COMMENTARY

Do your customers see you as a thought leader?

The need to stand out in the U.S. public sector market has never been greater than it is today. You have to position your company to be a trusted and differentiated resource for government decision-makers. You have to make your voice stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

But the question is How?

After 30 years in public sector marketing I have found that the one thing that stands the test of time is thought leadership marketing. Technology has changed how we amplify our messaging, but the basics remain the same.

Thought leadership continues to be a vital driver for marketing and sales success. When your government prospects recognize your company as a trusted advisor and thought leader that understands their agencies’ missions, objectives, and challenges, your sales cycle accelerates and your pipeline grows dramatically.

That said, it is important to understand that while thought leadership is an important marketing tactic, it is not about selling your product or service or even about telling the world how great your company is. It is about sharing value and being a resource for the market you serve.

It is also important to understand that there are multiple audience segments to reach in any thought leadership campaign. The four primary audiences are public sector; systems integrators, VARs and the channel; media and analyst communities; and legislative and public policy makers. For each you have a different thought leadership outcome.

Here we breakdown the four audiences and the benefits that effective thought leadership marketing will provide for each: 

Audience

Thought leadership Outcome

U.S. Public Sector

Government end-users and decision makers readily map your product and solutions to their agency’s mission, IT challenges, policies, and mandates.

System Integrators, VARs and the Channel Community

Your company is invited to the “table” as a subject matter expert on topics important to the government.

Media and Analyst Communities

The media and analyst communities view your company as a subject matter expert and quotes your executives on topics important to the government.

Legislative and Public Policy Makers

Your company is viewed as a subject matter expert to be consulted (or at least considered) as policies and directives are formulated.

The foundation of thought leadership marketing is great content combined with an effective strategy. I have always loved the quote:

“Without strategy, content is just stuff. The world has enough stuff.” (Anonymous).

A well-planned thought leadership strategy enables you to maximize how you leverage the content you generate by being “strategic” in how you amplify your message and integrate your campaigns across multiple platforms and channels. Here are six ways to ensure your success:

Show and tell

The point of thought leadership is to demonstrate your expertise, not simply to talk about your expertise. Visual depictions are highly effective at engaging and communicating to your targeted audience. Animated videos, for example, are one of the most effective mediums to engage an audience and generate click-throughs, shares, leads, and, ultimately, sales.

According to Hubspot, 90 percent of users say that product videos are helpful in the decision process.

Multi-platform content distribution

All of your content channels (emails, social media, websites, and blog posts) should constitute a gold mine of useful, actionable content. This will encourage prospects and customers to revisit your site, check out your other material, and sign up for other call-to-action assets you may have, such as e-newsletters. 

Depth, not breadth

Dig deep. Being a thought leader doesn’t mean knowing everything about every aspect of your thought leadership category. It’s about being the go-to company for your particular niche. Don’t try to boil the ocean or you will fail. Identify the thought leadership category you feel serves your products and solutions the best and then take steps to own it. Your efforts to build momentum will be far more successful. 

Open a conversation, not a monologue

The idea is not to interrupt or dominate the conversation, but rather to become part of it. After all, you’re not the only participant in your field. Engage with your partners, and don’t be afraid to share their content if it can benefit your targeted audience.

Being connected in your field opens up opportunities for collaboration and can help you broaden your reach. Further, it provides additional proof that your company is up-to-date with the marketplace and the needs of your government customers and potential customers in your area of expertise.

Leverage influencers

You can also leverage influencers in your industry (former federal executives, federal media, market analysts, popular blogs) to gain more credibility as a thought leader. You can collaborate with relevant influencers in many different ways. Ask them to promote your brand on their blogs and social networks, volunteer to contribute guest posts on their websites, offer your expertise for any articles they may be working on, and comment on their social media postings. All of these efforts will help you grab more eyeballs and build your thought leadership reputation quicker.

Join the speaking circuit

From keynote speeches to panel discussions to breakout sessions, opportunities abound to provide insight for government prospects at events. Research the types of conferences, meetings and conventions that your prospects are likely to attend and be on the lookout for “Call for Papers”. 

When done correctly, thought leadership marketing builds rapport with your customer base without coming off as fake and self-promotional. It allows you to present yourself as a true expert that people trust and a company that deeply understands and cares about the government’s mission, mandates and challenges.

In the end, earning trust means earning business. Simply advertising your capabilities isn’t enough. Today, government buyers demand proof, and thought leadership is an excellent way to demonstrate to the government market your capability, expertise, and passion about the subject matter.

To learn more about how to ensure your company is viewed as a Thought Leader attend GAIN 2018 on Thursday, Nov. 1st in Reston, Virginia, to hear firsthand from marketing experts on thought leadership best practices. www.TheGAINConference.com

About the Author

Lou Anne Brossman is the founder and president of the Government Marketing University.

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