Driving Thought Leadership in Blockchain

blockchain thought leadership

Kosta Peric of thge Bill & Melinda Gates foundation describes a blockchain-based digital payment platform for the poor.

So you’re convinced of the potential of blockchain (networks of encrypted ledgers in which the nodes automatically and continually assure the accuracy of all the data on the chain without the need for a central authority.)

And you think you have some deep thinking that will help you ride the blockchain rocket. If so, what content marketing strategies will make you a blockchain thought leader?

Here are some approaches based on my own recent work on blockchain thought leadership, and from the recent “Business of Blockchain” event, organized by MIT Technology Review and the MIT Media Lab. (Videos of the event here.)

Use the “D” Word – Decentralization

The technical rebel (or rebels) who created blockchain were driven by a desire to decentralize power and authority from the centralized gatekeepers that now make the rules, handle the transactions and keep much of the money in today’s economies and societies.

For example, Uber looks like a decentralized ride-sharing service that lets drivers make money when their cars would otherwise sit unused. But the information about who needs rides and which drivers are available sits with a central authority (Uber), not the drivers or riders. And it is Uber that sets many of the rules and takes a percent of each transaction. Same with the home-sharing service Airbnb.

While blockchain since gone mainstream, with the likes of IBM offering “enterprise production ready blockchain services,” the disruptor mentality is still strong. And since blockchain is meant to be so disruptive, much of the talk at the conference was about who will be disrupted, and how.

Not all the answers are clear. Amber Baldet, blockchain program lead at J.P. Morgan, for example, cited the upside that blockchain can dramatically lower processing costs. But the downside is how blockchain could eliminate, or greatly reduce the need for entities like J.P. Morgan at all. How will this all play out? No one knows. Therein lies your thought leadership opportunity.

In your content marketing strategy, be bold in identifying  middlemen (even yourself) that are ripe for replacement through blockchain. What can or must they do to survive if blockchain replaces their “utility” function of providing safe, cheap transactions? Should they rethink who they can serve as customers, or how? Are their new value-added services they need to develop now to prepare for the loss of revenue if blockchain takes off? What will your industry look like in five or ten years if blockchain eliminates or reduces the need for today’s middlemen?

 Noodle on the Big Legal, Regulatory and Social Issues

Much of the talk at the conference was not about technology, but rather how laws and regulations will need to change if blockchain is to reach its decentralizing, empowering potential. For example, Lawrence Orsini, principal and founder of LO3 Energy, waxed poetic about the potential for local, decentralized solar powered micro-electric grids to produce greener power at lower cost. But in countries such as Germany, the rise of such renewable energy has sent traditional utilities into a nosedive as their revenues drop, while their costs stay the same for standby power plants for when renewables aren’t available, and the electric grids over which renewable producers sell their energy.

Use your industry smarts to think deeply about how blockchain could change your business, and what role regulators as well as traditional middlemen play. In the case of utilities, should regulators allow them to spin off legacy infrastructure into safe but low-return businesses that maintain power grids as a public good while putting more investment into smart grids that allow the dynamic sharing of power across markets? Why (and if so, how) should governments or regulators change how rates are sets and financial returns regulated to encourage such a shift? If a blockchain is corrupted or allows the theft of a cyber currency, who is liable for the loss? What issues should lawmakers and industry groups be tackling now?  

Think Social Good

Multiple users, and even entire sessions at the conference, were devoted to how blockchain can help the world. Ideas (and actual projects) range from delivering credit and secure transactions to the billions the billions who are now “unbanked” to low cost identity assurance programs that can widen access to government aid and even fighting human trafficking.

In some cases, the messaging spans the commercial and public realms.  Brian Behlendorf, executive director of the Hyperledger Project, an open source blockchain initiative, told the conference his  “aha” moment occurred when he learned of blockchain’s potential to securely record property claims and thus prevent the theft of land from the poor in Latin America.

 If you have a genuine social strategy, go for it in your content strategy. If you don’t, or are mixing social good with private gain, be careful. If you “greenwash” your blockchain thinking with an idealistic spin the rebel zealots in the blockchain community will delight in shredding you. Look instead for areas where your interest and society’s align, such as a utility that needs to reduce peak power generation costs while meeting greenhouse gas emission laws, and can use blockchain to do both.

The potential of blockchain is so great there’s plenty of room to think big thoughts and answer (or raise) big questions. Don’t be afraid to think big, and to focus on the vertical market and business issues you understand, not the blockchain technicalities you don’t.

What do you do when a client, or your executives, issue the trumpet call for blockchain thought leadership?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

technology road maps If good content marketing creates conversations with your customers, what better conversation could there be than learning what customers want in your next-generation products?

Google recently gave the disk drive industry some free, and detailed, market research in the form of a speech, a blog post and even a detailed white paper. Google’s wish list is interesting to me both from a technical storage perspective, and from says more generally about what you can learn from your customers.

The Storage Lessons…

Among the new, interesting points Google raised were:

  • How much video is driving cloud storage demand, and the need for disks optimized to stream video. (Season Four, House of Cards, anyone?)
  • And per those needs, that Google is willing “to pay a higher gigabyte price for storage, so long as it delivers a lower total cost of ownership as well as higher capacity and higher I/O operations per second.”
  • That solid state drives, despite how prices have fallen, are still too expensive for massive cloud deployment.
  • The need to “optimize the collection of disks, rather than a single disk in a server.” This includes accepting somewhat higher disk failure rates, as the data is likely stored on another disk as well.
  • A call for taller disk drives, and thus “more platters per disk, which adds capacity” and amortizes the costs of packaging, the printed circuit board, and the drive motor/actuator. “Given a fixed total capacity per disk, smaller platters can yield smaller seek distances and higher RPM, due to platter stability, and thus higher IOPS, but worse GB/$,”
  • And the importance of security in disk drive design, especially in areas like preventing hacks to the drive firmware. This is not something I often see in storage marketing material.

…and the Marketing Lessons

Google was good enough (and has enough clout) to begin this visionary conversation about the next generation of storage. I don’t see any reasons why any vendor in the technology sector, couldn’t start such a conversation without making it sound like a mere marketing ploy.

For example:

  • Write a “next-generation product roadmap” based on conversations with customers, insights from your technical visionaries and analysts you trust. Then open it up (via social media and online polling) to feedback and discussion.
  • Break out separate elements of your product roadmap and continue the discussion via blogs, contributed editorials, etc. Describe why you think each element is or isn’t important, and invite feedback.
  • Describe the “ifs, ands and buts” that would make each future product feature more or less valuable. In the disk drive example, is there some new solid state memory technology (maybe your own) that would make solid state drives more affordable than customers expect? Is there a new type of exploit that makes protection against firmware hacks even more important?
  • Make a quick poll about future feature sets part of every Webinar or blog post you do. Build your “next generation” wish list one piece at a time.

A final thought: Disk drives are (how do I say this?) not the sexiest, most leading edge product. They’re part of the IT plumbing and, some would argue, a commodity. If Google could make them interesting, and tie them to more compelling trends like video on demand and security, we should be able to do the same with almost any technology solution.

All we need is the imagination to get started, and the commitment to leverage what we find for thought leadership (and to guide product development.)

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

How Big Data Will Fail. Why That’s Good

Big Data marketing tips When clients ask for “thought leadership” white papers, they want  ideas that aren’t yet common knowledge and that will grab and keep readers.

Here’s some thought leadership about the hot topic of Big Data: It can do massive harm if you use it to ask the wrong questions, overload users with documentation, implement it with the wrong data or ignore common sense. Being first to guide your customers around these pitfalls can mean competitive advantage.

Big Noise About Big Data

Big Data – analyzing a greater volume, variety and velocity of data to make better decisions – will grow at six times the rate of the overall information technology market, reaching $41.5 billion in 2018, says market researcher IDC.

Businesses have sliced and diced data about everything from underground oil deposits to customer sales for decades. But the growth of the Internet, of devices linked to the Internet of Things and social media means more data to mine every day. The opportunities range from using location data to text coupons to customers based on their location in a store to using arrest records to predict where crimes are likely and prevent them with a heavier police presence. (Hello, Minority Report.)

So what could go wrong? At least three big things. Here’s how to use each of these minefields to show thought leadership and speed the benefits of Big Data to us all.

  1. Data for Data’s Sake

ICD-10 is the latest version of the codes used around the world to describe medical conditions, and is the basis on which providers get paid by insurers. The most recent version, which went into effect October 1, is much more detailed than the previous versions, with 70,000 codes for everything from parrot bites to getting sucked into a jet engine. While the extra detail may help health researchers, Bloomberg Business Week reports says it means huge amounts of unpaid paperwork for providers – time they could be spending with patients. Skeptics note the added complexity means a windfall for consultants and software companies happy to sort out the mess, and gives insurers an excuse to deny claims.

  Thought leadership: Big Data will only be cost-effective and gain the trust of customers if we         gather only the data we need, ensure data gathering doesn’t interfere with an organization’s prime mission and is used for good, not evil. Be proactive about addressing these issues in your marketing.

  1. Forgetting the End Customer

In industry after industry, practitioners are scrambling for data-driven rules that will assure them they are doing a good job. In education, for example, some claim that the more a teacher moves around the classroom, the better their teaching. Have you ever had a teacher who could keep a classroom spellbound while standing in one place, and others who bored you to tears while they paced all over the place? Another teacher pointed out that too much stimulation (like a teacher wandering around the room) might distract students with autism or other disorders. Our fixation with data can blind us to our own experience.

Thought leadership: Stress (as many analytic experts already are) the importance of working closely with business managers and front-line workers to understand what data matter in the real world. Focus on metrics that matter to the end consumer. In education, for example, don’t monitor the teacher, but the students, and whether they’re listening raptly or are tapping on their smartphones. In sales, customer service or app development, focus on the user experience, not just stats like system response time.    

3. People Aren’t Robots. Yet.

There may come a day when we’re always guided to rational decisions by embedded neural networks, but we ain’t there yet.

Consider the financial meltdown of 2007-2008, which almost sank the globe into an economic depression. Some experts did predict the crash, and there was data (such as overly inflated home prices and rising household debt) that pointed to trouble.

But some of the biggest dangers were neither reflected in the data or the analytic models acting on it.  They include the folly of home buyers taking on mortgages they couldn’t afford, the greed of mortgage issuers (or those who packaged those loans for resale) in hiding rising delinquency rates, or the temptation for credit scoring agencies (who get paid by big financial firms) to keep the bad news quiet.

Thought leadership: Don’t just admit that human factors defy Big Data analysis. Become a leader in explaining the limits of Big Data, and advising your clients on when to supplement it with focus groups, qualitative research and field experience that take the human factor into account.

Big Data is still in the “peak of inflated expectations” phase of what researcher Gartner Inc. calls the “hype cycle” each new technology goes through. Next up is Gartner’s “trough of disillusionment” as customers fall prey to Big Data mistakes like those I’ve described.

As we learn how to use Big Data right, we’ll enter the sunny uplands of what Gartner calls the “slope of enlightenment” and “plateau of productivity” for new technology. Generating, and promoting, insights into the proper uses of Big Data will get your company, or your clients, to that happy state first.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Marketing Tips for Selling the IoT

Internet of Things marketingRemember all the dumb ideas that crashed and burned in the Internet bubble? Think Pets.com, based on the idea that consumers would rather order heavy packages of pet food online, pay delivery charges and wait for it rather than just pick it up at a local store.

It took years for businesses like Amazon to show how the Web should really be done. We’re in much the same place today with the Internet of Things (IoT) — the hundreds of millions of devices (from appliances to fitness monitors to industrial equipment) that will link to the Internet in coming years.

There already are solid business cases for IoT applications. They include early warnings that equipment needs maintenance to prevent breakdowns, or Bluetooth-based locator beacons to track when a customer is about to leave a store so you can text them a last-minute discount.

Then, there are those that are just not thought through yet, and that can make you (or your client) look clueless.

Got Gum?

One example is Trident gum which is partnering with Strap, an IoT-focused startup, and a convenience store chain “to leverage wearable data for brand marketing.”

How will knowing how many steps a customer takes, their calorie burn, or their active and non-active minutes help sell more gum? “We don’t yet know the exact use case,” the CEO of Strap said, though the story noted the parties will take 90 days to “work together to devise a market approach” followed by a pilot early next year.

In other words, nobody knows whether or how this would work – or if they do, they aren’t ready to say. At least one other reader was also confused, asking “…what this can possibly do for a brand like Trident other than give the appearance they are progressive and innovative?”

Pitch Wisely

That’s why pitching far-out experiments like this reads like a flashback to the bad old Internet bubble: Mash a random product (pet supplies or gum) with the latest buzzword (the Web, or the IoT) and see if something fantastic happens.

Trident (and every other company) should absolutely be casting far and wide to see how wearables and other IoT devices can help their business. But if you’re going to promote this work, put it in the proper perspective that shows how you’re being smart and innovative rather than casting about blindly.

Some ideas:

  • Wait till you have something to say. After 90 days of gathering and assessing data, I’ll bet the three parties will have some intriguing ideas about what data will and won’t be useful and some ideas for a pilot. Talking to the press then lets you show true thought leadership and build your brand.
  • Ask for help. Along with describing your internal efforts, sponsor a contest for ideas about what useful apps Trident customers might want on a wearable device or a Hack-a-thon with a prize for coolest app.
  • Share what you already know. I’ll bet the folks at Trident, the start-up and the convenience store chain have some hunches about how data and apps on wearable can sell gum. Describe those in your marketing material and (per step two) and invite feedback. This again shows thought leadership and could prompt some good suggestions.

The failures of early players didn’t stop the Web from changing all our lives, in ways that are still unfolding. The same will be true of the IoT.  Let’s help our clients survive the early stage shake out by being smart about how we position their early-stage IoT experiments.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Robot hand typing on a computer keyboard.With software already writing routine stories for The Associated Press (my former employer) it’s only natural to wonder when such apps might start writing press releases, cases studies, Tweets, blog posts and other marketing content.

The AP claims its robo-writing of sports and quarterly-earning pieces hasn’t cost any jobs, but freed staffers to create more nuanced, in-depth stories. But as writing software gets better, it will be able to tackle more complex stories and (by extension) more complex marketing content such as white papers and responding to (just not creating) social media content.

For the sake of (choose your age bracket) our mortgages, our kids’ college funds and our 401(k)s we need to keep moving up the value chain and away from anything that is too formulaic and hum drum. Here are five content creation “fortresses” I see as safe for humans for a while yet.

Thought leadership: In a story about a game or a company’s quarterly earnings, the inputs (runs, hits, errors, revenue, extraordinary charges, etc.) are all well known. So is the format of the finished story. (“Gregg Jones led a fourth quarter rushing blitz that led the Panthers to a last-minute 33-29 win over the Cougars.”)

But I haven’t seen software that can suggest an idea or concept you can’t describe beforehand. That’s at the core of much of the work I do with clients developing thought leadership pieces. For one client, for example, I’ve spent weeks and dozens of hours reviewing background briefings and sitting in on discussions of their technology “vision.” It’s hard and necessary work to tease out and creatively package the unique content, and nothing I can see a set of business rules or algorithms tackling.

Cleaning Dirty Data: In the enterprise application world, dirty data might be three customer records for the same person with different combinations of first and last names, which can lead the company to think it has three different customers when there’s only one. Garbage in, garbage out.

In content creation, “dirty data” is raw material that is incomplete, inconsistent, unclear, loaded with jargon, too long or too short. How do you train an application to sift through a 60-slide PowerPoint full of buzzwords and distill the new, compelling message? How would you write a business rule defining “transform” when it can mean anything from cutting the cost of on-premise software to moving it to the cloud?

Asking the right questions: The more time I spend in marketing writing, the more value I find I provide by asking seemingly obvious questions. They might be as straightforward as “How do you define the cloud?” (Ask three experts and you’ll get four different answers.) Does any robot know to even ask the question, much less keep asking if the answer isn’t good enough to use in marketing collateral? Or creatively take four seemingly different answers and combine them into a new, compelling marketing message?

Coping with chaos: Software works great in defined, predictable environments where inputs and outputs can be predicted and rules created to respond to them. Ever seen a product manager or marketing campaign that works by set predictable rules with everyone following the workflow? How would you design software that can automatically reconcile multiple dueling agendas as new “cooks” in the form of product managers and outside agencies dip their spoon into the content stew?

Applying street smarts: I’m currently moderating a LinkedIn group for IBM on sales performance management software. When one study indicated some sales people are more motivated by “the thrill of the chase” than the size of their bonuses, I reacted with a very human “Really?” based on personal experience. How would you build such real-world knowledge into an application? Or, for example, the knowledge that sales and marketing staffs never seem to get along, or that security and operations staffs are always at odds because one is paid to assure safety, the other uptime? Applying such real-world perspective is essential to showing your prospects you know their business and can meet their needs.

Don’t get me wrong. Robo-writing software will get better at all these things, and maybe more quickly than we expect. That’s why we human marketing and PR types need to keep finding the “fortresses” of expertise that can’t be quantified in algorithms and business rules.  Which ones did I miss — and are you worried about content creation robots?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

case studies thought leadership While developing a thought leadership white paper for a client, they asked whether customer case studies or “use cases” (examples of how a technology or process would be used to help the business) have a place in such “non-sales” content.

My answer: You bet, if they’re used right.

Yes, “thought leadership” means giving prospects a new, insightful way of thinking about a common business or technology problem without a detailed sales pitch. But case studies and use cases are an ideal way to tease your expertise without giving away the store. Here’s how.

We’ve Handled That

Case studies belong in thought leadership collateral if they are presented as illustrative examples of a general problem faced by many customers, and contain valuable advice that can be used by any reader without making a purchase from you.  

For example, “At one global pharmaceutical company, our data architecture evaluation discovered hundreds of potentially sensitive databases the compliance staff wasn’t even aware of. Issuing a blanket edict against use these valuable data sources would have been ineffective and hurt the credibility of the IT organization. Instead, we worked with the client to develop a series of incentives and approved processes to successfully nudge the business units towards compliance.”

This is a valuable lesson that will impress prospects with your smarts, but doesn’t give away the “secret sauce” of how you pulled this trick off. The prospect still needs to call for specifics such as:

  • What neat technology and processes did you use to find sensitive data stores the client’s own compliance staff couldn’t?
  • How did you navigate the corporate power structure to steer the business owners away from a heavy-handed response that could have backfired?
  • How did you figure out the right incentives and processes to convince, rather than force, business units to do the right thing?
  • And how did you balance the business units’ legitimate need for data with the corporate need to prove security compliance?

The Use Case for Use Cases

 More general business use cases – what I think of as “the problem, whether we have a case study or not” are also extremely valuable because 1) they tell specific stories rather than lay out generic challenges, and 2) demonstrate how you’re developing approaches to meeting them.

Some examples, based on recent projects I’ve done:

  •  Many of our clients want to automate testing to meet consumers’ demand for more apps, on more devices, more quickly. We recommend, among other things, carefully choosing which tests to automate, developing standardized, centralized test processes and understanding how much manual test effort is still needed.
  •  With the combination of mobile social apps and Big Data analysis, many retailers want dashboards that show changes in consumer behavior and sentiment in near real-time. To deliver those, you’ll need to combine structured data such as customer IDs with unstructured data such as blog posts, and to present the analysis in user-friendly formats.
  •  The shift from hosting applications in-house to buying software as a service (SaaS) forces software vendors to not only code great apps, but to become service providers. Making this transition requires new capabilities such as meeting service level agreements, creating real-time usage monitoring and billing platforms, and meeting strict security requirements.

Bottom line: I will happily take either case studies and use cases and put them to good use. In each case, they give the prospect a new way of thinking about a common problem, but force them to contact you to learn how to solve their specific problems.

If anything, my clients usually err on the side of being so vague (“We found multiple opportunities for optimizing IT operations”) their promises sound like vague marketing fluff. Trust me: Every client’s IT environment, culture and business needs are unique enough you’ll have plenty to talk about once you’re in the door. You’re better off telling them more, not less, to get in that door.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

finding ideas for marketing content“What do I write next?”

At each stage of a drip marketing campaign, you need something different, interesting, and compelling to keep the reader engaged as they move from awareness to consideration to comparison to purchase.

Showing readers why they should care about an ongoing story is a challenge newspaper, broadcast and trade press editors have wrestled with years. They meet it by putting themselves in the reader’s shoes and asking “What do I want to know next?”

Let’s say that, as part of a drip camaign, you want to follow up on one of these stories: That endpoint antivirus is obsolete. That Google+  is dead or dying. That cloud security fears are overblown.

1)   Is “X” True?

First, the reader wants to know whether the story rings true, and more importantly whether it rings true for them.

A great follow-up piece (and a great chance to build a rep as a trusted partner) is to do a more detailed explanation of whether, when and why, a given “insight” is true for a specific reader. Some possible follow-ups for these three stories might be:

  •  Endpoint antivirus isn’t really useless, but is becoming a commodity with limited room for innovation.
  • Google+ isn’t dead, but so far businesses to consumer marketers are having more luck with it than business-to-business types.
  • Cloud security can be good enough, especially if your internal security isn’t that great and you don’t have extreme regulatory requirements.

 2) How does “X” affect me?

 Once they know whether and when “X” is true, the reader wants to know whether “X” is good, bad, or indifferent for them. The two hooks are, of course, greed (reading this I might get me a raise) and fear (if I don’t read this I might get fired.)

Possible follows on our three stories:

  •  I can save some money and be a hero by being the first to suggest we let our antivirus subscription expire. Or I look like a chump if we drop antivirus and the next week we’re hit by a vicious attack. Which risk is greater for my specific situation?
  •  Jill in marketing has been wondering about our Google+ strategy and something in this content suggests a new tack we could take. Maybe I should suggest lunch to explain it. Or dinner. (I forgot lust along with fear and greed as news hooks.)
  •  This story tells me he committee the CFO put together to check out possible cloud providers for us really doesn’t know what it’s doing, and I’ll be blamed for a data breach even if the new service provider is to blame.

 3) What should I be doing about “X”?

Once the reader knows the answer to the “good/bad/neutral” issue, the next question is “What do I do about it?” Be careful with advice  because 1) you could be wrong, and b) you’ll lose credibility if the answer to every question is “Call us.”

The way to thread this needle is, as for question 1, to make your answer specific to different types of prospects, and 2) keep it honest. (After all it does you no good to encourage a lot of unqualified prospects to call you.

Possible content angles for our three stories:

  • Since desktop antivirus is becoming a commodity, buy a low-end, but mainstream package and put your main effort into dealing with breaches after the fact.
  • As a B2B marketer, keep an eye on Google+ but don’t spend huge time on it right now.
  • That clueless cloud committee is getting close to choosing a service provider. Better  cover my rear end by sending the CFO some “tough security questions to ask” in case things blow up after we sign a contract.

 4) What is everyone else doing about “X”?

 This is where surveys, case studies or even “war stories” from your sales force or service staff come into play. Everyone wants to know what their peers are doing and if they’re ahead of, behind or with the crowd.

Sample follow-up content for these three stories might include:

  •  Despite trash talk about AV from security vendors, our survey shows most companies are indeed being cautious and maintaining some desktop antivirus capabilities, while beefing up their security response efforts.
  •  Over lunch a B2B marketer told me a horror story about wasting time on Google+. Or, she told me about a little-known Google+  feature that’s a killer for business users.
  • We summarize a Wall Street Journal story about a Mom and Pop firm that thought cloud security was sure to be better than their own but found that wasn’t true and suffered a breach. We describe the questions they should have asked the provider but didn’t.

There are more angles where these came from. But whatever route you take, keep yourself in the mind of the reader and be informative, not salesly.

If you haven’t already, subscribe to my newsletter for upcoming tips on “next questions to ask” to build drip campaigns in specific technology areas.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

I’ve recently been working with a client on a series of “thought leadership” white papers. They have a lot of great, innovative ideas, but when I ask for case studies and proof points to prove their ideas work, they often come up short.

how to produce thought leadership

I think, therefore I think I’m interesting.

My research uncovered an excellent post from Candyce Edelen, the CEO and founder of content marketing firm Propel Growth, who said she’s run into the same issue in the financial services market.

She argues content marketing and thought leadership are two different things. Content marketing, she says, helps prospects understand their existing needs, build awareness of the benefits of what you sell, and driving sales of what exists today. (Emphasis added.)

Thought leadership, on the other hand, is about “being a longer-term change agent, building awareness of unrecognized needs and generating demand for what’s coming in 12-18 months.” She cited the example of a financial services firm that coined the term “naked access” in 2007 to describe the practice of allowing high-speed computerized stock trades without the proper filtering or checks.

The firm “launched an extensive content and PR campaign…They wrote about the topic, educated the press, and spoke at industry events. They even encouraged competitors to jump on the campaign to push for regulatory reform.” But it wasn’t until late 2010 that the SEC recognized the issue and took action.

I deal all the time with technology and services vendors who say they want “thought leadership” but lack the details to back it up. Especially in large organizations, a call for experts to develop “thought leadership” can produce intriguing, academic-sounding approaches they think might work but have never proven.

The Three Musts

The three things it really takes to produce “thought leadership” are:

  • Prove Your Theory: Nobody cares if it doesn’t get results and has been proven to work. Getting it wrong with your high-blown forecasts or “paradigm-changing” insights can be worse than staying quiet.
  • Keep At It: It ain’t thought leadership if you only talk about it when it springs to mind. Be consistent. Note how long the financial services firm had to fight to get its message out, amid initial skepticism from regulatory authorities and others. It takes time, money and effort to keep shouting into the wind. Make sure it’s worthwhile and you have the commitment of those who hold the purse strings and have the loudest voices.
  • Focus: This means two things. First, make the tough choice to put most of your limited time and money into your true insights rather than the “just interesting” musings on industry trends. Second, determine what are the “next steps” you want your audience to take after reading your content. Is it downloading a gated white paper? Subscribing to an email newsletter? Or sitting through a demo?

Random efforts produce random results. You can pay me or another copywriter to whip some so-so naval-gazing into something readable now and then. Or, you can get more bang for your buck by proving what you’re claiming, committing to pushing it for the long haul, and focusing on the revenue-producing next steps you want your readers to take.

 

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.
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