While you can easily measure site traffic, Twitter followers, and how you rank for keywords on Google, it’s a little more challenging to measure what I contend is one of the most important benefits of inbound marketing – thought leadership.
When I discuss inbound marketing with new clients and prospects they tend to focus on tangible items such as search engine optimization (SEO), keyword rankings and the effect that blogging has on generating leads and building their contact database. This is natural considering that inbound marketing projects sometimes get funded from monies reallocated from SEO consultants, email marketers and social media firms. These tangible results (or promise of results) make it easier for a CFO or Controller to sign off on, rather than the possibility of intangibles such as thought leadership.
If thought leadership is so important why isn’t it more of a factor that’s considered when embarking on an inbound marketing program?
One of the best examples of why thought leadership is one of the most important, yet hard to measure aspects of inbound marketing, was told to me over lunch with an Account Executive of a local media company. As an avid blogger and social media advocate she had started a personal blog that focused on topics relevant to people working in media (mobile, social, technology, ratings, research, etc.). She had a few hundred visitors per month, and would occasionally get a few new twitter followers, but didn’t really see too many tangible benefits to blogging until one day she went to an appointment at a local ad agency.
She had only met this Senior Media Buyer on LinkedIn (she thinks through the link on her blog) and had never met him in person until this meeting. As they were introducing each other, the media buyer said something that surprised her. He asked her, “How much time do you spend on your blog each week?” and then proceeded to say, “It’s very informative and a few of us at the agency reference it regularly since it’s a great source of information”. You can imagine her amazement and pleasure to know that someone she is trying to influence was reading her blog regularly, and utilizing it as a resource.
This is what thought leadership is all about… writing not just to increase your search engine rankings, or to increase your Twitter followers, but writing to share ideas and information with others interested in similar topics. While you might get instant gratification, and affirmation that your inbound strategy is working by analyzing your search engine rankings and website traffic, you might be missing the big picture if you are not factoring in the influence of thought leadership.
One of the recommendations that I like to give clients, that would like to become thought leaders, is to “write for people and not for search engines."
While this might seem like common sense, you would be surprised at the number of companies and bloggers that focus more on stuffing keywords in their blog posts versus authoring content that’s easy to read and more importantly, worth sharing.
Becoming a thought leader isn’t easy… but I know you are up to the task!
Brian Hasenbauer is an Inbound Marketing Consultant at
The Center for Sales Strategy