Thought leadership vs content marketing
Because it is content, many marketers group thought leadership within the context of the wider term of content marketing. But, although there are similarities, the two are not the same. Where content marketing can entertain or provide light relief, thought leadership is always educational.
With a focus on quality rather than quantity, great thought leadership can take longer to create than an average blog or article, but its rewards can be well worth the investment.
The differences between thought leadership and content marketing go deeper, however.
The benefits of content marketing
Content marketing is the creation and distribution of content online for the purposes of stimulating interest in a product or service. An increasingly important part of an overall marketing strategy, research shows that 70% of marketers now actively invest in content marketing.
Distributed mainly across a company’s own website or social media channels, content marketing can take many forms, including blogs, video, infographics and eBooks. With the ultimate goals of educating an audience with a view to making a sale, these pieces of content will often be littered with enticing calls-to-action, and be geared towards steering an audience through the sales funnel.
Mainly targetting a B2C audience, there are plentiful benefits of a good content marketing strategy. Namely establishing trust with different audience segments, either increasing retention or generating new leads. Building authority through consistently producing high-quality articles, will also positively impact SEO efforts, creating another potential method of attracting clients.
The benefits of thought leadership content
A subsection of content marketing, thought leadership has a very specific aim – to change somebody’s way of thinking. Often reserved for the top of a sales funnel, thought leadership is often the first impression the reader will have of the company.
This may lead to increased credibility and brand affinity, and hence shorten the sales cycle, but these are not the main aims of thought leadership. That is to start the sales conversation through original and unique thinking.
Because it is not sales-led, thought leadership often takes place off-site. There is less need for self-promotion or frequent calls to action. Indeed, much thought leadership content promotion is limited to the author’s byline.
This may seem counterintuitive, but the benefits can be reaped further down the line.