At Bloom Group, we’ve been helping clients create thought leading content since 1998. But once the content has been produced, the hard part begins. You must do the thought leadership marketing and promotional outreach necessary to ensure that the right people actually read the article. If they don't read it, they can't act on it -- and your company won't see new sales inquiries, meetings, engagements, or revenue. Skimp on the marketing and promotional outreach and your article, despite your hard work developing it, will likely slip into quiet oblivion.
Thought leadership marketing is distinguished by two things; the most effective channels are “earned” ones which validate the content and the best of those are in-person, because they allow an expert to explain how his expertise can specifically benefit a prospect.
In research we conducted in 2015, we asked consulting firm execs to rate the best routes for getting out the word on their firm's thought leadership (that is, the most effective channels for generating market awareness and leads.) The top five: own website/SEO, conferences, consulting firm seminars, mentions in the press, and bylined articles in external online publications. The focus on SEO shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, if a potential customer searches on an area of focus for your firm, say "data analytics," the firm wants to rank highly in search results. Search is an important way for firms to pull new people into seeing thought leadership content. As one manager commented at a recent AMCF event in San Francisco, few people wake up in the morning and say "I think I'll buzz over to that consulting firm's website to see what's going on." That's also why the bylined articles in third-party online publications matter greatly.
To get results from their content we help market professional services marketing with campaigns that capture the attention of prospective customers. The right marketing program is different of course for every company and every campaign. But these seven marketing and promotional tactics are good ones to deploy to make sure your next thought leadership article accomplishes more for the business:
1. Social Promotion: Think social outreach is just the marketing team's job? That's a mistake. (Don Draper of Mad Men fame would have had someone else do his social work for him. Don't be Don Draper.) Social outreach works, and it requires more than the marketing team's participation. Your company's subject matter experts, the folks whose bylines appear on the article, have the best network of people in their area of expertise. Tap into those SME's powerful social networks and, hopefully, their customers' networks.
Your company's subject matter experts should be using Twitter and LinkedIn at regular intervals for weeks after an article publishes, highlighting pieces of advice, pieces of data, and the like. These posts must convince potential customers that you understand the pain points: The full article should convince them you have unique solutions for solving those problems.
2. Speaking engagements: Published articles (especially in the likes of HBR) are credentials valued by people booking speakers for industry conferences and events. Use your article to help present your subject matter experts (or yourself, if you're running a small firm) for the conferences that matter most to your customers. According to our research with AMCF, conferences remain one of the best sources of sales leads for professional services firms.
3. Follow-on Articles: You have already separated yourself from the pack and won over an editor with your first article. Don't waste the opportunity to pitch other article ideas to the same editor. Editors love ongoing relationships with smart contributors: These relationships save them from having to wade through reams of submissions from strangers. (I know. I've sat in the editor's chair doing this job.) The care and feeding of this newly forged editorial relationship matters.
You can also use your article in publication A in a pitch email to convince the editor of publication B that you're worthy of a shot. An editor who sees you made it through a tough editorial gauntlet will look at you in a different light. You're no longer an amateur. In this way, you may be able to work your way up from regional or trade publications to a top-tier publication. (But make sure you're pitching a distinctly different story; no editor wants a rehashed version of something that's already been published elsewhere.)
4. Email outreach: Want to make sure your existing clients see the article you just got into HBR? Email your client list, with a brief description of the article, and a link to the full article on the publication's site, soon after it publishes. A client of ours, FMG Leading, a human capital strategy firm, recently took this approach with an HBR win. (See "The Mistakes PE Firms Make When They Pick CEOs for Portfolio Companies.") Then they did something extra smart: They asked clients to add their perspective on the problems discussed in the article, using HBR's article comments section. Editors love to see articles drive lots of social shares and comments. It makes their bosses happy, validates their editorial thinking, and they end up thinking more highly of the article's author, which turns into opportunities for you to publish more articles. It's a win-win for everybody.
5. Physical Mailing: For some clients, you may want to add a personal touch by mailing them a printed version of the piece, ideally with a personal note from you, a company leader, or a sales person. Perhaps the article relates to a problem you've been speaking to company X about for months. Use the article to show them you're not just talking through your hat. For other customers, perhaps the sales team is trying to rekindle a business relationship that's cooled, or strengthen a budding one. Your article can help, if you put it to work.
6. Email tagline: How do you promote the article with every email that people in your company send? Add a link to your email block, noting the customer problem, and linking to the article. For example: "How should private equity firms evaluate CEOs? Read our/my HBR article."
7. Homepage Promotion: Use the spaces on your home page, like "In the News" boxes or other available areas, to share the article. One client of ours even created a narrow banner that ran across the top of his solo consultancy's home page touting his HBR article. Pretty nice first impression to give site visitors, isn't it?
These seven strategies are not pie-in-the sky theories. They've worked for our clients.