November & December theme:
“Choose One Thing”
Posted in :  Brain Waves

We here at Fathom have been noticing a trend lately. Some of our clients are getting invited to the buying cycle party later and later than they used to be. By the time a prospect contacts them the conversation immediately jumps to a price negotiation. There’s little opportunity to talk about fit, value or even what the prospect is trying to accomplish. It got us wondering what the heck is going on here and what could be done about it.

Content as Brand Agent

And then it hit us. Knowledgeable customers are shrinking and short circuiting the traditional sales cycle. By the time they talk to you, they’ve researched options and competitors, and they’ve held meetings (without you) to reach a near-decision. Your ability to influence the buying decision is no longer happening in a customer-to-sales-rep conversation. It starts with what prospects see, read and experience online from you and your competitors. It puts more pressure than ever on your brand to tell customers what they can count on from your products, services, and people.

This means that each piece of content – from a blog post to a product offering – is not just a marketing vehicle it’s also a brand agent. When customers engage with your content, they are getting to know, like and trust you. If all of this conversation and relationship building is happening without you being there, then you better make sure that your content is a worthy brand spokesperson.

Brand Building via Thought Leadership

So, what’s to be done? How can you demonstrate your value if you don’t get to talk to your prospects until it’s almost too late? In two words – thought leadership. While much has been written about the lead generation value of sharing your expertise through “thought leadership” like whitepapers, case studies and bylined articles, little has been written about its long-term brand-building benefits.

Think about it. One of the most difficult marketing hurdles to overcome is helping a prospect to see the value of working with you. But if you can credibly demonstrate it for them – showing how you think and the results that follow – this hurdle becomes significantly lower. As an added benefit, the generosity and confidence displayed by sharing something of real substance tells your reader that there’s a lot more value where that came from.

Strong Brands and Organizational Commitment

When we work with clients on their thought leadership strategy the first thing we do is make sure that their brand is in good shape and that they understand what they’re signing up for.

Brand Considerations

  • Can you confidently express what your brand stands for and the promises it makes?
  • What does your brand sound like – “quirky without being cheesy” or “buttoned up professional”?
  • Do you need to change your brand perception in order to attract customers that are interested in what you do today … not what you did 10 years ago?

Thought Leadership Considerations

  • What can you speak about from direct experience?
  • What problems can your company solve?
  • Who will author your content?
  • What kind of publishing schedule can your authors commit to?
  • How are you going to share your thoughts – via social media, a blog or perhaps video?
  • Can you curate content from other thought leaders in your sphere of influence?

Getting to the “Right” Conversations

Designing a thoughtful content program ensures that everyone on your team understands what is being produced and why. Best of all, this rigor will ensure that your company has the right conversations with the right prospects at the right time. It’s your turn. What’s your experience with thought leadership? We’d love to know about what has worked and what hasn’t and the results you’ve seen.

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Posted by: Steve Machesney
Email the author: stevem@fathom.net