Thought leadership as a growth channel
How to create and distribute growth content through thought leadership.
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What does Jordan do?
Jordan Behan does both growth advising and the tactical building and delivering of growth channels. He’s been selling the Lean Marketing Playbook as SaaS with courses attached through Narrate Creative. Really, it’s a comprehensive growth service.
The advising typically consists of:
- weekly meetings
- campaign ideas
- new growth channels
- content creation
- team leadership
The fact that Jordan provides mentorship and guidance (whether that be on the client side or his own contractors) sets him apart from other contractors. He walks the team through the process of outbound marketing, organic social, paid ads, etc. Whatever the channel requires! There is always a deliverable.
Content marketing – specifically content for growth – is the easiest thing for him to sell.
Thought leadership content strategy for growth
What is growth content?
“Growth content” here simply refers to using the company’s (potential) thought leadership strategy of generating industry content as a growth lever.
Everyone in a company has a network and brand around the work they are doing and the product they are working on. Some might be more obvious than others, but everyone has this on some level. This usually starts with the CEO, as you can’t ignore the influence of the leader.
If you want to make this channel work for you, think of it as a content movement within the company. From the CEO to the team, it works top down. If you can get the CEO to create content, you automatically empower the rest of the team to build their own personal brand around their own knowledge. This is a benefit to the whole company!
It works very well for sales people and teams. Thought leadership internally spreads like a grassroots movement. It’s not limited to the CEO, but often starts here.
How does Jordan know this works?
Years ago, Jordan led the blog/social team at Hootsuite (from 4M to 8M users 🤯). The most powerful asset to the company, Jordan realized, was hundreds of employees that wanted to join a social media company because of their own passion for it. Being active on social was fun to them! It’s what they centered their careers around, after all.
So, how did they leverage this?
Every campaign would have 8-10 “brand” tweets from the official company account, and perhaps the CEO/C-Suite execs. Then, they would create another ~30 Tweets for people to post about on their own channels to take the work out of it for them. This not only made it easy to post, but gave the team explicit permission and encouragement to broadcast their own thought leadership content. Under the umbrella of the company, the individual employees received a kickstart to their own audience’s growth.
So now these people are out there on their personal Twitter channels or email channels talking about the company mission and products. Not every post is about a “launch”, but the sum total of everything your team is sharing has network effects. Recognize this as a genuine marketing channel! It’s amplification in the purist sense.
While at Hootsuite, they created a product called “conversation”. Basically you take a tweet meant to be external, but share it on an internal #conversations Slack channel. This turns into a behind the scenes chat about what to share and discuss. It could be a quote/blurb from a CEO interview or piece of existing content. All this stuff is shareable and repurpose-able.
When thought leadership becomes part of the internal culture, it becomes truly scalable.
So, how do you create thought leadership content for growth?
If you have a leader who is truly passionate about the company mission (and if you don't you should probably leave...), it’s not that hard. Just start recording topics and interviews with the CEO. C-suite execs aren’t always willing to spend time creating content. In fact, expect pushback. Fortunately it’s hard to say no to a half hour interview on a topic they are an expert on, and have devoted a large part of their life to.
Emphasize that this kind of content gets better reach than the company brand channel, especially if your company channels are new. Use it as a way to boost up the brand channel. Be sure to make this first effort as easy on them as possible, but do your best to make sure it's a success – both in the quality of the content and the response to it.
Start with 1 full length LinkedIn thought leadership piece a week from CEO. Share tidbits on the brand channels throughout, repurposing small bits of the content. Now, you have 3-4 posts a week on LinkedIn, and are growing BOTH accounts. The CEO likely has the most influence, network and knowledge on the topic/industry.
You must make a point of convincing the leaders in your company that their brand can be a growth channel. Add it to marketing mix. They might think content is not doing enough for them, but likely they aren’t doing enough for their content. Pretty much every company is not utilizing their internal knowledge publicly enough.
Note: Jordan's content focuses on LinkedIn, but this could work on Twitter and other social channels as well.
Jordan’s process for thought leadership content creation:
- Pick a topic + theme. It should of course be directly related to your business goal and target audience. For example, if your company is selling a collaborative work application (like a Notion alternative), you might want to become THE thought leader about how teams work together virtually. If you're building a marketing analytics tool, be the leader in what metrics actually matter for marketers.
- Get the CEO on board Depending on the CEO this might be the easiest or hardest step. Work their ego a bit. Nearly every CEO wants to be a thought leader in their space. Emphasize the potential upside of success for the company’s revenue, the team performance and the organizational culture. It’s a genuinely free growth experiment, so it’s hard to not give it a try.
- Next, get more C-suite and team leads on board
- Then invite the whole team to take partMake it easy for them (give permission, but don't force or require it). Call out the successes when it happens. Don’t worry about too much repetition, this is a good thing! Repetition strengthens your thought leadership as a group. Write 20-30 tweets for hundreds of people. The team will naturally tweak it. A repeated tweet is better than no tweets.
- Expand the contentAttack the theme from all angles. What are ALL the problems you can solve in the space. Encourage your team to spread the information out. This kind of content is usually evergreen (i.e. it lasts for a very long time), so there is no need to blast it all at once.
💡 Some tips to make things easier
Descript is a tool that automatically creates transcripts from videos, and allows you to edit by deleting and changing the text. It will voice match as well. The tool lets you get video clips and also the output info from CEO in a short time. 1min speaking = 100 words. 10min of talking is a whole thought leadership post!
You could, for example, host a high-quality webinar with subject matter experts and decision-makers. Talk about industry pain points from different points of view, and then transcribe it into a piece of content. You can then combine both thought leadership marketing and SEO all into one. Take the data and create infographics and white papers that other parties are likely to link to. This could in fact be your entire content marketing strategy.
Content themes: there is always a theme you should be pushing forward. It usually starts with demand generation for SaaS companies. It involves teaching people about your solution. The best way to do this is to simplify your message and connect their problem to the solution you’re selling.
Types of content
- Leadership (CEO) - write posts of varying length for different channels Videos, books, podcasts, etc.Take a 2500 post, turn that into a ton of smaller LinkedIn/Twitter posts. One thing Jordan does for himself: if he launches long form content like an ebook he’ll go into a community and tell them that anyone who wants it can just comment and he’ll DM to them for free. These are now conversations that are in a sense way down the pipeline.
- Employees - typically shorter form. Content doesn’t have to start long form and get broken down from there. It can start as small idea posts that build up and collect into something larger. It’s smart to have a repository of ideas so people can collect posts, ideas and content they see and can be discussed. Start by chatting about ideas internally. If it seems good, you put it into the official Notion page. Some of them become a LinkedIn post but aren't quite enough for an article. Alternatively could work and invest weeks on an ebook, and then break it down.
Once you have these two creation funnels, there’s a lot you can do. Post the good thought leadership content on the company’s blog. Reach out and use the insights for guest posts for brand awareness. Reach out to publications focused on industry trends and industry news to see if they’ll link back to you and improve your SEO. Remember that there are many types of thought leadership content. Break something down into a step-by-step initiative. Dig deep into your buyer persona, and then think of every other content producer who is trying to appeal to them,
Focus on the solution, not the product
The best thought leadership posts provide valuable content and high-quality content to potential customers. In essence, this is what most modern digital marketing is. The difference with thought leadership content is the educational content focus.
Emphasize to the team that identifying the problem and talking about the solution is always the right path to growth (note the actual product is not mentioned here). Demand generation often has a bias towards the product itself, because founders and teams are in love with what they built.
But nobody cares about the tool, they care about whether it will make their life better. They will not be in love with your product unless they are first in love with it as a solution. So understand their life and concerns. If you talk about the shiny thing all the time, people will lose interest.
People want to connect to you over their problems, not products. This is what builds a community. So ask the community: what are your problems? Your product should “happen” to be the solution, not the lead.
Benefits of thought leadership content?
- Get more sales (more leads and better closing rate)
- It's "free" as a growth experiment
- Builds a strong brand and sense of trust
- Boost your internal culture and team energy
- Your team will be seen publicly as the experts they truly are, which is great for hiring and raising investment
- It will boost all other growth efforts you are making
Interest in getting Jordan's help?
You can book a time with Narrate Creative here!
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