Using Thought Leadership to Boost Client Results


– Hi folks, my name is Kevin Dunn and welcome to Agency Unfiltered, a biweekly web series and podcast that interviews agency owners around agency operations,
growth and scale. Nobody knows how to scale agencies better than those that are already doing it and they’re happy to
sure an unfiltered look into what has worked and what hasn’t. In this episode, we have
the CEO of Inbound FinTech, a London based financial services in fintech marketing agency. Sheila discusses the role
of thought leadership in client engagements. Specifically, how she helps
improve the credibility and value of client’s
content and content offers through multi-participant, thought leadership
driven, content curation. Low quality white papers
are a thing of the past with Agency Unfiltered. (upbeat rock music) ♪ Hey, hey, hey ♪ Well, Sheila, thank you so
much for joining us, today, on Agency Unfiltered.
– Thank you for having me. – Yeah, very excited, I
think this topic, or subject, is gonna resinate a ton with the viewers. Now, what we’re here to talk about is this idea of thought leadership and how it can be a powerful aspect to your go-to-market strategy
or marketing strategies. So maybe the best place to start, why don’t you just teach
us what your definition of thought leadership is and why you’ve decided to
invest so many resources into making it happen? – Okay yeah, great, so we predominantly
work with B2B companies. So thought leadership is, how do I describe thought leadership? So it’s really getting
a piece of collateral, it could be sales collateral,
it can be a content offer, which is really valuable and
insightful to the prospects. So, so many companies come to us and say, “Yeah, we’ve got a bunch
of thought leadership, “we’ve got huge amount of content.” But content, often a typical
company or a typical subject, there is so much content
out there about it. So we try and make it very different and thought leadership is
offering a piece of insight, not selling. It’s a really piece of
credible thought leadership, insights and valuable content
to address the pain points or a hot subject about a subject matter. And we often use experts in
the field to participate, onto a multi-participant
paper, for example, to give their opinions about that. To make it a really credible
piece of collateral. – That’s great, how do
you draw the line between, I don’t want to say regular content, but content that you know moderately well versus, “No this is the
quality of something “we’d consider thought leadership.” Does that make sense, how do you make that distinction?
– Yeah, totally makes sense. So we often come up with
a evergreen campaign and the evergreen campaign can be used for inbound, outbound, ABM, SEO, organic. So we come up with this idea and we look at the industry
and we look at what’s lacking. So really you have to
look at what’s out there, about the subject matter, and what are the
objectives of the campaign. So we come and we say, “Okay, this really would benefit “from a piece of multi-participant entries “onto a piece of paper
or onto a white paper “that will then be really insightful.” It’s a different approach
to a white paper, a white paper on a subject
matter from one source. Often a piece of thought
leadership is from multiple sources or links to credible sources. So it has that differentiation
against a piece of content. – So it sounds like the important piece is that multiple perspective element to whether it’s citing
– Absolutely. – or linking to other sources. Or just having multiple contributors to the actual piece of content. – Absolutely, it not only turbo-boosts the power of the thought leadership, it becomes an evergreen campaign, it has aspects of SEO. Often our clients need to
raise their credibility and brand authority. So it really elevates them. Trust, we work in fintech, financial markets and capital markets, and it’s really a
relationship building thing for our companies with prospects because often the sales
cycle is very long. It can be a year or two year. So that nurturing, it worked
perfectly with inbound, because that nurturing
is massively important. So yeah, to have people like
credible thought leaders in that marketplace putting
an aspect of their perspective on a particular subject
matter onto a white paper is highly credible. – You mentioned there
you work with fintech, some financial companies, how important is aligning yourself tightly to a particular industry or vertical, does that play into thought leadership, do you need to have a target market before you can start
creating that content? – Yeah, massively important for us because the ecosystem is only so big, so everybody kinda knows
that the journalists, that the real well known bloggers, the thought leaders on banking,
on payments, and so on. So we have a relationship with them. So we can reach out to
one of the guys and say, “Hey, we’re doing this white paper on X.” We don’t pay them, “This is gonna be a really good
piece of thought leadership, “we’re gonna link back to your site, “our client X would really
like you to participate “and we just want your
opinions on the matter.” So we’re not selling the
products and services for our client, our client is endorsing
this piece of collateral, which comes from multiple
different companies. It might be a bank, it
could be a payment provider, it could be a compliance officer. So when you create this, and it takes six, eight weeks to create because you’ve put interviews into it, research, keyword research. When you have this really
heavy duty white paper with multi-participants into it, it’s just got this evergreen approach and it raises and elevates
the brand authority of the client and it gives
them the relationship with the ecosystem, with the industry. – So it sounds like by aligning
around that target market, that industry, that vertical, you get a better feel of the landscape of who the other perspectives are that you should be reaching out to. – Yeah absolutely, and
also, really importantly because we know the landscape really well, we know the sales cycles of our clients and we know what aspects where in the buyer’s
journey the persona is. So when you’re putting together a piece of thought leadership, you can’t go out there
with a decision based, “Buy, buy, buy,” because the
persona’s not ready for that. They’re collecting research and information about a subject matter and elevating our client by HubSpot, “Don’t sell, start helping.” And doing that it really
elevates the trust and it just adds another trust and credible factor for our client, which makes them download the white paper, which makes them go into
a nurturing workflow, or an MQL or an SQL and
so it all ties together and it works really well. – That’s a great point, so it’s not even just looping in the right people at the beginning, or the content creation process, but you know exactly where
in the buyer’s journey this content fits and what the sales cycle looks like.
– Massively important. So that’s massively important. So we normally have this
cluster of content offers and in the middle will be this
piece of thought leadership, it could be a case study, it’s often a
multi-participant white paper, it’s an event where we have a round table and we invite thought
leaders onto a round table, and could be a video. And surrounding that cluster content, that topic cluster will be various, we’ll do a pre-blog, a post-blog, a video, and so it has this supporting material that we’ll then use for inbound. – So it’s a very campaign focused initiative.
– Massively, evergreen campaign. – Going back to the
multi-participant white papers or thought leadership pieces, how do you build those relationships if you were just getting started? Or any tips for anybody that wants to start building those relationships? – Yeah, so for us, we hired people who
was in capital markets, had no marketing experience and they were journalists
who have those relationships and they act as a segue
into that ecosystem ’cause we’re only two years old. So that was really important that we hired people really
well know who really, not only understood the
right people to go to and introduce us to and
were a part of our company, but very importantly knew
what the pain points are of the personas and that’s
really the most important thing. That you are talking their language. If you don’t know about
equities, or faster payments, it’s so technical that
you have to resinate, you’ve a blink test, five
seconds for that prospect to see the image ad and then think, “Will I, or why don’t I download “this piece of thought leadership.” So those keywords, not
only for our quality score on LinkedIn or AdWords, but they really have to just
tick the box immediately with the persona and we know
the personality of the persona and we know what’s important
and we do a huge amount. So we look at it from
an inbound perspective, content from an inbound perspective. Persona workshop, keyword
research, industry research, buyer’s journey, full funnel and then that’s how we approach it. – That’s great, and so it sounds like to be able to pull all of those levers, you’re intentional with your hiring in that it sounds like
the folks that you bring onto the team are from the fintech or financial services industry
– They are. – and so that’s how they
build the relationships, can speak the language of the persona uncensored.
– Absolutely, I can go in there and talk about marketing
and sales, and HubSpot, and inbound and outbound,
and ABM, and SEO, and PPC, but these– – And HubSpot Academy. – And HubSpot Academy, 100%. But having people that
actually can go in there and talk about a trading floor, right? We have trading clients and the bi-side and the
south-side of financial services, you need experience, you
need to be one of them. It’s kinda like a closed member club. So we hire from the market and it’s served us really well and then thought leadership, it becomes a really valuable
piece of thought leadership. It really is not just a
white paper on a subject that you can find on Google, it really is quite a considered valuable, insightful piece of information. – That’s great, you said that they might take six to eight weeks, especially as you bring
in more participants in couple of different formats, so that’s a lot of time, right? And so a lot bandwidth,
– Effort. – a lot of resources go into this effort. So how once you hit go, or
publish, or start the campaign, how do you track the results, what’s the baseline to make sure that you’re getting a positive return on all this content work? – Yeah, great question because we have to align
expectations of the client. Because it’s a lot of money and effort that goes into these pieces of collateral. So what we tend to do is
we use a ABM approach, an account based marketing approach, on LinkedIn and on AdWords, more so, for us, on
LinkedIn works really well. And we come up with this
multi-participant paper or this campaign, usually a campaign, and we put it out there
and what happens is then we find out that the thought leadership really pulls in some fantastic leads and those leads are of high quality. So in our marketplace
it isn’t about volume and more so, for all agencies, it isn’t about volume of leads. We’re not a performance agency, we’re a sales and
marketing inbound agency. So it’s not about volume, our clients have a high considered value, so their deal value can be hundreds of thousands
of pounds, or dollars. So it’s about the quality of the lead, so when they download the white paper, or if we target specific accounts with specific information
on account based marketing, and they download it, it’s
then linked to HubSpot, and then we start to nurture or lead score and it will go to an SQL. So we always align content,
outbound content, inbound, MQL, SQL, opportunity, closed-win. Always, non-negotiable for us. – That’s great, you’ve mentioned ABM, account based marketing, how does that tend to
resinate with your prospects, if they’re still in the sales process or your customer or your clients, how do you speak to it in a way
that makes sure it resinates and they understand the value? ‘Cause it’s a shift from, to your point, of standard, maybe inbound strategy. So how do you sell them on that vision? – We are really keen on, I don’t wanna call it
paid media or outbound, but often inbound takes time, it takes time to get results and from our industry
these are legacy guys who haven’t touched a
website in dinosaur years and they’re like, “It doesn’t
matter about a website “because we go to events and we spend 20k “on a Financial Times ad
because we have to be in the FT. “And that’s what we’ve done for 20 years, “so that’s what we’re doing. “And we’ll go to Sibos
or we’ll go to an event “and we’ll spend 50k on an event.” But they’re not measuring the success. So for us, when we talk
about SEO and inbound, and for financial markets it’s about, they don’t want to be
seen to pay for an ad because they think that’s
cheating, they think it’s cheap, they think it’s not them. They’re a credible hedge fund or they’re a credible investor bank. They don’t pay for ads, they have an ego. So we say, “Okay, we’re gonna go down “the account based marketing route.” So we describe account based marketing and we’re gonna go down
account based marketing and we’re gonna nurture them because, “We know your sales cycle, “you’ve told us it can be
nine months to two years. “And we know your deal value “is hundreds of thousands of dollars “and we know you want Bank
of America as a client. “So we’re gonna target Bank of America “and this is how we’re gonna do it.” So we talk to them really in simple terms. They don’t want the detail. So we say, “It’s uber targeted, “uber target account based marketing, “so we will go after only the people “that you want us to go after. “There is minimum wastage, “only the people who we want
to see the ad will see the ads “and it’s not labeled ad. “It’s a credible piece of
thought leadership that you need, “you can use in your sales process, “we can have a brochure about it “and it will help online and offline.” And then they understand that. And then they see themselves
organically ranking for a piece of content
because it’s keyword rich, it has the right search volume, it’s resinates with the target market. And more importantly they
see it turning into leads and we give it to the sales team and then they can see
opportunities and closed-win. And then once it’s the light bulb moment, once that happens for them they’re like, “Oh, my God, this is amazing.” – “I get it, let’s do more.”
– “Can you roll it out “in Australia, can you roll it out in.” ‘Cause often our companies, our clients, they’re big enterprise clients, but they’re hugely cautious on
this whole, “Digital stuff,” they call it, “Ooh, what is this fluff?” So we have to prove it and we do that by ABM and
inbound and SEO mainly. – It sounds like the
thought leadership piece, that real foundational piece of contents, the backbone of it all helps
to sell the whole process and show that it works. – Yeah, it is, that’s why I wanted to talk to you about it today, because it’s not just for us, for fintech, it’s not just for for financial services. If you a piece thought leadership
in any sector or vertical it would have the same
value and it’s evergreen. I’ve got one client who we
put a campaign out there two years ago, right at the beginning, it was our first multi-participant
paper, and it has just, just keeps on going
– Just continues, yeah. – Yeah, it just, this thing
never dies, it’s just brilliant. – That’s like the dream,
that’s the ideal state. – Yeah, yeah, it’s like evergreen. – For the thought
leadership component, ABM, as you rolled it out
for any of your clients, I don’t know if you had
any particular stories, but was there one that just didn’t work? Or were there any pitfalls
that you encountered that if somebody else
wanted to start a new, they can learn from any of those problems?
– Yeah, my goodness. We’ve made some mistakes in the early days when we’re like, “Oh, this is so simple, “we’ll watch a video on it and off we go.” And it’s just like AdWords as well. You have to know your stuff. More importantly, what I
would say for the pitfalls of account based marketing, it’s two fold. First of all, it’s the creative, if you don’t so your homework and you don’t talk the right
language, or understand, for example, we use
different types of LinkedIn ABM and account based
marketing has evolved hugely over the last five years and LinkedIn is just way
ahead of everybody else because it’s affordable, it’s measurable, it integrates with HubSpot, it integrates with Google Search Console, it’s just brilliant. So you’ve got that whole
closed loop reporting. So a couple of pitfalls which
we had from the early days is we’re like, “Oh, okay we’ll do a lead
generation campaign.” So a lead generation campaign
is you use a piece of content, thought leadership, and
you put an ad on LinkedIn to download this white paper
and you link the white paper to HubSpot, to their portal and you turn it into an MQL, SQL and opportunity closed-win, etc. And we’re like, “We put
this creative out there.” Which we thought was just fabulous from our graphic
designer, “This is great.” And nobody downloaded the white paper. And we’re like, “The audience
is right, what’s going on?” So I’d say two things, the creative has to really
resinate with that target market, test it, test it with someone
from that target market, “Would you download this
based on this banner ad?” ‘Cause all they can see is a banner ad, at this point they can’t
see what’s in the paper. So the creative is vital and
it has to be not too fancy, just simple, brilliant call to
action that really resinates at the right part of the buyer’s journey. – It’s an art and a science to feel that, yeah.
– It is, and the other side of
it is know your audience because we often use
one of our journalists or our technical content writers
from the financial markets to check the audience for us
before we set live a campaign. And he’s like, “I wouldn’t
go with those job titles,” or, “Can we go skills based? “‘Cause I really think
it’s gonna look well.” Or, “Well, add in these keywords.” So setting it up is vital. If you make one error, you’re gonna waste a huge amount of money. Or the audience might be too big, or the audience might be too small. You can go too niche and you
won’t get the right volume. And the other thing we’ve learnt is once you have a campaign running, we’re like, “This is fantastic,
we can just sit back now.” And then on a particular vertical the audience tends to
exhaust quite quickly. So we now know the pitfalls
of not letting that CPL, that cost per lead, rise to
much before we change it out and keep changing out the creative, so the audience doesn’t exhaust. So when I say the audience exhaust, if you keep spamming the same people, your cost is gonna go up
and you’ll be de-scored, so you have to be really
on it and optimize it. – Yeah, so you can’t set
it and forget it, right? You cannot. – Yeah, and if you do
the audience incorrectly or you just guess it, you’re doing a spray and pray. And spray and pray you
are gonna waste a huge, it’s a big mistake.
– It’s impossible to make a relevant message to everybody.
– Correct. – But again, to your point, you don’t wanna go too
small, there’s a sweet spot. – Yes, there’s a sweet spot. And it’s not an exact science
and it comes with expertise. And we now know capital markets,
we know financial services, we know fintech and we
know now, six weeks in, we’ve got to refresh
it, let’s optimize it, let’s look at the quality of the lead. And that’s the other thing, on a lead generation
campaign, for example, what we often found is
on LinkedIn, on ABM, you’re targeting like
you might use your Gmail not your company name. So one of the things that we
did wrong at the beginning is we didn’t capture, on
that lead generation form, the company name. So we’re like, “Okay, we’ve
got [email protected]” – How are we supposed to anything about it?
– “Who the hell is he? “We can’t match him to a company.” So we’ve learnt the hard way. And similarly, on those forms, if you ask for too much information, you’re gonna get an
abandon rate on the form. – Yeah, too much friction, right? – Yeah, too much friction. Its like, “You’re gonna ask
so many questions, I’m done, “this isn’t worth it.” – So obviously, it sounds
like real multi-participant white papers, written
based content seems to be the meat and potatoes of this strategy. Is there anything that
you’re excited about, what could these pieces
of content look like in the next three, six, nine months? Or is there anything that you’re testing, a new experiment, what does the next step look like for you that you’re excited about? – Yeah, gosh, HubSpot are
releasing so much all the time and we take these content pieces, so one of our clients, for example, it was all based on this, it was the one we did two years ago, and we turned it into an event. So we used the multi-participant and we used lead generation
with the multi-participant paper to push them into inbound, MQL, SQL, appointment to an event, the event then turned into a video and the video of them we
used as a next content offer. Which was already based
on the white paper, on the multi-participant we did. So I think video is gonna play a big part, it’s already playing a
big part in our workflows and in our sequences. Personalized content as well, ABM, you can target that specific person and re-market to them by
video, podcasts as well. We’re doing a lot of podcasts as well.
– Oh really? – And just increasing and expanding the exposure of our
clients by elevating them as a thought leader in
the industry as well. – And it sounds like a key takeaway there is that you’ve taken that
multi-participant white paper and continued to repurpose the content in there.
– Yep, absolutely. – So by the tie a video comes out or a speaking engagement
or something like that, it’s not a lot of net new
content creation it’s easier to– – Yeah, but it’s net new leads. – Yeah, that’s great.
– Yeah, and it really works, so I’d
say try and really focus on, and one of the pitfalls
we had as an agency, it was like, when somebody
signs a retainer with you, it’s like, “We’re gonna
produce four blogs a quarter, “one white paper, one this, one that.” And you can get hung up on the volume. So we don’t so that anymore. We say to our client, “We’re
just gonna do this asset set “of content and lasts as long as it lasts. “And we’re repurpose it “and we’re gonna really put effort “into making this piece
of thought leadership. “Instead of just banging
out 800 word blogs “four times a week.” – So you pull the quantity out of the– – We pull the quantity, yeah, we do. – Is it project based,
is there a time frame in which you’re gonna
deliver that whole pack? – There has to be, so
what we tend to do is, because everybody is
on a time clock, right? They wanna see results. You’ve promised them this
magical inbound thing, but inbound takes time,
so what we often do is we start the setup, CRM setup, inbound, that takes a couple of
months to onboard them, talk to their sales team,
– Get their team familiar. – training, onboarding, CRM,
inbound, out and sales as well. We usually tend to sell
an outbound and inbound and sales with SEO. So we try and get the full funnel. But they want results,
so what we often say, “Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do, “we’re gonna kickstart an ABM campaign. “It’s gonna bypass their
really crap legacy website, “we’ll have a campaign
landing page on HubSpot, “we’ll just create that out of the box. “And we’ll have a lead generation campaign “which will download the leads “and go straight into HubSpot.” So it just bypasses and negates the use for their really poor website. And then we work on the CRM, we work on everything in the background. So by the time we’ve finished
a setup, they have leads. Because at the end of
the day, we always say, “We’re not a performance agency.” But everybody needs to measure ROI and everybody wants quality leads, period. – So it’s an acceleration
to drive some results, while obviously, for every engagement, the first few months are always tech setup and some of those foundational, systematic, backend type stuff. So you partner it with, or you pair it. Yeah, that’s great.
– We do, we pair it with an ABM campaign
– That’s great. – and get it out the
door as soon as possible. – Final question for you. Ask this to every guest, definitely didn’t
prepare you for this one. What would you say is the
strangest part of agency life? – Oh, wow, okay. Agency life or working with clients? – Either, that fits into agency life, I’d say.
– Okay. Yeah, I guess in our industry it’s working with some
really legacy clients who don’t understand the terminology. And they just don’t get it. They’re often 60 year
old CEOs in a white tower who have a budget to
pay for events or media, as they call it, an ad in the FT. And strangest thing for us
is, because I hire tech savvy, straight out of university, go getters, and they come bouncing into
these events and these rooms, and they’re full of the
jargon, they’ve got ideas, and ideas, and these ideas are fantastic, and then when you just see these blank faces on
our client’s faces like, (whooshing) “What the, I have no idea
what you’re talking about.” So, and I’m guilty of just
dropping all the jargon, ABM, SEO, PPC and people are like, “Sorry, can you rewind?”
– “Let’s slow down here.” Yeah, yeah right. – So it’s funny when people
come in to our office and we’re sitting around a table and we’re chewing the fat with all of us and we’re just talking jargon and we’ve got short terminology
for absolutely everything. And people will come in and go, “Wow, it’s like listening to
a foreign language, you guys. “I have no idea what
you’re talking about.” Or my husband who often says to me when I’m on the phone, “Sorry, you just spoke
acronyms for 10 minutes there.” – “You just said letters,” right? – “It makes absolutely
no sense whatsoever.” I’m like, “No, no, they get it. “We just talk in short
hand the whole time.” So that’s quite funny we’ve
got our own little language. – Yeah, honestly it’s true, but I think for your
team and your audience it’s education, right? You just gotta get ’em up to speed which is a whole unique set of challenges. But that’s it, that’s all I have for ya. I really appreciate you coming on. – Thank you very much, thank you.
– But this has been an episode of Agency Unfiltered. – Thank you, thanks for having me. – Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Agency Unfiltered. If you like what you saw heard or read, make sure to subscribe to
our playlist on YouTube, our podcast Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or our newsletter on agencyunfitered.com. Alongside episode launch notifications, the newsletter also comes
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content from yours truly. And if you wanna keep
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to this episode’s discussion, tweet me at @kevin_dunn. I’ll see you again in two
weeks, but in the meantime, keep it unfiltered and let’s all grow. (upbeat rock music)

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