Whitney Bonham

Thought Leadership for Subject Matter Experts

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If you’re a multi-billion dollar company with major brand recognition, it’s not difficult to get the media to listen to what you have to say. But what about small and medium-sized businesses? They may not have the national clout or major announcements that press releases love to highlight, but they still have a great deal of valuable industry knowledge and expertise to impart. Here’s how your business, no matter what its size, can use a thought leadership strategy to build a name for itself in the industry.

Become an SME (subject matter expert) for SMEs

Choose a theme or question that will serve as your overarching idea for the year, then outline topics around that theme. Keep in mind that the topics you choose to write about should benefit the industry, not yourself (directly). For example – “Here’s why we are better than our competitor” is not a good thought leadership topic. Here are some questions to get you started thinking about where you want to become a subject matter expert:

  • What conversations are trending in your industry that you can take a stand on or have an opinion about?
  • Are there industry-specific policies or political changes being implemented that you or someone on your staff has knowledge to write about?
  • How does the philosophy that drives your business improve how people should use or engage with the products and services in your industry?

Once you choose your topic, consider the resources you can commit to determine how often you’ll be able to create pieces (monthly or quarterly is a great place to start). Remember that a thought leadership strategy isn’t just about writing content, it’s also about reaching out to media partners and building relationships, so be sure to factor the time necessary for follow-up into your assessment.

Mix thought leadership with helpful tips

Providing a list of how-to or Top-5 tips is a great way to get people interested in a webinar, to share a blog, or to make it onto Buzzfeed (if that was one of your business goals…). But when it comes to thought leadership, don’t be afraid to include the occasional piece that takes a deeper dive into a new way of thinking – a piece that makes the reader think, “Huh. I never thought about it that way. I should share this with my CEO/CFO/Board.”

While tips are great for making an article actionable, sometimes they focus our attention on the “doing” to the detriment of the “hows” and “whys” that are so critical to strategic thinking and business development. Business owners and leaders will appreciate a piece that asks the hard questions or challenges how they think about your subject matter, so don’t be afraid to take a step back from the “easy tips to accomplish xyz better” and focus some of your thought leadership on being just that – a thought leader.

Research Editorial Calendars

Editorial calendars are like the answer key at the back of the text book. Rather than wonder if a topic you’re passionate about will be of interest to a media outlet, let an editorial calendar tell you. Research the editorial calendars for 5-10 publications, using a mix of local and regional/national outlets and industry-specific outlets with general business publications. As you’re building your thought leadership pieces throughout the year, review these calendars to see if one of the monthly/quarterly themes touches on the topic you’re discussing. While your content should stay true to your theme, consider adjusting the introduction or tweaking the audience to make the piece more applicable to the publication’s needs. And, of course, keep in mind that deadlines for pieces – particularly those for print – are often well in advance of the month of publication, so be sure to give yourself enough time to draft!

Choose a media partner to invest in

Finally, identify one media partner with whom you’d like to build a more in-depth relationship. You may start by submitting a piece to their Editorial section or responding to a request for articles. Another more straight-forward way to get in the door is to buy some advertising space on their website, newsletter, or print publication, particularly if you have an event (like a webinar) to promote.

Build the relationship further by nominating colleagues for awards the publication offers and attending the outlet’s networking events, luncheons, or annual galas. Consider becoming a sponsor of one of the events that you’ve found particularly valuable. At each stage of the engagement, keep your point of contact engaged so that they can keep an eye out on your behalf for other opportunities to get involved. By investing in a relationship with this publication, you’ll be amazed at how becoming a “top of mind” partner can open doors to new opportunities and new connections to leaders within your industry.

How a Sales Playbook Can Bring Your Team to Victory

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Playbooks Aren’t Just for Football

How a Sales Playbook Can Bring Your Team to Victory

Why do sports teams have playbooks? It’s simple, really – everyone on the team knows the goal is to win the game, but the playbook shows everyone how that’s going to happen. The same goes for your sales team. A Sales Playbook provides the resources, framework, and processes that everyone on your team – from the most seasoned player to the newest rookie – should follow for making a sale. Here’s how you can build a Playbook that will bring victory for your sales team.

Determine your sales methodology

A sales methodology explains the process your team goes through to:

  • gather the right information about your prospect (note – gathering information is easy; gathering information that will drive decision-making is a different story!),
  • find the right decision makers within the prospect’s company
  • guide a prospect along the decision making journey to (hopefully) signing on the dotted line.

There are dozens of methodologies out there, and you should choose one that addresses what you’ve observed to be the most significant aspects of a prospect’s decision-making journey. Check out a few examples of common sales methodologies here.

Determine your workflow

The workflow is your sales team’s map through the playbook. At a minimum, it should outline the following:

  • Each touchpoint a sales team member should use to engage with the prospect
  • The timeframe between each touchpoint
  • The subject matter of each touchpoint
  • The goal for each touchpoint (what information you’re hoping to gather, or what you’re hoping the prospect will know or do after receiving that touchpoint)

Provide enough structure to ensure a consistent engagement process from team member to team member, but allow enough flexibility for your sales team to customize the customer journey based on their experience or unique information they gather about the prospect.

Website Redesign for the Customer Journey

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Remember the 90s, when websites included things like page counters, cheesy music that played on load, clip-art graphics, and intensely patterned backgrounds?

We’ve come a long way in the digital age (thank goodness), and creating a professional, responsive, user-friendly website is more important than ever. If it’s been awhile since you’ve updated your website or the results from your web traffic haven’t been as strong as you’d like, it may be time for a website redesign. Unfortunately, the process can be a lengthy, challenging, and expensive one. But – good news – it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few cost-effective tips to make sure your investment in your website yields the results you’re looking for.

Use online tools to understand how visitors are interacting with your current site

The first step in a successful website redesign is to gain a data-based understanding of how visitors are engaging with your current site. Two tools that we find invaluable for this are Lucky Orange and Google Analytics.

With pricing options as low as $10 a month (plus a 7-day free trial), Lucky Orange is a great bang for your buck. The platform provides you with a wide range of intelligence about your website including form analytics, reverse IP lookup, visitor recordings, and more. One feature we find especially useful is the heat map overlay of each page of a website, which reveals visitors’ engagement on that page (such as mouse movements, clicks, how far down the page visitors viewed, etc.). This provides valuable insight into how placement of certain information affects its visibility.

Practical application: Lucky Orange heat maps measure visitors’ scroll depth. For one client, these maps helped us realize that our web pages were too long, as the vast majority of our visitors were losing interest about 60% of the way down. During our website redesign, we were sure to reduce the content on each page to ensure we held visitors’ attention.

You could make a full time job of assessing all of the website information that’s available through your Google Analytics account, so we’ll just focus on one specific tool here. Beyond using Analytics to understand basic website information like the number of visitors, which pages received the most visits, and average visit duration, use the “Behavior Flow” feature to understand how people are navigating through your site. Wherever you see significant drop-offs, explore the reasons why that might be happening. Also, assess if you’re guiding visitors to the right pages at the right time through your use of internal links, calls to action, and menu navigation.

Practical application: During a website redesign project for a client, we found through “Behavior Flow” that visitors were going from the home page right to our “Get Started” button in our header navigation. We found this strange, since the “Get Started” button was intended to be where people would click to start the process of becoming a client after exploring the site and learning more about the company’s expertise. What the Behavior Flow told us, however, is that visitors understood the button to mean, “here’s where you should go to get started learning about the company.” That certainly explained the high abandonment rate for the form on that landing page! We changed the name of the button to simply be, “Contact.”

Once you’ve looked at your website’s data, you’ll also want to incorporate your knowledge of the customer’s decision-making journey by considering what a visitor needs to know in order to move to the next level of engagement. Ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Does the reader need to self-educate before he or she can understand the value of your product or service? If so, consider using “Learn More” buttons throughout your webpages to provide additional information, or add an introductory video right on your home page.
  2. Are logos or client testimonials from reputable brands essential to building credibility? Use a sliding brand banner on the homepage, or create a “Client Portfolio” right on your menu navigation.
  3. Are there any dead-end pages on the website that leave your visitors unsure of where to go next? Make sure there are internal links within your web copy, and make sure each page provides an opportunity for visitors to keep exploring additional pages or take action.

Of course, there’s much more that goes into a website redesign, and you can read about some of these aspects on my colleague’s blog post, here. Whatever your product, service, or mission, take the time before a website redesign to understand how visitors are engaging with your site so you can build an experience that generates results.