How to get your thought leadership consumed, understood, remembered and acted upon.
While much has been said about the demise of reading in our society, senior executives still read as much as they ever have. The question isn’t whether good clients read. They do. The question is how do you entice them to read what you have to say?
Over the last 5-6 years this has grown into a bigger and bigger challenge. The combined ease of self-publishing and rise of useful search has created an explosion of content unlike anything the world has ever seen. Clients simply have more options for learning than they ever have before. This is a problem we’ve fallen in love with. If you’re going to be successful with thought leadership marketing you have to get your ideas found, consumed, understood, remembered and acted upon by high potential clients — no small task.
Roughly 4 years ago, we published our first iteration of the Content Marketing Wheel. We used it to explain how to deconstruct big ideas into shorter form content to engage readers at different points in their attention span. 2 years ago, we published our second iteration of this model. This evolution was used to explain how to stair step clients into deeper forms of engagement with your thinking — from micro content (think tweets and emails) to short content (blogs and articles), to long content (keystone white papers) and spoken content (webinars and events). At Profiting From Thought Leadership 2018, we introduced our 3rd evolution of this model — The Content Marketing Continuum.
Meet Clients Where, When and How They Learn
The evolution of the model simply follows the overall trends in media consumption. It recognizes that how and where clients learn is evolving. As more and more people embrace “lean-back” forms of learning (podcasts, web video, audio books), the mode in which we learn is changing. We learn while we drive, we learn on the subway, we learn while we exercise, we learn while we wash the dishes, we learn through reading, and sometimes we actively learn sharing and discussing ideas with our colleagues. We listen on mobile devices and smart speakers, we read on tablets, we watch video on laptops, and many of us still pick up a book before going to bed.
The job of the thought leadership marketer continues to be to migrate clients to deeper forms of engagement. To move them from lean-back content into lean-in content. To systematically progress them from watching 2 minute videos to reading a book over a series of days. And, eventually engaging in a deep and meaningful conversation with their executive teams (and eventually your firm).
To do this, we must strive to systematically move clients from the top left of this continuum to the bottom right. We must orchestrate the foundational thinking in our keystone white paper or published book through a series of varied learning experiences delivered at a variety of lengths and through a variety of formats. The keyword in all of this is orchestrated. Each piece of content builds upon the one preceding it. And, all must work together to deliver our thinking into the board room for discussion within a client’s executive team:
Leaders Are Increasing Their Investments in Lean-Back Content
One of the big trends we’ve seen in the marketplace of thought leadership is a shift towards producing more lean-back content. The most successful thought leadership marketers are making strategic investments in video content, interactive content, interactive tools, audio books and podcasts. Long ago, they recognized the importance of passive learning and began looking for more and better ways to engage their clients minds in new and different ways.
That said, they’re not retreating from lean-in content. It’s rarely a case of stopping one thing to do another. Rather it’s usually an accretive activity. Keep doing one thing while coordinating new investments in another. They’re using lean-back content as a means to guide clients to lean-in content. They’re engaging clients in their passive learning modes with the hopes they’ll pull them into an active learning dialogue.
For consumer marketers, these trends are obvious. The two most trafficked websites in the world are Google and YouTube. Type in almost any search phrase for a consumer-oriented, educational topic and the results usually prioritize videos. Type in similar phrases for a B2B query and the results are usually article-based content. I fully expect us to see search results like these dramatically change over the next 3 years. You’re either leading the way today or playing catch-up tomorrow.