It may sound counter-intuitive but having a reliable system in place to power your thought leadership strategy and connect with your audience is fast becoming a necessary part of a modern marketing strategy.
If it’s not on your radar yet, I guarantee it will be in the next 6-12 as the game changes in a big way and businesses battle it out for attention and market leadership in the digital arena.
Forbes is citing thought leadership as an emerging sales and marketing discipline and as more "traditional" business follow in the footsteps of their digital counterparts and incorporate content arketing as their marketing cornerstone.
The result of this is that both quality (by that I mean truly helpful content, not just content that looks good) and consistency become the differentiating factors amongst the billions of pieces of content now circulating the inter webs.
Aside from increasing your reach and reputation, having a robust content creation engine frees you up to focus on things that you wouldn’t have time for if you find yourself a content producer who is both the operator and the central cog of the machine you’re trying to build.
Constructing a thought leadership content engine that can serve you for years to come is only possible by building it on firm foundations, that are rooted both in the values of your brand and the systems you put in place to support it.
In order to successfully build a thought leadership production system that works for you, it must authentically portray your brand messaging, because if your content does not align with your brand characteristics and values, then it’s all but guaranteed your audience will lose interest quickly.
This is why it is so important that before you start building your systems, you need to have laid the necessary groundwork.
Once you have solid foundations that accurately reflect your values, have validated your message and verified it resonates with your audience, you can (and should!) start getting into the nitty gritty of building your content engine.
This first objective beyond laying the foundations of your thought leadership engine is to gain visibility. This is done by amplifying your message and getting it out there into the marketplace, and into the consciousness of your audience.
The goal of gaining visibility is to grow your consumer base and begin to appear to them as an expert in your niche. By showing your credibility and ensuring that you connect authentically with your target market, you’ll be able to build a following that will willingly consume your content, and spread it even further by word-of-mouth.
This is why it is so important to have a strong foundation to stand upon before you begin amplifying your message. How are you supposed to amplify a message if you don’t even know what you have to say, who you are going to say it to, or if people even care about your opinion?
Laying down your foundations is a process of validation, testing the marketplace to see if you have something meaningful to contribute. Only when you have something you can add to the conversation can you begin to spread the word.
If you just jump into distributing content with a scattergun, disjointed approach, at best you waste your time, and at worst, you risk soiling the reputation of yourself and your brand before you even begin.
The next step in constructing your engine flows naturally from the previous, and it centres around building your systems.
Once your foundations have been laid and by amplifying your message, demand has been proven, it is time to construct systems that enable you to churn out consistent content with minimal effort.
This does not mean that you outsource all your content production to random freelancers you have never met, but what it does mean is that you put in place systems to ensure fidelity to your foundations that your team can follow, replicate, and eventually scale.
Naturally, constructing effective systems will take a lot of trial and error, but once you get the engine running smoothly, it will do the work for you.
Where once you were the researcher, producer, copywriter, and presenter all in one, you will now simply be the driver behind your content engine, gentle pressing the gas to direct the machine where it needs to go.
For example with one of my systems I show businesses how to repurpose 120+ pieces of thought leadership content from a single video!
When you have built your brand up to this level, you can produce an exponential amount of content in a shorter amount of time, allowing you to focus on whatever else you may like, be that personal or professional.
Now that your engine is up and running and your audience is engaging with your content, it is time to monetize your thought leadership.
Yes, it is all well and good to be a thought leader that is esteemed by your consumers, but the end goal of marketing and business is to generate recurring revenue.
You can monetize your content in many different forms, such as by offering training courses, products, exclusive memberships, business services and the like.
You shouldn't just start with this off the bat however, as consumers are naturally turned off by things that seem too salesy. It’s hard to trust someone who only seems to be after the contents of your wallet, so in order to effectively generate revenue from your audience, it is essential that you first build a relationship with them.
That is why monetizing your content is one of the LAST steps of building your thought leadership system, because you cannot sell to someone who does not trust you. In a practical sense, you need to first offer value and expertise to your audience, generating respect and a feeling of reciprocity.
Once you are confident that your relationship with your market is solid, you can start structuring your content to lead into your offerings. This way, it will appear less salesy and more of a genuine attempt by you to provide value to customers you actually care about.
Having a recurring revenue stream generated by your thought leadership engine does not mean it is time to rest on your laurels. You need to plan ahead and eventually evolve as the need dictates.
It’s also important to remember that these needs are not always necessarily set by your audience. One of the major benefits of creating systems to work for you is that it frees up more time for you to focus on your needs.
This is the best part of the process, when you can let your engine do the work while you ask yourself important questions - how much do you want to work? What kind of projects? Where do you want your brand to go? Asking these questions is a privilege granted to you by a system that provides freedom by increasing both your revenue and available time.
Creating a powerful thought leadership system that can go the distance is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your career as a thought leader and marketer. The process is not easy, and you will stumble many times along the way, but you just have to stay true to the process - lay your foundations, expand your reach, monetize, and eventually evolve.
Once you get your engine roaring, you will see your brand grow faster than you ever could have imagined, and with very little investment. You can think of this process as being similar to compound interest.
The hours you put into building your systems may feel insignificant at first, but if you work on it consistently enough, eventually all your work will come together and begin to snowball, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of your hard work for years to come.
If you are established in business, have a message to share, and you are ready to take your position as a trusted authority, but not sure how to start, grab my book Becoming a Respected Thought Leader: The Ultimate Guide for Experts, Entrepreneurs and Business owners.
In it you'll learn exactly what it takes to deliver high quality, thought-provoking, action-inspiring content that will position you as the go-to expert and keep your audience coming back to you for more!
About the Author
Nina Christian is passionate marketer and mentor to young marketers and entreprenuers around the globe.
As a marketing and brand strategist, she helps businesses and brands attract their ideal audience by leveraging timeless marketing principles along with their own thought leadership and systematised content publishing to build awareness, authority and connection.
Her marketing agency Braveda, founded in 2000, is a boutique marketing agency (est. 2000) that specialises in building brands through thought leadership and content creation, and was named Best Marketing Agency at the 2018 Australian Marketing Excellence Awards and Nina was named 2018 Certified Practicing Marketer of the Year (Victoria).
Nina believes believes every marketer deserves the chance to build a career that inspires and is helping young marketers become the marketers the world wants and needs through Launch Your Marketing Career.
She is also an entrepreneur with several start-ups under her belt, including a successful exit in 2008 of a pioneering ecommerce brand she co-founded in 2001.
She is a Fellow of the Australian Marketing Institute, and Chair of the AMI State Committee in VIC.
Nina is a regular speaker on the subjects of Marketing and Entreprenuership and believes there has never been a more exciting time to be a marketer.
Outside of work (which she loves!) Nina enjoys the outdoors, is an active CrossFitter, and after 3pm most days is off-duty having fun with her five young children and doing mum stuff.
Interested in some of the "behind the scenes" goings on?