Does Thought Leadership Actually Convert?
In this episode, I talked to Animalz’s Director of Marketing to share his thoughts on why do they ONLY do “thought leadership” content.
About Ryan Law:
About Ryan: Ryan is the Director of Marketing at Animalz, an agency that provides high-end content marketing solutions to SaaS and tech companies.
Trailer Video – Too Long, Don’t Want to Listen
2:13 – The story about how & why they went with thought leadership from the beginning
6:05 – What kind of thought leadership Animalz writes?
10:11 – What is his process of writing the content writing & ideation?
12:42 – How does Animalz engineer content virality?
15:36 – How do they convince clients to write about thought leadership content?
18:56 – How should you think about thought leadership content when you don’t have personal experience?
19:24 – At what stage should you choose thought leadership and commodity SEO content?
21:46 – How to promote content without being too promotional?
24:13 – How to compete with amazing substack writers who sometimes do better jobs than we do?
Writing to rank on Google is a weak strategy. It only gets you halfway there.
Here is how you can get your qualified leads to convert while getting zero search traffic.
But wait, let me tell you a story first.
Back in 2015, Jimmy Daily and the founder of Animalz were starting a content marketing agency.
They wanted to grow through blogging and content itself (show, not tell).
They saw the standard content marketing agency playbook was to write for SEO keywords and rank for them.
Then, write an ebook and try to convert the ebook leads into sales.
But unfortunately, that doesn’t always work so well.
A similar playbook was also run by other content marketing agencies too.
For example, Ryan (Animalz’s Director of Marketing) had his agency, and he tried to get traffic on his website.
He wrote about the SaaS pricing topic when he had never launched a SaaS pricing project. He was not the SaaS pricing expert.
Naturally, nobody was buying.
Why didn’t it work?
Standard SEO playbook and Ryan’s playbook lack authenticity.
SEO content is NOT always bringing the key executives to the website.
Ryan’s agency blog was not bringing executives and senior people to the site.
So Animalz went to the other route. They shared their experience, shared ideas with content people with content marketing, and led with counter-narrative opinions & stories.
Animalz is like an anti-agency agency.
So, instead of ranking for search, they went with the thought leadership route.
Here’s how Animalz thought about content marketing (principles and frameworks).
Principle # 1: You should be an alpha source. Document your journey and process. Then, share it with the world.
“Unlike most content marketers, we don’t write about things. We don’t have firsthand experience of.” — Says Ryan from Animalz.
Principle # 2: Write from your experience.
Mashing up some google search and then writing an article about it NOT ideal.
Your content has holes. People see that it is clearly not coming experience or expertise.
Principle #3: Sharing frameworks, not tactics.
Tactics solve one problem. Frameworks solve many.
If you understand that core principle, you can create your strategies for writing different stuff.
You don’t need our prescriptive five tips (tactics). You can solve your problem then.
Principle # 4: Don’t care about traffic.
Obviously, if you can bring traffic for yourself means you can do that for your clients.
Instead of traffic, focus on meaningful conversation and leads.
It all just happened to be called “Thought Leadership”.
So, how do you write thought leadership content to generate those qualified leads?
- Tell your personal story & document it
- Use counter-narrative opinions (things you passionately disagree with in the industry)
- Data storytelling
- Industry analysis
- Network connections (source it from your network)
So, what’s the result?
They’re stealing the best employees.
And they are growing fast.
I’m not saying that you should not build search real estate.
Do build it. But also focus on writing for ideas that make visitors fall in love with your brand.
The way I have fallen in love with the Animalz brand.
I just realized these principles 2-3 years down the line in my marketing career.
You still have time.
- To be an amazing thought leader, you should be an alpha source. People should quote or mention you.
- The easiest way to be a thought leader is to write from your personal experience.
- Animalz team does not care about traffic because writing about things you’ve never experienced lacks authenticity and authority.
- Why thought leadership is good for Animalz? It creates more sales conversations & better quality of leads.
- They didn’t deliberately write about thought leadership content. There was no plan, but things they talk about “happens” to be through leadership
- To come up with thought leadership ideas, have a document of idea farm — where you are a gardener, and keep nurturing it.
- To be opinionated – Find something you or your team truly cares about. You don’t need to take “the anti” route always.
- If you don’t have personal experience in the content you write, take interviews, and write from the expert perspective & make them the author — A good example is First Round Review. Look at their articles and newsletter.
- Ryan’s Twitter Profile
- On thought leadership content
- Copycat content
- The idea farm
- The second-mover advantage
- Content maturity model
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