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An Answer for Growth Starved Companies: Thought Leadership

July 7th, 2017 by Dale Jones

Growth starved companies are commonly practicing Random Acts of Content; releasing periodic white papers, articles, videos, and blog posts with little focus or depth. However, when you are dealing with high level clients facing serious business challenges, this scattershot approach provides little value.

Thought LeaderThe answer is Thought Leadership:

An invitation for discussion…which ultimately provides an opportunity to get to know your client – and connect better – through meaningful communication.

A Strategic Thought Leadership Program helps position you as The Trusted Advisor in your industry.

Gartner, Inc. the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company defines Thought Leadership Marketing as “the giving – for free or at a nominal charge – information or advice that a client will value so as to create awareness of the outcome that a company’s product or service can deliver, in order to position and differentiate
the offering and stimulate demand for it.”

A thought leadership program provides the organization, the executives and the salespeople with a sustained stream of education and advisory content to help open doors, make more effective sales calls, differentiate their organization and deliver trusted advice, services and product. 

As you build a thought leadership position over time, your company will be increasingly seen as an industry authority, resource and trusted advisor, enhancing your brand’s visibility and reputation, helping you generate revenue and inspiring client loyalty.

In order to reach those objectives, a strategy is required which focuses on the creation of content relevant and compelling to your target audience, engaging those audiences where they congregate.

Thought leadership programs enable companies to leverage business development, marketing, sales, and strategic branding.

There are practical steps your company can take to design and execute a thought leadership program to help your sales force generate measurable sales growth in the next sales quarter.

  1. Build the foundation. Like building a house, a thought
    leadership program must be built on a sound foundation. If a thought
    leadership program is going to create business value, it needs to directly
    support your sales process and drive your communications, branding and
    product sales goals.
  2. Create building block assets. A profitable thought leadership
    program is built upon a common set of sales assets – such as original
    research reports, client videos, client ideas, practical “how
    to” articles, client education web sites, and advisory tools – all
    integrated with your sales process.
  3. Deliver multi channel programs. Deliver these
    thought leadership assets to your clients using disciplined sales programs
    such as education events, monthly “micro sales campaigns”, sales
    calls, e-mails and phone calls.
  4. Take a Stand: Make bold statements that might
    seem counterintuitive to what common sense says. You have to think about
    your messages as something someone is going to want to read.
  5. Be Vertically Famous: What you want to do is figure out
    to which audience you wish to be famous. You want to be known by all in
    that very particular industry.
  6. What Does Your Competition Miss? It’s a good
    idea to see what is not being done well, or perhaps not at all, by your
  7. Develop Your “Voice”: Whatever your
    style is, make a conscious decision to use and develop it. This is
    integral to your new branding effort.
  8. Get Published: There is a distinct halo effect
    when you can add the word “author” to your attributions.
  9. Start a Newsletter and a Blog: If your
    product or service has a long lead time, it makes good sense to start a
    periodic publication online. An e-newsletter is the most obvious way to
    go, but you should probably augment and amortize the content by employing
    other channels, such as publishing your own blog. When done right, there’s
    no better way to spend your marketing money.
  10. Talk Less, Listen More: Ask questions of everyone around
  11. Press the Flesh: In this age of increased computer
    marketing, there’s a lot to be said for a physical presence.

Leverage your content. A thought leadership program is about pervasive presence and ongoing conversation, not just traditional publishing and speaking. Clients want to think about and debate your ideas.
To encourage and facilitate this discussion, you need to leverage your thought leadership content by publishing compelling bits and bytes in appropriate formats across the networks and channels frequented by your clients.

If you’re working on a white paper, for example, you want to think: Is there a short video we can produce?

Where can we blog about this?

What articles can we publish?

Where are the opportunities to brief our clients on our new thinking?




What’s Your Story?

June 28th, 2017 by Dale Jones

“… A story that resonates helps us to deeply believe in ourselves, individually and collectively, and in the vision for the collective experience.” Harvard Business Review

When our kids were little, they would eagerly snuggle up on the couch to read over and again favorites such as Fuzzy Tail Bunny, Guess How Much I Love You or any book that would take us to Narnia or Wonderland.

Many recall with nostalgia gatherings around the kitchen table, hearing and telling stories about legendary relatives or perhaps amazing peers or simply the day’s events. These instances are the beginnings and ongoing catalysts for most people’s appreciation for story.

Storybooks to faith gatherings and beyond, we are continually drawn into the antics, emotion, trials, lessons and the humor of stories. Storytelling is in our nature; it is the way we most naturally communicate and engage with each other.

Storytelling touches our hearts as well as our heads.  Stories provide credibility and emotion. Credible ideas make people believe. Emotional ideas make people act.

So what is your story? Is it relevant?
Tell me a fact and I’ll learn.
Tell me a truth
and I’ll believe.
But tell me a story
and it will live in my heart forever.
- Native American Proverb

Strategic Storytelling is the use of this timeless and infinitely familiar craft to focus and inspire brands, businesses and people.

Imagine yourself at a meeting with a venture capitalist. You need a few million dollars to launch a new technology that will remove pollutants from water at almost no cost. You might present a few dozen data packed slides showing revenues, costs, discounted cash flows, and projected profitability.

Now imagine relating a story about what inspired you to create the technology in the first place… about a trip you made to Africa, where you found millions of people suffering from an inadequate water supply, and how one family in this little village lost their children as a result.

Then, you describe a scene where this new technology has been implemented in that village, and the entire village now has an inexhaustible supply of clean water. There are no more deaths as a result.

Stories are powerful influencers, perhaps more than any other influencer.

Storytelling is the new differentiator. Facts and figures, specifications and price are all still important. But it takes stories to connect with customers on an emotional level. The motivation to choose one brand over another – when the choices are endless – is triggered by emotion.



Abandon Random Acts of Content to Drive Leads, Grow Business

September 2nd, 2014 by Dale Jones

Content Marketing: Strategic Creation and Distribution of engaging, relevant, timely information

A recent Forbes article, ‘The Disappearing Sales Process’ discusses: “Research from Google and the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) citing The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing provides new insight into buyer behavior, and it challenges the conventional wisdom.

According to the study, customers reported to being nearly 60 percent through the sales process before engaging a sales rep, regardless of price point. More accurately, 57 percent of the sales process just disappeared.”

Content Marketing
Content Marketing can be a strong way to support the sales process before and after the salesperson is involved. Content marketing is the art of creating and distributing engaging, relevant, timely and valuable content that will be of interest to your specific target market. The goal is to drive leads, which will convert to new clients and grow the business.

Lack of Strategy
Companies are commonly practicing Random Acts of Content; releasing periodic white papers, press releases, articles, videos, and blog posts with little focus or depth. This scattershot approach provides little value to clients and/or prospects and hence is a waste. In fact, distribution of irrelevant information may destroy the purveyor’s credibility with recipients.

Know Your Customers on a Deeper Level

Would you rather have a conversation with your best friend or a total stranger? A Content Marketing Strategy is really all about knowing your audience, knowing your platform and getting the two in sync. For instance, a software company might create a blog that contains valuable articles about their niche and how it benefits their customers.

Companies should create high quality content. By high quality content we don’t just mean information. By high quality content we mean information that is first-and-foremost of real benefit to your key client base.

True friends provide one another with valuable presence and information. Content must be of value to your audience; anything less is insulting to recipients as it is disrespectful of their time.

Your Opportunity to Educate and to be the Expert
Create the type of information your clients need and actually want to consume.

Valuable content:
• Educates your clients, show them, explains what to look out for, and solves problems.
• Should be about what the reader needs or wants, not posturing.
• Should be clear and concise.
• Should be written with specificity
Marketing with valuable content is a win-win-win: getting into the heads of clients and prospects to the point of putting their interests first and supplying the information/solutions they need, inevitably leads business growth for all.



CEO as Brand? The Power of Executive Communications

October 20th, 2011 by Dale Jones

A Fortune magazine editor once observed:

“If you want to analyze a corporation, read its financial statements. If you want to plumb its soul, talk to its chief executive.”    



Companies spend fortunes establishing and promoting their brands, only to ignore one of the most profitable brand weapons in their arsenal: the CEO.

 Surveys show companies with a well known, positively regarded CEO perform better in the stock market.  However, it is very important for CEOs to be known by potential key stakeholders such as the media, employees, clients and the public for reasons beyond the price of a corporation’s stock. A positive CEO profile will improve morale, recruitment and sales.

Even though CEOs are themselves a brand, many companies waste this asset.

1. Communicating Knowledge

Knowledge is not effective unless it is communicated. The proper way of communicating is not only through speaking, but includes proper dress, body language, social etiquette, media relations, government relations and investor relations.  All of which sum up to public relations. The effective CEO needs to convey a command of strategy, and consistent vision to both internal and external audiences.

As a CEO, one must be able exude a consistent, credible persona to your stakeholders. This is achieved through appropriate, strategically timed publicity campaigns, commentaries, articles, interviews, public appearances, press conferences and so on.

Such communication is about bringing your values to life.

“40% of my time I communicate our company’s credo”

- Jim Burke, former Johnson & Johnson, CEO 

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