Talk to anyone about marketing automation, demand management, or lead nurturing and the conversation inevitably turns to content.
Most marketing operations folks starting down the automation path talk more about their people, change management, and technology implementation woes. But after they get a couple of campaigns under their belt, the challenges of developing a steady stream of relevant, interesting content surface.
Here’s proof. In the chart here, ITSMA shows that among services marketing teams surveyed in a 2011 study on lead management maturity, Leaders say content creation is the biggest concern they face. So what does it take to create great content? Great ideas. Good marketers express great ideas through thought leadership.
I think thought leadership is a fuzzy term. Many think thought leadership has to be truly unique and leading to be worthy of publication. I like Forrester Research’s definition, from my former colleague Jeff Ernst, because it focuses on outcomes. Jeff says that thought leadership is:
“The process of formulating big ideas and insightful points of view on the issues your buyers face capturing those ideas in multiple content vehicles and sharing the ideas with prospects and customers to enlighten them, engage them in a dialogue, and position your company as a trusted resource.”
At Xerox, I think we work hard to present insightful points of view on industry and the role of managed print, document, IT and business process services in those industries. I don’t think we are leading edge, but our experiences demonstrate that thought leadership is best crafted around three key ares: your experts, your customers and your take on vertical industry problems (expressed as views shared with recognized industry experts.)
If you are in the Denver Colorado area, and you want to find out more, please join me for the Colorado chapter of the BMA Keynote Luncheon on Wednesday, March 14, 2012. I will post the slides from this presentation on my blog afterwards and share a few of the key comments, if you can’t make it. I’m sure the folks at the BMA will share as well!
To preview a key lesson learned ahead of time, I want to point to Jeff’s research on thought leadership and say that his framework for upgrading your content to thought leading is very useful. He suggests 10 criteria for evaluating your content through a thought-leading lens, including:
- Relevant – does your content deal with big issues your buyers face?
- Provocative — does it challenge conventional thinking?
- Forward-looking – does it anticipate what’s over the horizon?
- Distinct – is it different than what your competitors, partners, or industry cohorts are saying?
- Inspiring – does it energize people around this idea or way of thinking?
- Actionable – does it provide advice on what to do now?
- Results-driven – can using your ideas produce breakthrough outcomes or change?
- Conversational – does your tone encourage dialogue and feedback?
- Credible – how do you show your company can help others get there?
- Independent – do you avoid making reference to your products and services?
(Source: Forrester Research, June 7, 2011, “Thought Leadership: The Next Wave Of Differentiation In B2B Marketing”)
Indirectly, many of the points Jeff makes are the same criteria we used in Xerox Document Outsourcing Services to determine which experts to feature, what type of content to develop, and which to feature in our campaigns. So it is a very useful and practical tool for assessing your content’s thought leadership acumen.
What challenges have you faced in developing great content? I hope you will join in the conversation with the BMA and me next week.