Thought leadership can also help save a professional firm or other organization from becoming a corporate fatality. Witness the example of Marcus Sheridan, who was until recently a quite normal installer of fiberglass swimming pools in Virginia and Maryland.
I heard him present at Content Marketing World, a global gathering of people who market their products and services not through advertising, but rather through providing genuinely useful information to their markets.
The way Marcus told it, in October 2009 the bottom dropped out of his swimming pool installation world, as the global financial crisis caused his project pipeline to dry up. Customers pulled back their deposits and cancelled projects. His company was soon facing financial ruin.
So, Marcus did what any reasonable Pool Guy would do: he started a blog. Not just any blog, mind you. He had a hunch that if he provided information that his potential customers would like to have, he’d become a trusted source of information -- and just naturally, the person they’d trust enough to call when they were ready to install a pool.
So he thought of the top 100 questions his customers asked him, starting with, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” He went on to, “What is the difference between a fiberglass pool and a concrete pool?” and “What are the problems with fiberglass pools?” Markus’ frank and open answers to these questions made his blog a big hit with Google and other search engines, and soon his tiny company was at the organic top of many searches about swimming pools, well above results from major manufacturers.
Anyone seriously considering installing a swimming pool would naturally look online for information about the topic. They’ll use search terms that match the terms Marcus used in his blog. There, they’ll find a treasure trove of information on fiberglass pools.
Marcus Sheridan’s goal of becoming a preferred source of information on fiberglass pools was realized in full, and so was his hope of reviving his business. People whose only relationship with him came through reading his blog would give him preference over many other swimming-pool installation companies offering the same service Marcus’ company provided.
This is the heart of content marketing, which means preparing “content” -- useful, informative, no-sales-pitch information, and making it available to prospective clients. Once they’re persuaded your organization is a trusted source of information, it’s quite natural that when they’re ready to buy, your firm is the one they’ll contact.