Generating Revenue Through Thought Leadership & A Content Machine

A content machine?? Yes a literal, living and breathing content machine, but a few things first...

You want to build your business, generate new revenue channels and have a strong company brand, right?. But aside from word of mouth, networking and one-on-one sales activities (which don’t scale), how can you grow your business in a scalable way? How can you create awareness that you even exist? And sound different from everyone else and actually create demand for your products as the innovator and expert in your space?

In this article we’ll talk about how to create a cohesive marketing strategy that creates brand awareness, grows your tribe and differentiates you from the crowd. Hint: what differentiates you is NOT a super clever headline on your website. Using this system you’ll be able to build trust and finally establish you and your company as the go-to expert in your industry.

Sounds great? It’s possible. The final outcomes are people reaching out to work with you and a simplified sales process. You’ll spend less time chasing and closing new business because people already know you, the results you promise, and even how you work. You’ll also reduce the time wasted with conversations that won’t go anywhere.

This is super easy to do… just kidding. It’ll take some time and effort, and may feel a little uncomfortable because it’s new, but that’s always the case. You may have doubts that pop up, is this really going to work? There may be times you’re busy and you’ll have to make critical decisions to stay the course and figure it out. Especially for established companies where every aspect of this is new. Patience and persistence are key.

It’s a new world, a new paradigm

You could argue what I’m talking about is nothing new, but for most companies, especially older more established companies, it might as well be new. The world and how it does business is changing, and that pace is accelerating. You can reach your customers in so many places now, one rich video can reach thousands of people. The only real question you need to answer is, where is my audience, and what do they want. If you answer those questions and give it to them, you can’t lose.

Will the old style of business building remain? Referrals, networking, word of mouth? Of course. These will probably always be some of the best marketing strategies, but for most this isn’t predictable enough to scale a business on (or it’s extremely difficult). That is what a great brand can do for you. A company brand can attract business without the founders doing one-on-one sales. The founders can then sell the business.

In the end, just ask yourself. If you have a good product, and you get your message in front of a growing number of people, consistently, how could that growing reputation not help you? If you’re the expert, and that’s obvious to a growing crowd of people, why wouldn’t they work with you? A good brand builds awareness just like a networking group, except it’s not dependent on people referring you business. You’re connecting directly with your customers and establishing awareness and trust with them.

That's how I think about it, and whenever it starts to sound complex or complicated, I always bring it back to that simple formula: have a good product, be unique, be committed to get that message in front of people, online and at scale, and I’ll be good to go.

I Was You

I’ve been producing a lot of content, video, a podcast, and a lot of written content for the last nine months. 

But I know how you feel. Sounds great, but feels vague. How does this fit into a working strategy that produces results? When I started it was vague for me too. I mostly jumped in knowing the general direction, with the spirit I knew it would work (because I’ve seen many do it), and also I shared the basic philosophy. (I know having a brand works).

But in the end, after I sold my previous company, I was just committed to make it work. I was committed to crack open this new opportunity and stick with it until I did. So let me save you some time and pain.

I’ve learned a lot since I started. I generated new business and I have a deeper understanding of how all this works, the big picture, the tactics. But as I talked to more established companies about it, I noticed they all had questions similar to ones I had at first. But they also had additional roadblocks―an existing company, employees, and existing marketing efforts. They were busy.

Lots of people were interested in what I was doing, but I kept hearing the same questions.

Is content the best use of my time? I’m not sure what type of content to make. I’m afraid to go on video. How can I get my team's support? Should my team create content too? Where do I start? Do I need a podcast? Is there a way to make it easier? How do I fit this into what I’m already doing?

All great questions, and all things I went through myself. So where are we going? Great question! Let's address that.

Where are we going?

I’m writing more specifically on this one topic in a later article, but where we’re headed is thinking more like a media company. A publishing company, an education company. Instead of building a marketing team, think about building a media company for your niche.

How do you become the “channel,” the hub where your existing and potential customers would go to in order to learn more?

And how can we rethink what a channel is? Instead of it being a single place? How can you distribute your content wherever your customers spend time? From forums, to social media, to YouTube. Everywhere, omni channel.

And you’ll want to think a bit broader than your specific product, because that may get boring, no matter how interesting you think it may be.

What other fascinating topics, stories, education can you bring to the table if people want to binge your channel like they do Netflix?

That may seem like a tall order (Netflix is a pretty easy place to binge watch), but if you have that mindset, you’re moving in the right direction.

Most of all, how to make all of that sound not overwhelming and start making incremental progress.

So, how do we get there? In small steps, of course.

The modern evolution of a thought leader, a brand builder

Becoming an engaging content creator

Engaging is a bit of a loaded word, but it’s important that your content create value, humor, transformation. These are some words that you should be thinking about. You want your target market, and even people on the fringe, to like that content, to share it, both on the platform, but also via email and by word of mouth. You want people walking away saying, Wow, I really enjoyed that piece of content, “Hey {SOMEONE THEY KNOW}, you should check this out.”

That really happens in a few different ways. Of course if you’re naturally funny, it works great. You can always use this to your advantage. But if not, insights, how-to information, behind the scenes views of a project are always interesting and can provide value. People love to grow, become something new, so you can play a small part in that transformation. I’d argue that helping people is often more meaningful than humor, this is subjective, but I think we all remember a mentor or coach who helped us in our life. Many of mine weren’t that funny, but I remember them most, not the funny guy (or gal). But if you can do both, even better.

The trick to making this effective is all in the articulation. Value is always subjective, and being able to clearly articulate your point is critical. You want the reader to feel they traveled a great distance with you. For instance, I could stop here, or I could further explain that creating value, creating that articulation is like a rubber band. The more taut it is, the more tension it has, the greater the value. If your words, video, whatever you use to explain, feels like a loose rubber band, it just won’t have the same effect. So like I did there, the articulation of something is what can make something basic seem profound.

But it still sounds like a tall order. Creating value isn’t always easy, and it takes practice. So sometimes a company or individual needs to produce some mediocre content in order to produce better content. They have to practice in order to gain the skills. So it’s important to allow yourself some grace as you and your team figure it out.

Where you really run into problems is where you're only focused on quantity, with no focus on getting better. Quantity over quality only works when your aim is practice. If you focus on quantity only, your brand and reputation will suffer. But if you’re getting better, even the most critical people can see the improvement and even congratulate your ability to get better.

Lastly, we need to talk about attention! Even the best content needs to have some attention (people looking at it). It’s a competitive world out there, especially on social media, and you need to capture interest. That requires a bit of marketing know-how, ability to create headlines, clearly articulating value (in a few words). And sometimes using colors, fonts, etc., in such a way that it stands out. That’s a whole lesson in itself, but it’s vital. The best content in the world doesn’t do anyone any good if no one consumes it.

This can become less of an issue as you get bigger and your brand is popular. Then people will just see your face, or logo and listen, otherwise, YOU NEED TO CAPTURE ATTENTION.

Becoming A Community Builder

Maybe you’ve heard the term “content is king”? Or the alternative argument, that content is queen, and community is king? Well if not… People often talk about content being king because of the power it can wield for your business. Whoever has the best content, reigns supreme. But many would argue that the community you build around your content is king. What they mean is that without a community to consume this content, like without attention, your content won’t be seen.

So when you start to think about a content strategy, part of that strategy needs to be community, being a leader and bridge for others to learn from you, and each other. To help teach a group of people things that they want to learn, and allow them to learn from each other. And then going a step further to allow your community and other communities to mix and mingle.

Even mixing the communities of you and your competitors. The days are gone where you need to be defensive about your tribe.

So how do you go about creating a community?

Well it’s more than just creating content, it’s also engaging with those that are interested in it. Getting their feedback, improving it, responding to them. Finding other content creators, engaging with their content, providing feedback.

Successful communities are working together, interacting together, helping each other. It’s more than just the content. In fact, it’s easy to spot a content creator on LinkedIn that isn’t involved in creating a community. They may post everyday, but there isn’t any real engagement around their posts. No likes, no comments, no responses. It’s like going to a networking event and only talking, not listening, not responding, and leaving when you’ve said all you had to say.

But zooming out again, creating a community around your brand can be complex. You have individual social platforms, your website, in person events, webinars, it goes on and on. There is flux in social platforms, algorithms change, new platforms take over others. So it’s important as well to provide enough value that you’re bringing people back to the “hub,” your email list. Where you can nurture them (not spam them to buy) with additional updates. 

Find a way to provide online events, podcasts, pull people from various platforms that you don’t own to your hub, your circle where you can continue to provide value and interact.

Becoming A Media Producer & Distributor (A Media Company)

Blogging was so 2010. Now, SEO is still a big part of a growth strategy, but it’s super competitive and people are spending larger amounts of money to gobble up the space (it’s like real estate, only so much of it).

If you can win there, great, but video and audio are becoming the next best thing. And not always that super polished video you pay 10K for, where it takes 2 days, you put on makeup, etc. No, I’m talking about that quick video, that recorded podcast that also includes video, the audio podcast you record with basic equipment.

Truth is, even the basic equipment now offers fairly high quality. You can always improve it as you go, but the bar isn’t as high. People are looking for a raw look into your business, into your life, how you work, the value you provide. Of course you have control over what you show, how far to take it, but it’s time to rethink how you view your company. It’s time to think of yourself as a media company, a publishing company, and education company.

And to do that, you need to be able to produce and distribute video and audio content. It doesn’t mean you need to hire a full time camera person, or a full time editor. But it does mean you need to start developing the skills, a bit at a time, letting someone on the team take the lead, learn some software. Given some space to figure it out. You’ll want to understand basic video and audio formats, and how to maintain quality, and how to clip and upload video and audio to various platforms.

It’s actually very simple, it just seems daunting until you try. And you're providing value to your audience (or I should say community). 

Becoming An Efficient Content Creator (At Scale)

So here’s where we circle back to the content machine! Up until now, we haven’t really discussed the elephant in the room, the chaos of creating a lot of high quality content at scale, and in context.

When I say, at scale, I just mean producing a lot of great content, turning a podcast into 3-10 separate postings on social media, repurposing them to several other platforms. One piece of video content could easily become 25 before you're done, maybe more. But in order to maintain the quality, the value, the community building aspect of it all, It also needs to be contextual. That is, it needs to be in the form that each community consumes information, and they are all different. Social media doesn't expect 45 minute clips, it wants ~60 second clips. Most platforms don’t want your entire blog either. They would rather have short snippets of your content, in short insightful clips.

Each platform uses a different aspect ratio for video etc., on and on.

And remember, you still need to grab attention too, so that means create headlines, and additional copy (text) to make things stand out, and punchy.

You have audio files, video files, clips, text, headlines all over the place, and then it all needs to come together seamlessly to have that polished look, to maintain that value.

In order to do this at any level of scale, without losing your mind, and without asking yourself, is all this worth it? You’ll need a finely tuned system that lets you automate, outsource, organize and streamline just about everything that needs to be done. You want to find ways of making every piece as easy as possible, and also shine the light where someone needs it to add value for whatever content this piece of content is being processed.

You’ll need customized software (off the shelf but customized) in order to hold it all together. You’ll want to have something tracking all the content being created, and a way to track all the moving parts until it’s all scheduled and published.

And finally it should measure the performance of your team, the process and even the content performance after it’s published.

Becoming A Brand Builder

Master all the above, there is no stopping you. It’s HARD, hence the opportunity. Not many companies can do it because they don’t take each of these phases and incrementally work on them and master them, in a way that doesn’t create too much stress, overwhelm, or expense for their company.

But slowly start to master it, and build on each step and you’ll be an engaging content creator, community builder, master producer and distributor, and finally a content machine and brand builder.

Getting back to my earlier point, if all this sounds too much, or complex, remember, it all comes back to creating value, getting your message in front of as many people as possible, at scale, so your efforts are magnified as much as possible. 

If you figure it out, you can’t be stopped.

If you’re interested in hearing more, feel free to reach out to us and we can chat about how you’d go about implementing something like this for your company, team and brand.

Stephen G. Pope
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