I’ll call her “Sita.” She’s a thoughtful, careful kind of person. She said that she’d been involved in publishing content before, but hadn’t seen any benefit from it, in terms of business development. So, she just didn’t see the point of putting time into it. So for now at least, her answer was a well-considered “no.”
Maybe you’ve had a conversation like that – you’ve gone to a “Sita” in your firm to see if they want to publish an article, write a white paper, provide a blog post, or give a speech. They don’t see the point of taking time that could be billable, and devote it to what you’re asking.
So what would you say to Sita? Are there benefits to creating thought leadership content that go beyond immediately getting new work from existing or new clients?
I think so. Here are four of the “indirect” benefits to preparing thought leadership content.
1. Looking good on GoogleLet’s say Sita goes to a client industry event and meets someone who’s wildly impressed with her evident abilities. Next morning, this person goes onto Google and types in Sita’s name to see if she has professional stature that would warrant bringing her in for a meeting.
Or it could be that someone has been referred to Sita by a colleague, and decides to check her out online.
Would a potential client be impressed by what they find out about Sita?
Does she have online professional stature that gives confidence to someone recommending her? This part is key, because usually it’s more than one person who has to be convinced to bring in a specific service provider. Someone supporting Sita can confidently say, “Look her up online. She’s published articles in our trade media, presented at our conferences, and has published some papers.”
So that’s the first benefit to creating thought leadership content – it impresses potential clients with the business professional’s stature, and that helps the selling process.
2. Looking good on LinkedInA second reason why building a good portfolio of thought leadership content is along the same lines – LinkedIn. Sita’s ideal client will probably come across her LinkedIn profile, either because of LI’s huge SEO profile, or because the prospect typed her name into LinkedIn’s search box.
As I’ve pointed out in Post #87 (with link to a video), there are many ways to add sparkle and impressiveness to one’s LinkedIn profile. These include listed publications with a link to the publication, posting PDFs and other content directly to the profile, and LinkedIn articles. See my profile for some ideas on what’s available.
Having content that has credibility through being published elsewhere, such as an industry website or publication, adds credibility.
Again, it’s a source of reassurance for anyone considering bringing in Sita to work on a project. It’s easy for this person to email a link to Sita’s profile on LinkedIn to their supervisor, colleague or other person involved in the selection process.
These two benefits – an organic online search, and a LinkedIn search – work within the firm too. Let’s say that one of Sita’s colleagues, who hasn’t worked with her before, is considering bringing her in on one of his projects. He’s more likely to do so if he discovers that she has a professional profile that lends confidence.
3. Thinking through your ideasA third benefit to thought leadership content is internal – it’s an opportunity for Sita to think through her expertise from the point of view of her clients. This is particularly important if Sita is mid-career – moving from a world in which technical excellence is paramount, to one in which success comes through understanding the issues that clients are facing, and to which Sita can be a solution.
Sita can come to understand what’s important to her clients. Sita may be motivated by performing really excellent science – elegant, state of the art science. Clients, by contrast, may not care about that. What they want to know is whether Sita’s work will help them get an approval on an application, such as for a building permit. They care about cost and they care about how fast Sita can get her work done. So, Sita can switch from creating in-the-weeds content of interest only to fellow professionals, to creating content that discusses how to get good results from her kind of business professional (see Post #56 for more on that).
4. Your ideas, expressed in your client’s realities
Every client thinks that their issues and concerns are unique, so they want solutions developed just for them. One way your firm can deliver on that is through thinking through the issues being faced by the industry in question.
For example, I recently worked with a business professional who uses high-end drones to produce detailed, workable 3-D maps of an area. He wants to be known for his abilities to get results for the aggregate sector, so the article I helped him write talked about how drone data can help with volume calculations and aggregate extraction planning. Preparing the article was a chance for him to think through the issues facing his target industry, and this likely made him better at business development with prospective clients in this area.
So, creating content for niche-market publications that reach your firm’s intended clients is a great opportunity for your firm’s members to think through the issues those markets are facing – which helps them present their ideas better in a selling situation.