Top 5 Strategies For Using Your Nonfiction Book As Part of an Effective Branding or Marketing Campaign

Many new authors find that once they have their book written and published, they rarely see a return on their investment simply by book sales alone.

While frustrating, it’s certainly not uncommon. In fact, hardcopy book sales have been on the decline since digital publishing was introduced and has grown in popularity. For authors publishing with traditional publishers, it’s getting harder to get noticed, and book advances are getting smaller.

If you are lucky enough to catch the attention of a trade publisher, you might get an average advance of $10,000 to $15,000, or you could get one as low as $1,000. With many nonfiction books only selling an average of 3,000 to 5,000 copies within a book’s lifetime, often you’ll never earn anything beyond that advance.

For self-published nonfiction books, the numbers can get worse as the author is doing all the writing, publishing, and marketing work with no advance at all.

So, why would anyone ever bother writing a book at all?

I can answer that question in one word: Leverage!

Why you need to use your book as part of an overall branding or marketing campaign

Don’t let the above numbers put you off. Writing and publishing a nonfiction book is still a worthwhile endeavor.

Many savvy business people know they aren’t writing a book to sell tons of copies and make it on the New York Time’s Best Sellers List, although that would certainly be an added perk. They are writing a book that gives them leverage — to build their brand, make more business sales, gain more gigs, or lure new clients and build on the clientele they already have.

They are writing a book for a purpose. If they sell copies of their books along the way, even better!

If you are also looking to build your personal or business brand, win new customers, gain exposure, or position you and/or your company as an expert in your field, the following are some key strategies to doing just that.

Top 5 strategies for leveraging your book in a branding or marketing campaign:

Strategy #1:   

Use copies of your book as a giveaway item (known as a premium) within your marketing campaign. Why?

People love free! They’re also impressed by people who have written a book. Using this strategy gets your audience engaged while getting your name and business out within your market.

Giving out a copy of your book is a great way to build trust and thank existing clients for their business or new client referrals, as well as a way to capture potential client information for new leads. You can also provide it as a prize for contests.

Strategy #2:  

If your book is in hardcopy form, turn a chapter or two into a free digital, downloadable sample and upload it to your website. Why?

This can be used as a premium that potential clients can have in exchange for their contact information and permission to be put on your email marketing list. Many people will give you their information just to receive your free offer. And it gives you a list of people you can contact in the future to sell your services or products to.

Plus, if you give them the option to purchase the book in full, you’ll be making money on the backend as well.

Strategy #3:   

Leverage your book by giving it away as a bonus to another customer purchase or as a package of products. Why?

Bonus is just another word for free, and like I said, people love free! When you use it as a bonus to other services or products you’re selling, it increases the perceived value of those services or products. Customers see your offer as a better bargain. Therefore, you make more lucrative sales!

Strategy #4:  

Send copies of your book to the media. Why?

Oftentimes when you send a free copy of your book to TV outlets, radio, and even newspapers, this gains the attention of the people who can get your name out to the masses.

Being highlighted in the media gives you further opportunity to be seen as an expert in your field and leverages your ability to build trust with your audience. You can also gain more speaking engagements (either paid or unpaid) with this publicity and it can give you something to build your other marketing or branding efforts around.

Strategy #5:  

Sell your book on the backend. Why?

If you do presentations at conferences or have other public speaking gigs, leverage your book to further cement your expertise to your audience. It helps you promote yourself and your services to those in attendance while potentially selling copies of your book at the same time.

Regardless of how you use your nonfiction book as leverage within your branding or marketing campaign, publishing your own book is a valuable asset to your overall success.

COMMUNICATING WITH CUSTOMERS IS NO LONGER NOT AN OPTION- Tips for Navigating the Online Customer Experience

Gone are the days when a customer walked away from a less-than-stellar dining, shopping, or service-related experience with head held low and disappointment weighing heavy on her shoulders.

Now, an unhappy customer can spread word of a business blunder in the blink of an eye by posting a bad review on Yelp, a scathing video testimonial on YouTube, or an unflattering post on Facebook.

Depending on the day and time, that post/video can go viral, causing pain and suffering for the business that did not seize the opportunity to right the wrong.

It takes insight, patience and a whole lot of customer communication to stay on top of the game these days.

Consider this scenario (names have been changed to protect the innocent):

Jim buys a coupon online for national brand carpet cleaning service.

Prior to the fast-approaching coupon expiration date, Jim calls to set up an appointment to have his carpets cleaned. Customer service representative claims not to know about the availability of online coupons and states she will have someone get back to Jim.

Three days go by – expiration date looms – Jim is sweating. Jim calls back, slightly irritated that the customer service representative did not follow through on her promise. This time, the customer service representative states that the coupon will not be honored.

Jim fumes, then contacts the online customer service department for the coupon company. He considers posting a scathing review of national carpet cleaning service on Yelp, as well as his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

However, before he has time to type up the review, the coupon company contacts the carpet cleaning company about the situation and follows up with Jim. Less than an hour later, a local franchise owner with said national brand contacts Jim, apologizes, clears the coupon with national, and sets up an appointment to clean Jim’s carpets that very week.

Carpets are cleaned and Jim is happy – coffee stains are gone.

Jim writes a great review for carpeting cleaning service on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter…and posts a picture of his spotless living room carpet on Instagram.

Scenarios like this happen millions of times each day, but they don’t always end with happy customers, clean carpets, and positive Yelp reviews.

Even though it seems simple enough to turn the situation around, companies often miss the opportunity to convert an unhappy customer into one that, at the very least, does not write a bad review on social media.

Putting the “Us” in Customer Experience

Evolving digital tools and technologies are strong drivers for changing consumer habits and expectations.

With access to what seems like an infinite amount of information available at the touch of a screen, it’s not surprising that customers expect an efficient purchase process and immediate solutions when problems arise.

But it’s important to note that, while customers’ use of technology may have changed, their expectations for customer service have remained the same: they want to be treated with respect, and they want to feel connected to the brand, the company, the product they are buying.

In their September 2015 article, “Building a design-driven culture” authors Jennifer Kilian, Hugo Sarrazin, and Hyo Yeon state that, in many cases, customers prioritize the experience of buying and using a product over the performance of the product itself.

It’s not enough to just sell a product or service—companies must truly engage with their customers.-Jennifer Kilian, Hugo Sarrazin, and Hyo Yeon

For retailers and service providers, this means it’s critical to know how your customer experience stacks up against the competition.

You’re likely not the only company offering your product or service, after all.

What makes you stand out? Why do your customers choose you? Why do some of them choose to leave? Why did they choose your competitor when your offerings are so similar?

Though not a new concept, the idea of assessing “customer experience,” is a valiant attempt at understanding what, in a nutshell, a business needs to focus on to retain customers and remain in business.

In his October 2010 article, “Understanding the Customer Experience,” Adam Richardson states that, whether it’s on online, through email, on the phone or in person, customer experience is “…the sum of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer.”

Social Media Marketing is the new Direct Mail

So how does today’s retailer stand out from the competition and build positive customer relationships?

In the past, relationship-building took place face-to-face or door-to-door: Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA used to work the cash registers in his stores to better understand his customers and their concerns.

Today, IKEA uses several digital platforms to connect with customers, such as Share Space, a site that encourages customers to share photos of spaces created using the brand’s self-assembled furniture, and “How to Build” videos that show customers how to assemble the furniture.

Even the company’s more traditional printed catalogue is available in an interactive, online version and an accompanying app with a “Place in Your Room” feature that allows users to try out furniture pieces in a virtual sense.

These advanced marketing techniques enhance and expand the customer experience, but never stray from the IKEA mantra: The customer comes first.

Billy Robinett, Vice President of Houston Pizza Venture, LLC – the company that owns the Papa John’s pizza franchise – says that, before the Internet, Papa John’s connected with customers through hand-delivered flyers and direct mail pieces, as well as through sponsorship of school and community events and sports teams.

Those tactics may have worked very well in the pre-Internet era, but today’s tech-savvy customers are less likely to shop at storefronts or pay attention to “snail mail.”

Connecting with customers now means manning the virtual cash registers (i.e., customer support chat lines) or reaching out through viral videos, Facebook posts, or targeted email campaigns.

Robinett says Papa John’s still maintains its strong connections with schools and organizations, but the company has also shifted some of its focus to online ordering and sales to accommodate its customers’ increasing use of web and mobile technologies.

Papa John’s is also embracing social media as a way to create and strengthen its relationships with pizza lovers.

For example, Papa John’s uses Twitter’s customer service tools to scan content on that platform for certain phrases, such as “I am hungry” or words to the effect that someone had a bad experience at any fast food restaurant.

When those phrases are detected, a message is sent directly to the sender, such as, “Hungry? Why not try one of our pizzas – get 10% off with this code,” or “We are sorry to hear you had a bad experience. Have a pizza on us with the code.”

“Technology just opened another door for us to reach our customers,” Robinett said. “We still do a lot of things to create emotional connections with customers, such as showcasing our partnerships with local sports icons like JJ Watt and James Harden, and talking directly to our customers on social media.”

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

In other words, if you want to get a high customer experience score, all it takes is a shift in thinking and some virtual elbow grease.

It’s not that much different than working the cash register or hanging flyers on door handles.

The common denominator between the “old” and the “newer” is communications. Without communications tools, your efforts may fall flat.

Position Your Business for Success

Here are five communications concepts – and tools for implementation – to proactively position your business and connect with current and potential customers in the virtual world:

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

1. Catch your customer’s eye

If you’re not hanging out where your potential customers are hanging out, the potential for getting their attention is slim to none.

Various methods of advertising, media and public outreach, and one-on-one interaction are parts of the equation; but more and more a strong online presence and strategy is an essential element of a business’ marketing plan.

A clean, clear and user-friendly website is a must; as well as informative and engaging content on social media platforms.

Here are a few tips for creating eye-catching, engaging websites and landing pages:

  • Make sure your landing page(s) is crystal clear about what product(s) or service(s) you offer. Attention spans have grown short, and customers are likely to leave a website immediately if the value proposition isn’t clear. Try UsabilityHub to test the efficacy of your landing page headline.
  • Don’t forget a user-friendly mobile website. A growing share of web traffic is from mobile devices. You don’t want to drive away potential business because on-the-go customers are concerned that they won’t be able to shop or reach you on their smartphones.
  • Utilize tools like Qualaroo to get feedback about what’s working and what’s not on your website, and the reasons for both.
  • Make it easy and fun for customers to engage with you on social media. Provide direct connections to your social channels through your website, and monitor them closely with Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. Keep this in mind –social media is another way for people to interact in a one-on-one format, so if you go days without replying to a customer’s question, comment or request, it is on par with not returning a message on your answering machine from the days of yore.

2. Be human, not machine

Put yourself out there, be bold and engage with your customers, particularly when they are not satisfied. Don’t use acronyms or industry-speak. Be relaxed, yet professional. Demonstrate that you care and that you’re improving their life in some way.

Communications tools that help humanize your digital presence include:

  • Use live chat on your website so that you can talk directly to potential customers who have questions or are shopping around and want to get a feel for what you do and how you do it. For many people, Live chat is a first step toward building a relationship with a company. Based on that experience, they may be willing to take the next step.
  • Although many cyber shoppers prefer live chat or email, some want to speak directly to a company representative by phone, so ensure that you have a contact phone number on your website and other marketing materials.
  • Provide training so that your employees are well versed on personalizing a customer’s experience. There are several customer relation management software platforms available that allow you to keep track of customer contact details, time and date of interactions, and many have email and website interface capabilities so that you can interact in a variety of ways.
  • Make sure that your communications products – digital or paper – have content and graphics that are brimming with personality. People trust brands they know. If the voice of your website copy is bland or cold, you are missing a valuable opportunity to build a connection.
  • Experiment with email marketing using tools like , which make it easy to create subscriber forms and send email to your web subscribers. Again, engaging content is key in all communications, including those sent to customers through email.

3. Build their confidence

A business owner knows what his or her company does best.

Don’t be afraid to focus on what you are good at, WHY you do it, and perhaps most importantly, why it will help customers have a happier, simpler, fuller, more informed life.

Customers want and need to know WHY you’re better than all the rest – so tell them. Tweet this

And, telling them why you do it is the icing on the proverbial cake.

Your story sets you apart from the rest, gives you a human face and can set the stage for a long, loyal relationship.

  • Post blogs on your website that provide information about trends in your product line or industry, or that offer useful information to your customers and potential customers. Focus on positive messages – readers on your website want to be encouraged and shown the benefit of what you provide instead of focusing on negativity.
  • Give your customers the floor! Provide them with an easy avenue to write and post a review on your website. The benefits are two-fold: You are one of the first to see the review and can respond to negative feedback quickly, which may result in the customer taking down the review or at least modifying the content. Secondly, many shoppers trust reviews and recommendations from their peers, so a good review may go a long way toward selling your product for you. Be sure to include the reviewer’s name and company, if they allow.
  • Make sure your web copy is current and clean. More is not always better. Consider hiring an experienced consultant to assist in this process – they are good at what they do and bring a fresh eye to the process.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

4. Put a face to your name

As any good reality show illustrates, people like to know what other people are all about and what makes them tick. The same can be said for the businesses they choose to patronize.

If a company keeps customers at arm’s length, then the customer never establishes a bond with the products or services, and can be easily swayed to the competition.

There are myriad ways that you can involve your customers, from videos to events to a fun contest that you advertise on your website and social media accounts.

  • Post personalized videos on your website. Start with your business’ “birth” story and take it from there. Remember the customer as you are producing and editing these videos – few people are willing or able to watch a 30-minute documentary on any one subject, but will engage in shorter, personal videos about your employees, how you source your product, and what community organizations you support.
  • Use colorful photographs and graphics to communicate your brand to shoppers. Don’t be afraid to try unique and even quirky methods, but always remain true to your brand image. In other words, don’t try to be something you’re not!
  • Create a newsletter that provides content on your latest and greatest products and company news.
  • Create an online customer community where your customers can gather in a web-based environment to discuss problems, post reviews, brainstorm new product ideas and engage with one another about your company’s products, services and brand. offers an online customer community platform that allows you to monitor it from social media so that you can provide input when needed, and gather valuable customer insights.
  • Participate as a sponsor or volunteer in community events. Serve as a mentor at your local elementary, middle or high school. The more you get your face out there, the more customers you may draw to your company because many enjoy aligning themselves with businesses that are dedicated to making a difference in their community.

5. Avoid “turtle syndrome”

Don’t pull your head in and hide when you hear – or see – the words, “I never got…” or “This is not what I ordered…” or even the more general “I am not happy with…”

View these situations as problems to be solved so that a) you improve your product and service; and b) you gain a customer for life.

  • Pick up the phone, or respond to the email, text message or social media post that outlines the customer’s concern, and immediately jump in with both feet and work with your customer to find a solution to the problem.
  • Scan social media platforms for company reviews of all types – good, indifferent or bad, and respond immediately and directly to the reviewer in a positive way. That proactive stance can go a long way toward winning back a customer, and gaining additional customers who witnessed the interaction on social media.
  • Be proactive and ask your customers for feedback. This can be accomplished in many ways – through online surveys ( Monkey is a good source), during live chat or customer service calls, through social media channels or in person. This allows you to draw information from customers who have not provided feedback on their own, but who may have good suggestions from a user’s point of view.

Today’s business climate demands more of business owners and their employees, but the interaction with customers has its benefits: repeat sales, rising profits, and hopefully, long-lasting relationships.

When you feel the responsibilities of the customer experience process weighing heavy on your shoulders, recall the famous words of Sam Walton, founder of the mega-giant retail chain Wal-Mart:

“There’s only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Recruiting Ad Campaign

Corporate Recruitment Print Ad Campaign

Company Recruiting Minisite

Your marketing agency just landed a branding campaign with a large, multi-national oil and gas company. They want a marketing plan – complete with potential taglines and ad copy – in just a few days.

Your in-house marketing team is working on a product launch that includes everything from elevator pitches and taglines to social media promotions, marketing collateral, and web content. You need creative, well-written content for all of it – and your in-house writing team is stretched thin.

You want a fresh set of eyes to help your team identify new audiences and come up with new angles for your latest marketing campaign.

Your agency needs a few extra copywriters – but you don’t want to sacrifice quality or waste valuable time micromanaging inexperienced freelancers.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? If you’re in marketing, we’re guessing the answer is “yes.”

The Writers For Hire has longstanding relationships with several well-known marketing agencies and in-house marketing departments. Our marketing clients know they can count on us to fall right into step with their in-house teams to provide writing, editing, and creative brainstorming services to support a new campaign or product launch.

An Experienced, Deadline-Driven Writing Team

When you work with us, you get much more than a freelance copywriter – you get a proactive, effective team of smart, experienced marketing copywriters ready to support every aspect of your next product launch or branding project:

  • Competitive/SWOT analysis.
  • Research and analysis of competitive landscape, potential clients, and industry trends.
  • Project management.
  • Campaign concepting and brainstorming.
  • Copywriting, editing, and proofreading services for marketing collateral including print ads, landing pages, brochures, and more.

Past Projects

Our team has worked with marketing agencies and in-house marketing and communications departments on several major product launch, branding, and marketing campaigns, including:

  • Marketing campaign collateral: Fortune 500 brand. Our team wrote, edited, and partnered with a design firm to create web content, branding guidelines, employee incentive materials, brochures, print ads, taglines, dealer sales collateral, and a recruiting campaign for a publically traded heavy equipment manufacturer.
  • Branding campaign and marketing collateral: valve manufacturer. The Writers For Hire worked with a major valve manufacturer’s marketing team to create a new branding strategy designed to appeal to the next generation of engineers and decision-makers. The project included copy for print ads, brochures, banner ads, and trade show displays.
  • Writing, editing, and proofreading: re-branded university website. Our team worked with a marketing agency to produce 150+ pages of new content for the redesigned university website. This multi-phase project was part of a larger re-branding campaign, and it required weeks of information-gathering and research; management of a team of 5+ writers; and creating and maintaining page templates and a style/proofreading guide.
  • Web copy: major oilfield services company. The Writers For Hire researched and wrote 700+ pages of original web copy for a client’s newly redesigned website. The project – which required us to work hand-in-hand with the company’s in-house marketing and communications team – included more than 200 hours of in-depth interviews with SMEs, engineers, and technicians. Across all pages, we ensured that we maintained voice and writing style consistent with the company’s established brand and identity.

“White Label” Branding and Marketing

Many of our branding and product launch clients are marketing firms who simply don’t have enough full-time copywriters to produce large amounts of high-quality content on a tight turnaround time.

At the same time, though, they may not want to advertise the fact that they’ve outsourced their copywriting. We get that – and we’re happy to offer “white label” creative services to clients who prefer not to disclose the fact that they used a third-party writing firm. Our team can fall easily into step with your company’s marketing department, and we will treat your clients and projects with same the care and courtesy you’d expect from your in-house team.

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The Metropolis Model: How to Use the Sharing Economy to Create Standout Thought Leadership Content

“It’s easy to admire a thought leader; it’s much harder to become one.”

—Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take

Content creation in the sharing economy

The sharing economy continues to transform nearly every sector of the global economy.  A recent McKinsey report projects that sharing economy revenues will reach $335 billion globally by 2025.

Wikipedia defines the sharing economy as “peer-to-peer based sharing of access to goods and services.” Another definition describes it as “a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human, physical and intellectual resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organizations.”

As its impact continues to grow, what does it mean for content creation?

Content creation is a challenge for marketers. Statistics from Kapost show that 39% of marketers indicate coming up with ideas is difficult, and that 1 in 2 marketers say they don’t have enough ideas to fuel their content operations.

The sharing economy is good news for content creation, offering rich new opportunities for engagement, dialogue, and creative insight. For marketers, the collaborative model is a content strategy resource for generating and developing genuine thought leadership.

It takes a metropolis

The term crowdsourcing first appeared in 2006 to reference an organization looking outside its own resources and employees for ideas and problem solving. The title of Hillary Clinton’s famous book, published ten years earlier in 1996, offers a useful metaphor for crowdsourcing: It Takes a Village.

In 2016, however, it takes a metropolis. The metropolis model is a shared production model that leverages your entire peer community. In the sharing economy era, optimizing your resources and harnessing the power of your entire “metropolis” to generate thought leadership content is a key strategy for success.

Applied to content creation, the metropolis model is a roadmap for utilizing the collective wisdom of your entire ecosystem—in-house resources, customer feedback, subject-matter expertise, and industry influencers—to develop standout thought leadership content.

Revisiting thought leadership & why it matters

While thought leadership has become a marketing buzzword, it’s essential for brands whose strategy includes establishing and maintaining a thought leadership role. 43% of marketers identified thought leadership as one of the top three goals of content marketing, along with lead generation and brand awareness, in a recent LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community survey.

Although it’s been said that the first rule of thought leadership is not to call it thought leadership, it’s worth revisiting the definition of the term. In their book #Thought Leadership Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign, Liz Alexander and Craig Badings offer a useful definition:

“Thought leaders advance the marketplace of ideas by positing actionable, commercially relevant, research-backed, new points of view. They engage in “blue ocean strategy” thinking on behalf of themselves and their clients, as opposed to simply churning out product-focused, brand-centric white papers or curated content that shares or mimics others’ ideas.”

In a conversation with Curtis Kroeker, CEO of Scripted, an online marketplace that connects businesses with writers, he defined thought leadership as “content that’s thought-provoking to people who already know a lot about that particular topic. So it’s a pretty high bar.”

With the increasing importance of thought leadership as a content marketing strategy, how can you effectively meet this standard? How can you create content that offers genuinely new ideas, insight, and solutions?

Using the metropolis model to develop thought leadership content

The metropolis model is an effective way to tap into your entire community of talent and resources to develop thought leadership content. Using the metropolis model, you can crowdsource and collaborate with your network of in-house teams, customers, SMEs, and influencers to generate content that meets thought leadership standards.

Here’s how.

1. Know the defining issues and trends

Author and marketing strategy consultant Dorie Clark recommends immersing yourself in the existing industry conversation as the first step toward breaking new ground. Become conversant with the culture and current thought leadership in your industry. Be familiar with the topics, issues, research, and perspectives other experts are presenting.

Armed with that knowledge, you can then start to identify what’s missing from the dialogue and where there are opportunities to contribute new thinking.

 2. Crowdsource for new ideas

During the ideation phase of thought leadership content creation, your best resources are the citizens of your metropolis: your in-house teams and your customers.

Kroeker says crowdsourcing is key for effective content development, and for thought leadership content in particular. “If you’re not tapping into the crowd, you’re going to miss out on perspective, expertise, and ideas,” he told us. “Even if someone is particularly well-versed in a certain area, it’s only going to be one person’s opinion. Crowdsourcing lets you tap into multiple perspectives and make for a much richer conversation and richer content creation.”

Mobilize in-house teams

Explain your thought leadership mission to your internal colleagues and solicit their input to develop new topics and ideas. Involve your entire team including IT, developers, analysts, designers, sales, and customer service.

SMEs are another important resource for ideation. One strategy for soliciting input from SMEs is to simply ask them, “What did you do today?” Their day-to-day roles and processes involve the key issues that directly affect your customers, whether it’s technology, sales, customer service, research, or product development. Almost everything they do is content.

Walk through their daily activities and the various components of their jobs to identify relevant topics.

Let your team know why their participation is important. As valued in-house experts immersed in the daily workings of your business and customer interaction, their insights are essential.

Set up brainstorming or gamestorming sessions that make it fun and pressure-free for everyone to contribute ideas.

You can start the ideation with questions like the following:

  • What’s missing from the industry’s current conversation?
  • What areas are underrepresented in our current content strategy? What issues should we be covering?
  • What are your biggest challenges, and why?
  • What challenges and issues do you observe among our clients?
  • What new ideas and trends are emerging in our business?

You can also use tools like 15Five and Slack to help solicit relevant topics.

Your role is to direct the dialogue and provide moderation and feedback. Let participants know they don’t have to write anything—just contribute ideas. Assign a point person to keep track of the dialogue and take notes.

Solicit feedback from customers and users


Next, reach out to your users for feedback. Your online community is one of the best sources of intelligence. Customer feedback is an essential means of surfacing new business challenges and issues for your content strategy.

Polls, surveys, and incentives are ideal ways to engage with your community. Services like Polldaddy can help you create simple surveys.

Begin identifying new content opportunities by generating dialogue with your users around the following types of questions:

  • What’s your biggest business challenge?
  • What question do you most need answered? What information do you need that is not available?
  • What’s the most pressing issue in your business?
  • How could we improve our product or service?

Be responsive and stay actively engaged with your community to monitor the discussion. Solicit and leverage comments to create and maintain a topic- and issue-oriented dialogue. Encourage debate around contrasting viewpoints.

Engaging in a dialogue with your audience will help you generate useful data that can be developed into content. By asking your users about their needs and showing you care about their challenges and their opinions, you invest in them as co-creators.

3. Engage with experts and influencers

Tap SMEs for knowledge and expertise

Subject-matter experts are critical allies in your thought leadership strategy. They can contribute the deep technical, practical, or instructional expertise you need in specific topic areas. Develop a set of targeted questions for them to respond to in writing or in an interview.

Depending on the business area you’re focused on and the type of expertise required, you may also want to interview outside SMEs.

Leverage the power of influencers

Influencer marketing is one of the top marketing trends of 2016.

Engaging with influencers not only gives you access to authoritative insights and opinions from people your customers trust. It dramatically scales the visibility, reach, and engagement of your content.

New research from Twitter shows consumers now trust influencers nearly as much as their friends. And with a new study by Tapinfluence showing an 11X higher return from influencer marketing campaigns compared to other digital marketing channels, engaging influencers in your content marketing efforts is essential.

Find out who’s driving the conversation and who your users are listening to. It could be a highly visible blogger, leader, executive, or industry expert—a recognized name with authority, influence, and a following.

LinkedIn can help you identify people of influence who are already in your network. There are also web services that will help you find and engage the right influencers for your business, including InNetwork and Traackr.

Reach out to the influencers you’ve identified and begin cultivating relationships. Be familiar with their work—read their book and follow their blog, for example—and ask them to participate in your thought leadership initiative.

Invite them to contribute their perspective, analysis, and insight. Explain how you’ve identified this issue and why you believe they’re uniquely qualified to contribute fresh thinking.

Thought leadership partnerships should be mutually beneficial. When you approach an influencer, be prepared to offer something of value in return. Maybe you can offer publicity. Or maybe your offer can be tied directly to the product or service you provide—a membership, free trial, or special access of some kind. In essence, be prepared to answer the question: what’s in it for me?

If your influencer is a blogger, he or she may be willing to write something on the topic themselves. Alternatively, working with your team and/or a writer, you can craft questions, interview the influencer, and create the content yourself based on his or her input.

4. Putting it all together: creating your content

When you’re ready to write and publish your content, ensure a professional, well-written presentation. While good writing alone doesn’t turn generic content into thought leadership, good writing skills are essential for clearly communicating new business insights.

In a recent LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community Survey, 57% of marketers said “engaging and compelling storytelling” was among the top three criteria that make content effective.

“Without good writing, you risk your insights being lost because they aren’t communicated effectively,” says Kroeker. “Good writing ensures that those powerful insights are communicated in a way that’s clear and that resonates with the target audience.”

Infographic by Kirsten Kohlhauff
Infographic by Kirsten Kohlhauff

Creating thought leadership content is a kind of alchemy. Done right, it:

  • Addresses new issues, ideas, and challenges
  • Provides context, analysis, and synthesis of multiple perspectives
  • Weaves a coherent, engaging narrative that offers new information and actionable solutions
  • Is well-written and tells a compelling story

“Being able to collaborate effectively and directly is critical to the creation of great thought leadership,” says Kroeker.

As a marketer, you’re at the center of your metropolis, collaborating with your community to generate meaningful thought leadership content worthy of the name.

Stop Brandjacking: Help with Online Brand & Identity Management

Part of protecting your brand, your business, and even your personal online reputation is making sure that others don’t claim your name or try to impersonate you.  So here’s a hint:  sign up your name, brand, and business on every social media site – even if you don’t use it, even if you don’t have plans to ever use it.

Here’s the point:  Until you claim your user handle and stamp a password on it, anyone can claim your name.  Once they have your username, they can do anything with it – like impersonate you, or drag your business in the mud.

It’s actually a really big deal, and it happens to a lot of people.

So to impede those imposters, impersonators, phonies, and frauds from stealing your (or your business’) identity, there’s a handy tool ready to help:  KnowEm.  KnowEm will check your brand, product, business, or personal name on as many as 300 social media sites – and then help you register your name (before someone else does!).

When you reserve your name on all these sites, you’re making it that much harder for people to jack your brand.

Basic service at KnowEm free, and there are also other paid packages that can help you fill out all the forms and profiles.  And here’s a sweet bonus:  having profiles on all those sites can help boost your Web presence and any social media programs (current or future) for your brand or business.

Grammar-Fail Tiebreaker: The Votes are in!

Thanks to everyone who voted for a second-place winner. The votes are in, and we’d like to congratulate Charlotte P. for taking second place (and for scoring a $25 gift card)! Charlotte submitted this photo of a wearable grammar fail (“Free hugs for qualifed candidates”):

Grammar fail tiebreakerSo, this brings our first-ever grammar-fail photo contest to an end. Congrats again to our winners and thanks again to everyone who submitted photos, left comments, and voted for their favorite photo.
And of course, if you find any more awesome grammar fail photos, send ’em our way! Unfortunately, we can’t offer prizes, but we can post your photo and give you a shout-out on our website.

Thanks guys!