How to be a Content Marketer, not just a Thought Leader

Thought Leadership


Content marketing and thought leadership:  both are identified as vitally important for business, particularly as social media gains an increasingly important place to find information on products and services.

Although the terms content marketing and thought leadership are very often used interchangeably, I believe that there are major differences in their definitions as well as a co-dependent relationship between the two, which should matter to marketers.

Thought leadership is about new perspectives or different ways of thinking about a problem, issue or challenge with a view to proposing one or several solution options.  Thought leadership has a longer-term focus, involving awareness-building, understanding and debate about solution options.

Content marketing on the other hand, is about presenting solutions to problems that people care about, with a view to selling to new customers and developing existing business.  Content marketing has a shorter range view, with purchase preference and sales in the line of sight.

Developing new perspectives and insights and presenting them in the form of expert advice may come easily to some companies.  Well written brochures, eBooks, blog posts, web pages, speeches at trade shows and executive lunches, are ways in which corporations and their employees aim to build and gain a reputation as thought leaders.

But what value does being a thought leader bring to the corporation’s bottom line?

The BIG picture

Marketing aims to engage interest and encourage action.  The best thought leaders may present breakthrough ideas and solutions, but without encouraging action among potential clients, thought leadership is ineffective, and brings no real value to the corporation and its clientele, who would benefit most from it.

To bring value, thought leadership should drive the content of content marketing. This is why I believe that both thought leadership and content marketing are co-dependent. It is the marketing of thought leadership that creates value with the potential to drive business development.   This, in my view, is the BIG picture.

Focus on what’s important

As I pointed out in an earlier post, content marketing should be focused on what the target clientele really cares about.  Every thought leader should create value for their corporation and target clientele through content marketing.

A thought leader becomes a content marketer by focusing on the following key activities:

  1. Identifying and addressing tipping points – this involves understanding the needs and pain points of the target clientele and presenting insights and information that are most relevant to the purchase decision.
  1. Optimizing demand opportunities – reaching out to the target clientele at a particular time when a specific need or concern is top of mind.
  1. Using the right media – to be successful, content marketing must be delivered through the channels of preference of the target clientele, along with an easy way for action to be taken in the form of inquiries and purchase decisions, where applicable.  In addition, the content must be easily found through search engines using keyword phrases that reflect the needs and interests of the target clientele.

See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.




Keep Content Marketing Simple


With social media gaining momentum as important channels for marketing communication, and with technology tools now being used to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, we are in a new era of marketing.  Much is being said and written about modern marketing,  which by many definitions, boils down to creating and sustaining an engaged clientele and being able to demonstrate a positive, healthy return on marketing dollars invested.

The more things change, the more they remain the same

What’s not new or modern in marketing is that consumers have always wanted, and will always want, information that helps them make the purchase decision that’s right for them.  With social media, the internet and other digital communication channels brimming with information, it is estimated that 57% of the buying decision is made before the customer contacts the supplier.  What this means is that to be successful, marketers must provide easily accessible information that presents a recommended course of action that is relevant and valued by customers.

Cost and time constrained traditional marketing campaigns that rely on catchy slogans, tag lines and ad copy, have generally been difficult to measure in terms of purchase pre-disposition and customer loyalty. So welcome to the era of “content marketing,” which, as marketing guru Seth Godin said, ” is the only marketing left.”

The BIG picture

The proliferation of content marketing and the widespread use of social media to distribute content has impacted the way buyers buy and how customers stay connected and loyal to suppliers.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, access to information in various formats and through diverse channels offers the opportunity to influence and create engagement and new business opportunities among potential and existing clients.  Consumers and businesses want more than product information.  Marketers and salespeople need to do more than create nicely crafted value propositions and describe the benefits of  products on web sites, brochures and in multi-media communications.  The “more” is all about building relationships based on authenticity and trust. This, in my view is the BIG picture.

Content marketing, can and should be the engine that drives engagement, loyalty, trust and advocacy at all stages of the customer journey – from building awareness  and consideration, to the point of purchase and throughout the all-important post-sale relationship.  

What’s important

Content marketing is not about providing expert information that suppliers believe is relevant and what the customer ought to know or be educated about.  Even if this seems obvious, in my view, there is way too much information classified as content marketing that floods the in-boxes, social media accounts and mail boxes of  consumers.  What’s really important is that content marketing should be focused on the things that people really care about.  Content marketing should be kept simple as ABC…

  • Applicable and relevant to the target customer’s needs, based on insights from customer feedback;
  • Breakthrough commonly held ideas so that customers and potential customers can think differently about  their needs and pain points, leaving them open to the solution options advocated in the vendor’s content marketing; and
  • Credible, with testimonials and other proof points that demonstrate that the vendor’s solution or product really meets the needs of the customer and creates a trusting relationship with the supplier.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.