex and the map grows and twists as you head out. It is not just the road less traveled, but no road at all.
Many folks ask me, “What is the difference between content marketing and thought leadership?” It is the willingness to travel and create a road ahead, like any leadership act.
Just turn and ask yourself, “How do you know Seth Godin, or Clayton Christensen or Guy Kawasaki?” Or, why do you visit that blog site you signed up for frequently?
They have created a journey in which audiences (you and me) are willing to travel. It is either because of curiosity about knowing something new, or assurance of answers to our challenges. Indeed, it is very different from the buyer journey and providing content they want, as in content marketing.
Christopher Lloyd, in “Back to the Future,” emphatically states “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Creating this journey as a program is a clear next step. The program defines the road ahead, identifies resourceful heads to crown, signs up for commitment and pulls the king out of the sewage.
Sign Up the Crew
The new map identifies the resourceful people in your organization, with tons of experience and insights. But are they willing? Even if they are willing, do they have time?
The best dialogue of all time from any Indiana Jones films I watched was when the question, “I never knew you could fly a plane,” is answered with, “Fly, yes. Land, no.” And your crew may say the same thing to you. Of course they are experts in their domain, but they may or may not know how to give a speech or write a great story — or worse, face a camera.
Hence, your crew should have a mix of people: king-hunters, insight gatherers, storytellers, content writers, speakers, et al. The healthy mix of your crew determines your success. All of these crew members need not come from within your organization. You can choose your crew from an externally managed marketing organization, as well.
Unearth the Treasure
Getting to the deepest insights needs a methodical approach. You’ve got the map. You know the “X” is marked on the heads of a few people in the organization. But how do you get it out?
Jones has answers for all of our problems. Let us hear him out once again, where he declares, “We do not follow maps to buried treasure and X never, ever, marks the spot.” X often gives the clues, but you need to evaluate it.
Have a clear process. Keep the templates handy to interview, collect and validate insights.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
There are anticipated challenges in this step of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” You might have signed up your CEO for the crew, and he might have come up with a new article — that sucks. Are you going to behave like the emperor’s ministers and say “wow” or cry out loud, like that kid. If you behave as a loyal minister, you are at the risk of allowing your CEO to go naked! Beware.
Outline stories, map it with your customer challenges, and set up an expert panel to make the thoughts crystal clear and to-the-point.
Enter the King
The king’s entry is always grand. Loud proclamations, red carpets and whatnot. Thought leaders and leadership should be promoted.
Get your brand team to project your thought leaders as iconic brands. And get your content marketers to promote and track content consumption. Your PR/AR should pull up their socks and get the right attention from press and analysts.
We should learn from how bestsellers are promoted by authors and publishers. You don't need hundreds of articles in a year. If you get the right attention for few, that will keep your audience fixated for the next few years.
“You must choose, but choose wisely” — and Jones chose wisely.
The Treasure Hunt Sequel
It is never-ending. Thought leadership continues and becomes a way of life. There will be a day when you will hear your thought leader say in Jones’ style, “I’ve got nothing better to do.” And your organizational leadership will agree to that statement.
Insight Is King
In ending, I would love to refute one statement that Jones made, “I think you just brought a knife to a gunfight.” When the whole world is creating awful content that clutters mind, let us go with insight (which has better ammunition and is sharper than a knife) to a gunfight.
As Nicholas Cage says in the movie “National Treasure,” “Someone’s gonna steal the Declaration of Independence.” Let the independence to speak and express socially remain with the masses. Let them create more noise and clutter. Like true leaders, let us focus on the treasure of insightful gems that will make masses follow you.
Content was the old king who fell in sewage.
Insight is the new king. Crown him.
I now visualize the magnificent new king on the royal chariot, traveling steadily down the road of thought leadership.