Thought leadership is something of a buzzword in fund marketing circles at present. It is seen as a way into the hearts and minds of investors that other forms of marketing simply can’t match.
And this is with good reason, as thought leadership is unusual in that it actually provides a useful opinion on a subject, so is far more likely to be seen – and shared – than other marketing material.
But although individuals and businesses alike can aspire to effective thought leadership, it is a difficult medium to master.
So, in this ProFundCom white paper, we’re going to look at exactly what thought leadership is, what it does, and how to create and distribute thought leadership content in a way that will boost your assets under management.
What Exactly Is Thought Leadership?
Effective thought leadership all starts with a clear understanding of the term itself.
Firstly, like any good piece of marketing content, thought leadership must offer some kind of help or guidance to your target market. This is a general principle of marketing across any medium and in any sector, because if you provide advice that your potential customers find useful, then you are more likely to sell to them – it’s as simple as that.
But thought leadership goes a step beyond this by speaking about a different way of doing things – perhaps one that is contrary to the accepted norm – in a way that portrays you as an expert on a meaningful and important topic. The aim of this approach is to build trust in the mind of the reader, which is vital for any financial institution.
Thought leadership is also about standing out from the crowd, through some sort of angle that positions you in a way that attracts attention.
You could, for example, take a stand against a common assumption that plagues the fund sector and show how a different way of doing things would bring better results. You could also provide new perspectives on an existing issue, or provide an insight into how things are likely to pan out in the future for investors. You could also warn against something that is seen as the right thing to do, as taking this stance will inevitably make you stand out.
What thought leadership is not is an excuse to sell. Using thought leadership to directly promote a fund undermines your attempt to show yourself as an impartial authority on a subject and thus defeats the object of what you are doing.
So, let’s take a look at how to actually develop your thought leadership content…
How To Create Great Thought Leadership Content
There’s much you can base your thought leadership content on, but it’s wise to come up with ideas in a group – rather than do it all yourself. This will give you a better perspective on what may and may not work.
So, your first step should be to host an ideas session to brainstorm possible topics. This can be used to get some concrete insight into what may be troubling, interesting or intriguing your potential investors, as you should base your content around what is most relevant to your target market.
The topics you hit on may already have been covered by others, but that shouldn’t necessarily put you off. Good thought leadership often covers well-worn topics, but does through with a new approach or nuance that adds something fresh to the conversation. Again, your brainstorming session will help with this, ensuring you create content that’s unique and valuable, even if it’s a topic that many others have covered before.
You should have brainstorming sessions at least once a month, and include members of both your sales and marketing teams in the discussion, to help you develop and send out a steady stream of interesting and engaging thought leadership content. This approach also ensures that you don’t leave topic generation to the last minute and find yourself having to rush something through that may not be right for your audience.
How To Distribute Thought Leadership Content
A company blog is perhaps the most obvious place to distribute your thought leadership content. This can help build a community around your brand, bring in new prospects, and even cultivate a following of brand champions who will freely recommend you to others. But be sure to have a comment function in play, so you can encourage people to engage with you and discuss the issues you are raising.
Email is another great way to distribute your thought leadership content, as it gets straight through to the people who are most engaged with you – those on your email marketing list. You can include the full piece in the body of the message, have it as an attachment, or simply send a link to your blog page.
And the beauty of email is that you can track everything using a platform like ProFundCom. This means you can see who has opened what, and which links they have clicked on, or attachments they have downloaded. This is powerful information, as it gives you a clear idea of who are the most engaged subscribers on your list and thus are most likely to invest with you.
Creating longer thought leadership pieces like white papers and e-books gives you much more scope to discuss a topic and provide useful opinions. And if you write lots of this type of content then you will gradually build a content library and will be seen as a go to resource for anyone interested in funds.
Longer content is also potentially more valuable to your audience, so you could ‘gate’ it behind a form and ask people to provide their email addresses in return for access. This allows you to build a valuable database for email marketing purposes.
Video is an incredibly effective form of marketing. It is quicker to access and digest than the written word and videos tend to be more widely shared than blogs etc. Also, studies show that posts with videos attract three times more inbound links than plain text posts.
Videos can be embedded on your website and emails, or you can link to video sharing sites such as YouTube.
Doing a live thought leadership talk through a webinar is becoming increasingly popular, and with good reason. You can create a real buzz by promoting your webinar via social media, emails and your website. And they also have an important lead generation role, as you can harvest email addresses for marketing purposes by asking people to register in advance.
The popularity of thought leadership podcasts is rising rapidly, as they give people the chance to listen and learn as they do something else. And there are now lots of different platforms where you can post a podcast.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc are great places to drum up interest in your thought leadership content. You can post links to your blogs, videos, podcasts etc, advertise upcoming webinars, and – in the case of LinkedIn – write articles that feature directly on the site. And don’t forget to use relevant hashtags, e.g. #funds, #finance #assetmanagement, to help people find your posts.
A proxy website is a whole website dedicated to thought leadership content, but which is set up under another name – then funnels interested parties into your main site. Proxy websites are an interesting and increasingly popular concept and work particularly well for fund marketing, as they offer potential investors a gold mine of great content.
You must obviously have some kind of channel from your proxy site into your main web presence, but remember it is there to inform, rather than sell directly. But the more people read the quality content on the site, the more they see your company as reliable, knowledgeable and trustworthy.
How To Get The Most From Your Thought Leadership Content
Good thought leadership takes a lot of thought, time and effort to produce. But once you have a body of work behind you, then you are sitting on a goldmine of knowledge.
So, you have to make the most of it.
Thought leadership isn’t just a one use piece of content – you shouldn’t just post it and then forget about it. Instead, you can keep using it by recycling the into different forms.
For example, if you’ve been posting blogs for a while, you’ve done most of the hard work by turning your ideas into articulate and helpful posts, so it’s relatively easy to take the extra step of picking some posts on a similar theme and collating them all into an easy-to-download ebook.
Equally, content can work across different formats. If you’ve written a popular blog for example, try turning it into a webinar or video.
You can also use your thought leadership as a way of boosting numbers on your marketing list, by collecting a selection of your most popular posts and turning them into a free download as an incentive for new subscribers to join.
Don’t forget to repeat
Not everyone is going to see each piece of content when you first post it. So don’t be afraid to repost after a while and try it on different channels and mediums. Keep track of this by setting up a spreadsheet to show you what was posted when and where.
Use old ideas for inspiration
The fund sector is fast moving, so thought leadership content can sometimes lose its relevance over time. But reading through old posts can often spark new ideas, or suggest different topics related to your original post that you can expand on to create something fresh and relevant.
Fund marketing is difficult – regulation strictly governs what you can and can’t say, and product differentiation can be tricky.
But thought leadership gives you a way to offer original, insightful, and provocative content that sets you apart.
But to succeed with thought leadership you must do it properly. Its purpose is not to sell, or provide run of the mill market analysis. Rather, the job of thought leadership is to come up with something new and thought-provoking, that challenges accepted wisdom, makes a new and bold point, or takes an existing conversation off in a different direction.
Do that – and be creative and diligent with how you present and distribute your thought leadership – and you will reap the rewards through content that distinguishes you, and your fund, from the competition.
If you want to find out how ProFundCom can help you use digital marketing to raise assets schedule a demo here