“Thought leadership” has become one of the biggest short phrases in architectural, engineering and construction marketing. The idea: Before you can sell anything, you need to convince your potential clients that you are truly the expert — the thought leader — within your field.
The challenge in resolving this reputation hurdle, of course, is that you need to reach the right people with the right message, and consistently over time.
Steve Nichols from M.S. Boswell Inc. offers some suggestions in a recent SMPS Marketer article. Beware: While the ideas here are simple to express, each process requires significant thought and effort — unless you are in the fortunate position of truly being “though leadership ready” — my effort at a bad pun for “shovel ready” infrastructure projects suitable for a flood of urgent government-supported funding.
He suggests you:
Select media judiciously: This requires you (like the other stages here) to think carefully about the audience you are reaching. If they read trade magazines, then you’ll want to cultivate relationships with the magazine editor and submit appropriate content; if they like watching YouTube videos, you’ll need to invest in your video-making skills.
Choose remarkable topics: Easy to say, harder to do (consistently). Most of us have one or two wow stories to share, but getting to the point where we can create excitement with any degree of routineness requires exceptional creativity (for which I and I think most readers here are not truly adept. You might find some inspiration from topic successes in related fields but by different people in different markets.
Create content for your audience: This obvious one takes us to the place where we want to go, but requires us to narrow the repertoire even further — our great “war stories” may be inspirational, to us, but do they really provide value to the intended audience.
Be consistent: Yes, the killer. Certainly we can create relevant, exciting and client-focused content (often quite easily for certain examples and situations), but how do we make this a consistent process? You probably need to brainstorm with clients, colleagues, and media-marketing experts to come up with the topics or topic variations to generate the ongoing message.
The challenging/difficult side of this story is that the process of creating truly great thought-leadership content requires plenty of mental exercise, thought, effort, research and planning, unless your history/examples are so good that you don’t really need to struggle to generate the material (and in that situation, you may already naturally be a thought leader.) The payoff, conversely, is that you don’t need much of a marketing budget here, other than the support services and guides to help you in the thought-provoking content generation. And when costs are really low, the return on investment (ROI) can be phenomenal — with truly insignificant risk.
Go for it. It won’t be easy, but consider how you can implement your own thought leadership content marketing strategy.