Thought Leadership & Quality Content
Our team at EVG frequently consults with both B2B and B2C companies who have cool, innovative products—like online simulations for businesses and government agencies or best in class pressure gauges for the oil & gas industry. But these businesses need help adding quality original web content that clearly and plainly articulates to end users how their products or services are set apart from competitors. But it can’t, and shouldn’t, end there.
B2B companies, especially, have historically occupied spaces that afford them few, or in some cases no, opportunities to converse directly with their end users, so they’re often deemed commodities by the world at large—cogs in larger mechanisms that bear another, more consumer-facing brand’s look and feel.
Avoid the Drama
In the third act of Hamlet, devious King Claudius (the one who killed Hamlet’s dad and married his mom) is “caught” in a prayer that is devoid of remorse and, as the King himself confides, is nothing more than lip service:
My words fly up.
My thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts to heaven never go.
In essence, this is how some companies react to their perceived lack of end user communication: hitting the panic mode, over-publishing hordes of hapless content and placing it “wherever” in order to drive page views and show executives “somebody’s listening.”
Sadly, most companies lack the internal bandwidth and end up outsourcing the work to low-cost word factories that favor expediency over quality, traffic numbers over familiarity with the brand, products and market. More often than not, agencies like these engage in black hat practices like link baiting and duplicate content that may produce initial results but ultimately have the making of a Shakespearean tragedy: the words fly out, but there’s little substance behind them.
Perhaps though, even more damaging than not playing the game right is not playing it at all. For companies who don’t openly or regularly converse with their end users, the widely extolled gospel of “joining the conversation” may not scan well, especially when there’s nary a place on the web where people are talking about your particular widget. After all, you might think, “How can I join a conversation that isn’t taking place?” However,this is akin to throwing in the towel before even entering the arena.
What Makes You Special?
If you operate or are a key decision maker for a business that’s not only successful but perceived as successful by customers and competitors alike, you’re likely a thought leadership candidate. That gives you authority and an opportunity not just to join a conversation, but to start one that others can join.
Russ Alan Prince and Bruce Rogers brilliantly defined thought leadership concept in an article this past March, identify two strong characteristics that most thought leaders share:
- They are widely recognized as go-to individuals or organizations, in terms of expertise, in their field or industry.
- They profit significantly by being recognized as a thought leader.
Thought Leaders Rise to the Challenge
A perfect scenario for this is the insurance industry. As the specter of change looms over the entire industry in the coming years, small and medium business owners, individuals with families, and even HR managers are going to be faced with an avalanche of newly worded policy documents, forms and guidelines that they’ll have to understand in order to make sound choices about coverage. This is the perfect opportunity for a local insurance agent to step up to the plate and start publishing content that doesn’t just regurgitate the facts, but takes on the challenge of making all the convoluted details, facts and forms accessible and digestible to people who need to make serious decisions.
On the B2B level, trying to reach that end user to whom you’ve never spoken may be a daunting task, but if the people on your team are truly experts in their field and have something authoritative to offer the world, isn’t it worth the time and energy? Even if doing so means getting the audience to think about subjects (and their companies) from what may be non-traditional angles—predictive rather than reactive, long-term savings rather than upfront costs.
In other words, challenge readers to think about your product and services differently: if you’re thought of as a commodity product— a simple widget used by a shinier, more expensive piece of machinery— make a case for why your product is a cornerstone of that machine’s success or failure. In other words, show readers that the path to big picture success is best paved when the details are covered with quality, reliable building blocks (i.e., your product).
The conversations, in fact, ARE taking place out there—it’s your challenge to find out where and how best to join them.
Joey Hall – VP Content Marketing