I was a guest on a podcast this past week, and while we were in the “green room” before hitting record, the host mentioned how nice it was to have someone on to talk about “old school” blogging.
He mentioned that he’d recently written something about blogging that had sparked a lot of conversation on Twitter, the culmination of which was that they agreed they should all do a podcast episode on the power of blogging.
[Image: a gif of Jeff Bridges as The Big Lebowski tilting his head, blinking rapidly, and looking entirely confused.]
I’ve often said that if I had a nickel for every time someone claimed blogging is dead, I could swim in them á la Scrooge McDuck, but those claims are usually made by people extolling the virtues of some new app or marketing channel (usually because they want to sell you on how to use it for yourself).
But blogging, and long-form thought leadership content in general, isn’t going anywhere.
Interested in learning to develop your own thought leadership content in a systematic way? I’m hosting a free workshop to demonstrate my new method.
Other channels might be deceiving
Don’t get me wrong: I understand the siren song of new channels and the promise of easier marketing.
At first blush, it seems easier to just write Tweets 240 characters at a time, or share pretty photos on Instagram, or join a few Clubhouse rooms and talk about your business than the massive amount of work it takes to conceive, research, create, and distribute a piece of long-form content like a good blog post.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak in a Clubhouse room. I joined the room and waited for my turn; the host was asking each of the speakers (about a dozen) to talk about what was working for their business in terms of the balance of paid versus organic traffic.
When my time came, I spoke for maybe two minutes. I stayed on the call for another hour as they did Q&A from the large audience. (I did a quick count at one point and there were more than 140 people in the room.) The opportunity didn’t arise for me to speak again, and I logged off after an hour or so to get back to work.
And from those two minutes, I got a bunch of new followers on Clubhouse, a few new followers on Instagram and — much to my deep surprise — one application from a potential client.
For two minutes of speaking!
It would be easy, from that experience, to immediately decide that Clubhouse is where it’s at and that I should shift all my marketing energies to participating there.
But that doesn’t take into account:
- the fact that I was invited by someone with more than ten thousand followers, and she was also leveraging the followings of the dozen or so other speakers to fill the room (a feat that would be difficult for me to replicate on my own any time soon)
- the fact that she was paying someone to take notes during the room, and listeners could opt-in to receive the notes, so they could find me later (an expense I would have to incur for similar results on my own)
- the fact that the host of the room probably spent at least three or four hours hosting that room that day (a sunk cost of time I would have to invest over and over again)
- and the fact that the customer lead I got — while a wonderfully nice person — was not ready for our service.
What looks on the surface like an easy way to grab leads and find new customers would, in reality, require a lot more time, energy, and investment than someone might see at first glance.
The same could be said for the time and effort it takes to build up a following on Twitter, create the photos and videos for Instagram, edit the audio for a podcast, create and edit the videos for YouTube, etc.
The point is not that any of these channels isn’t valuable as part of a marketing strategy; the point is that none of them necessarily offers an easier path to marketing success.
Quality of engagement trumps quantity of engagement
Another reason long-form, thought leadership content is so important to a business is its potential to generate more deep engagement than other channels.
I’ve talked before about vanity metrics; a like on a Facebook or Instagram post feels good, but it actually indicates very little about someone’s intent to buy.
You could have a Tweet, an Instagram post or a TikTok video go viral, but never see that traffic convert into leads.
The same is true of advertising a freebie as an opt-in; you might see hundreds or even thousands of people engage with your ad and download your freebie (costing you money) with very few of them converting to buyers.
Because the quality of that engagement is low. It’s an easy yes for them, and indicates little or no commitment to you as a business.
People chase these engagements because a) they’re easier to get, and b) they produce large numbers, which makes us feel good.
But that’s why the industry standard conversion rate on a sales page is around 1% — the other 99% weren’t that into you in the first place.
This leads to a lot of bizarre marketing behaviors that keep business owners chasing ever-larger numbers (and their tails) in search of leads and customers.
Long-form thought leadership content, on the other hand asks for more commitment from the audience (and the author) up front — and results in deeper, more meaningful engagement that is more likely to signal intent to buy.
Someone who reads this entire article is more engaged with my brand than someone who simply double taps on one of my Instagram posts. Someone who comments on the article is even more engaged — and so on.
Types of quality engagement include:
- consuming content, especially long-form content
- visiting a website or other web presence (like a podcast or YouTube channel) multiple times
- asking questions
- and opt-ing in to receive emails.
Thought leadership content — which often tends to be long-form, though not always (see: Seth Godin) — is simply more likely to create the kinds of deep engagement that actually signal buyer intent than a viral Tweet or funny meme.
(Even though I do love a good meme!)
Customer relationships are built over time
Veteran marketer Dean Jackson has found that — across industries — about 20% of buyers make a purchase within the first 90 days of becoming a lead.
Most standard marketing funnels expend all their effort and attention on those early adopters. Think about the marketing strategy of offering a free, on-demand webinar with a pitch and then a 5–7 day window for purchasing the product. That model must be constantly finding and adding new people because such a small percentage of people are going to buy. (In the case of the evergreen webinar funnel, 20% conversion would be an exceptional rate of return.)
In most cases, the business expends zero effort or attention on the people who choose not to buy in that seven-day window. In advanced funnels, there might be a down sell or a sequence of nurture emails and a subsequent offer — but that’s actually quite rare.
According to Jackson, the other 80% of buyers purchase in the 18 months after they become a lead.
That means 80% of the opportunity in your audience — and 80% of the potential revenue for your business — is only available after the first three months of contact.
But if all you continue to offer during those 18 months is sound-bite, junk food content, do you think that will persuade many of those would-be buyers to take the leap?
What if, instead, you led with value, building those relationships over time, making your posts, your podcasts, your articles, your emails must see for those people?
This requires investment on your part, spending time and energy finding out what matters to them most, educating yourself, exploring new ideas, and making the effort to create innovative, engaging ways to deliver value.
Sometimes that will mean new channels — but more often it requires new ideas.
And if you’re not creating the time and space to generate those new ideas…
Well, you’ll be stuck chasing the 20% like everybody else.
In summary, long-form thought leadership content produces higher quality engagements with potential customers and helps nurture them throughout a longer customer journey than many other forms of marketing. And while newer channels and sound-bite content seem to promise bigger, shinier, faster results, those promises can be deceiving, requiring just as much time, energy and effort as long-form content.
Interested in learning to develop your own thought leadership content in a systematic way? I’m hosting a free workshop to demonstrate my new method. Click here to learn more and register for the workshop.