This article highlights the findings of our research on what the world’s most successful thought leadership marketers do differently on their websites.
Over the years, working with professional services firms of all shapes and sizes, I’ve found that some firms approach their marketing with a different mindset. They don’t just focus on project pursuit strategies or relationship development, they look at the market and say, how can I shape the entire direction of what it is we do? They don’t just “skate to where the puck is going to go” (as Wayne Gretzky famously said). They determine where they’d like the puck to go and then do everything they can to drive the market there. I’ve become fond of calling these types of firms, “demand generators.”
This different mindset shapes the marketing behaviors of those firms. And, in turn, the output of their marketing efforts tends to look a little different than their peers. Over the last few years, we’ve been researching these types of firms to understand their behaviors and characteristics. We use this proprietary data set to inform the work we do with our clients — to help them eliminate marketing activities that seem to offer little value while elevating higher performing ones. A few weeks ago, I gave a small window into this data set when I outlined the 7 driving behaviors of today’s leading consulting firm marketers.
In that article, I highlighted how demand generators tend to be more digitally minded. They invest a larger portion of their marketing budget (6-7% more in fact) on digital marketing activities than their peers. In this article, we take a look at some of the things they do differently with that money. We highlight 4 of the specific things that these firms tend to do differently online that we can see and point to. They are:
- Use Interactivity
- Selectively Gate
- Colocate Content
- Create Bridges
#1 – Use Interactivity
The web is the most interactive medium that’s ever been available to us. Yet, I still see a lot of firms bring a static, print-oriented mindset to their thought leadership marketing efforts (those design journals and quarterly magazines you’re publishing on Issuu come to mind).
By contrast, demand generators are more likely to use the interactive features of the web to their advantage. They’re more likely to publish their content using interactive graphics (pages with charts that animate and grow as you read like this one on Bloomberg) and interactive tools (pages like this one on supply chain best practices in middle market companies that let you answer a short series of questions and compare your responses with an existing underlying data set).
#2 – Selectively Gate
A number of times in the past, I’ve written about the importance of gating a small portion of your thought leadership content and pulled from consumer psychology to explain why gates work. While some marketers really dislike gates, our research consistently tells us they work when used correctly and in moderation. “Correctly” means asking only for the information you really need and not using the information collected as an excuse for a premature sales call. “In moderation” usually means gating about 5% of your total thought leadership content.
While my opinion on gates formed long before I had any data to back it up, the demand generators have shown this to be true. Nearly 80% of demand generators gate some portion of their thought leadership content — by contrast, their peers gate less than half.
#3 – Colocate Content
This one is fairly intuitive — you’re using your thought leadership to help sell your firm’s services so logically you’d want that thought leadership to be as close in physical proximity to any information you have describing those services as possible. Yet, a lot of firms still publish their thinking on a domain separate from their main corporate website. By, contrast demand generators are more likely to house their thought leadership content directly within their main site. While the gap between leaders and followers in this area has shrunk over the years, there’s still a gap.
#4 – Build Bridges
This last characteristic is an extension of the one that falls before it. Demand generators simply do a better job of pulling readers over the bridge from their thought leadership (blogs, articles, etc.) to their marketing content (case stories, bios, service offerings, etc.). In so doing, they shape the client’s buying process and guide them along it in an intelligent way. They do this by ensuring they have the proper digital toolsets in place to dynamically provide context to things people are reading. And, coincidentally they do this by offering the website functionality that clients say is important to them (or at least the nearly 1k clients we surveyed last year said was).
In short, they’re more likely to connect a reader with other related thought leadership, with relevant case stories and with author bios and contact information. While these things seem fairly obvious, a lot of firms simply don’t put the additional thought and planning necessary into their web properties to make them happen. Presumably, they figure simply publishing the content is sufficient.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from our research over the past few years, it’s this — if your firm is serious about shaping the conversation on a topic, then you better be serious about digital marketing. Being serious about digital marketing means putting meaningful attention towards understanding search, making informed and nuanced decisions about the details of your web property, and being avid users of marketing technology.