Join Dayna Rothman for an in-depth discussion in this video Defining thought leadership vs. selling, part of Content Marketing Foundations (2015).
- Since content marketing is different from traditional marketing, it's important to define thought leadership versus selling, when you're first starting out and creating your content marketing strategy. Your content should contain thought leadership. What is thought leadership? A thought leader looks to the future and sets a course that others will follow. Thought leaders look to existing best practices to come up with better best practices. They format change, often causing disruption. Your content should be thought leadership.
It should be educational, it should be focused on best practices, it should really help your customers do their jobs better. Your content shouldn't just be a sales pitch. What do I mean by a sales pitch? You shouldn't be just talking about your own products and your own service in your content. That will cause buyers, especially your buyers that have never heard about your company, to be turned off. Your content should, instead, show your buyers how to do their jobs better, and educate them.
What's the difference between thought leadership and sales content? Thought leadership educates, sales content sells. Thought leadership pulls your customers to you, and sales content pushes your marketing messages on them. Thought leadership contains best practices, and sales content contains product details. Let's take a look at what this looks like in action by looking at two real-life examples. The company that I work for, Marketo, we create both thought leader pieces as well as sales pieces, so I think it could be a good example to show you the difference between the two items.
The piece on the left, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation, is a thought leadership Ebook that we've created to help customers think about marketing automation as a theory and as a practice. Within the Ebook, the content itself does not mention Marketo, but it does mention marketing automation, and we do try to educate customers on how to do that better. The example on the right is a sales data sheet from Marketo. This is very product-specific, talking about one of the products that we offer.
This does not have a ton of thought leadership in it, it just has product details. As you can see, there's a real difference between thought leadership and sales data sheets. Another thing to think of is the 411 rule. The 411 rule was popularized by Joe Pulizzi from Content Marketing Institute. You can use this as you're thinking about how to set up your content programs and your other programs that you're creating in marketing. For instance, on social media, for some of your paid programs, this works quite well. For four educational assets, and that would be those thought leadership Ebooks, those pieces that are about helping your customers do their jobs better.
With one soft promotional piece. A soft promotional piece might be a piece of content that you're using to promote, say, a webinar or an event. And then one hard promotion. A hard promotion might be something like that sales data sheet. As you're thinking about your content mix, you do want to mix in thought leadership with that sales content, but again, content marketing is, because it's really focused on thought leadership, you do want to do those four educational assets. You do want the balance to tip on the thought leadership side.
Let's see the 411 in action. The top four pieces are your educational assets that you're using to promote your thought leadership across your marketing programs. These pieces are best practices, they are tips, and they are not sales-related. This will be the majority of what you're using on say, a social channel, to get your message across. Then, we have the two promotional pieces on the bottom, here. The first promotional soft-push piece, here, is more of a third-party asset of vendor study.
It could be some type of report that mentions your product or service, but also includes some thought leadership. The last one, that hard-push, again, is that type of sales data sheet that you're using to push your product, and to really explain your product. This combination really enables you to create a great content marketing mix, and to be able to show not only your thought leadership, but also add some promotion in there. As you're thinking about your content marketing strategy, from a to z, you want to think about creating thought leadership pieces instead of only sales content.
If you're only creating sales content, you run the risk of turning off buyers, especially those early-stage buyers who have yet to have heard of your company. Thought leadership draws them in, it provides them best practices, and gives them a reason to keep coming back to you.
The course explores creating a content plan, choosing content types, and developing an editorial calendar. It also explains how to write, edit, and design content, as well as choose the right mix of content and curate it for maximum impact, and closes with tips on measuring the impact of your content marketing efforts.
This course is part of a Learning Path approved by the American Marketing Association.
Gain the skills you need to become an AMA Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) in Digital Marketing by using the industry-leading courses and resources in the Learning Path. Take the AMA certification exam to show that you have what it takes to lead the digital transformation.
- What is content marketing?
- Hiring a content marketing team
- Creating buyer personas
- Developing a brand voice
- Setting goals
- Creating a content plan
- Writing, editing, designing, and curating content
- Promoting content on various channels
- Tracking performance