One of the biggest shifts in marketing over the years has been the new standard of giving away information for free. Companies used to save the good stuff for after making sales—their expertise was part of the package they sold to customers. Not anymore. Today’s customers decide who to buy from based on the value they can see upfront.
This shift is taking place across industries that used to have no expectations for establishing thought leadership, but are now falling behind without it. All types of companies are sharing ideas through social media, free webinars, articles, and on their websites. The exchange of ideas has created a new norm; people pay attention to content that will teach them something or entertain them, and they block out everything else. Companies that used to get by just fine are losing traction to competitors who are now providing something useful for free. That “something useful,” or thought leadership, demonstrates knowledge and helpfulness before any money is exchanged. It helps build brand recognition and trust, and ultimately turns into sales.
When companies are new to thought leadership (or marketing), they often don’t know where to start. The best thing you can do is to think of something your customers want to understand, and find a way to educate them for free. Oh, and you get bonus points for creativity.
Take this example. How you would react if a kid knocked on your door and gave you a brochure he created on lawn mowing best practices? Chances are, your jaw would hit the floor, and you would immediately forget whatever chump kid used to mow your lawn.
That’s what’s happening right now in every industry. If you don’t go out of your way to show potential customers how smart you are, they will be distracted by someone else who does. The kid with the brochure is no longer the over-achiever; he’s the new standard. The choice is yours, but if I were you, I’d start brainstorming on how to better share your knowledge for free.