The concept of thought leadership originated in the C-suite, and indeed, if you were to look up some of the most prominent thought leaders today, you’re probably going to see a lot of big names and large companies. However, marketing professionals have probably heard a lot about different people in different industries trying to start their thought leadership initiatives, as well as a pocket industry helping people to become better-thought leaders.
Why is this the case? Thought leadership is probably one of the best ways for a business to expand its base over time because rather than focusing on a quick sale or quick conversion, it’s trying to get people to trust a company as a significant authority in its niche. However, this does take a lot of time and investment to become a full thought leader, as well as using the right tools. An e-book is one of your best options in this regard.
Thought Leadership’s Content Problem
Before getting into e-books specifically, it’s important to understand how thought leaders end up reaching this point with their audience. There’s natural altruism about thought leaders in the sense that they are regularly putting out information that could be beneficial for those in their niche, not necessarily hoarding it or trying to sell it off. This doesn’t mean that thought leaders can’t charge for content, but they need to prove themselves first.
There’s a reason why digital written content has been the baseline choice for thought leaders, and it’s not all about price and accessibility. Sophie Miles, the CEO, and co-founder of elMejorTrato.com notes that “through reading, we efficiently acquire information, a key element to maintain perspective and look for opportunities, two fundamental skills of a leader. It also improves our ability to analyze, especially concerning value judgments and problem-solving.”
Thought leadership marketing is like any marketing in that you need to reach your audience via the platforms they like. Sometimes this means using alternative digital mediums like podcasts or videos. Sometimes this means going outside the digital realm completely, like with speaking engagements. However, digital written content is always part of the strategy.
Part of the issue here, though, is that these days, every business website of any size has some sort of blog with your primary 500-word content. In essence, this has diluted the power of written content. Being a thought leader is about rising above, and e-books are a way to reach the audience that wants written content while soaring above the norm.
Thought Leadership and E-Books
So e-books seem like a good solution on paper, but do they work in practice? Dave Kustin of ContentBacon mentions that he has seen three main areas of success from his e-books:
- Driving traffic
- Generating Leads
- Positioning his company as subject matter experts
This shows the multi-purpose nature of e-books. Yes, like any other form of digital content, you can optimize them to try and get more traffic, as well as use them for outreach to work and create potential leads. However, it’s the third piece here that is the most important as far as thought leadership goes. Part of being a thought leader is finding a way to cover topics either at a different angle or in a new light to try and provide that added value.
Jason Patel, the founder of Transition, has put out three e-books from his company and says that trust is the main reason why he kept coming back to it as a medium.
“What goes into trust? Customer service, expertise, and brand awareness – ebooks cover all three bases in one sitting. Your cover page demonstrates customer service by showing all contact information and your company information; the entire book demonstrates expertise. Once you gain customers who love you, they’ll talk to their friends and, thus, grow your brand awareness.”
Authority and trust—these are probably the two most important tenets of thought leadership, and an e-book is perfect for meeting both.
Creating An Effective E-book
With these things in mind, though, it’s important to remember that none of these benefits will pay off if you don’t take the effort to create a useful e-book. This starts with the topic that you choose and what goals you have in the end. James Pollard, a marketing consultant at TheAdvisorCoach.com, cautions people against trying to go over broad with their problems in an attempt to reach everyone. “Many people try to get more downloads and more opt-ins. I think that’s the wrong strategy because the true goal is more sales. If you’re selling an
If you’re struggling to pick a topic, or maybe you are in a niche already crowded with e-books, it’s best to use your expertise to put a novel spin on the traditional. Always make sure that you can back up any unique points you state with scholarly research. Also, an e-book also requires a lot more attention to format and organization than your typical post. You want to make sure that as you are creating your outline, that each section has a natural flow and link to the next, without being repetitive. Padding an e-book for a more significant word count is a quick way to lose your readers.
Even after creating your e-book, that doesn’t mean the work is over. Because an e-book is a more significant investment of time and resources, you want to set aside some time to promote it. That can mean sharing it across your social media channels or creating an email campaign revolving around it.
As a final note, naturally, keeping all these levels of quality is inherently more demanding than writing a few quick posts in bulk then scheduling them for the next month or so. That is why it’s okay to try and recruit outside help for editing or even ghostwriting your e-book. Putting together written content that is deep enough to provide value while being accessible for the layperson is a tight balance, and the greater complexity of an e-book versus a blog post raises the difficulty here exponentially.