Among the research reports, case studies, and other content buyers use to make decisions, thought leadership continues to be an important tactic for building trust with prospects — both within the government and the private sector. How do the industry leaders stand out? During the Federal Content Marketing Review panel discussion, Dante Ricci, Global Public Services Marketing & Communications lead at SAP, said it is important to focus on quality over quantity of content. We recently sat down with Dante to expand on that comment and talk about how he approaches thought leadership.
MC: You said it’s important to focus on quality over quantity of content. In your opinion, what are the components of high-quality thought leadership content?
Dante: I think there are three factors that make content high quality.
First, it has to be a bit provocative. It needs to show that you and your organization think there may be a different or better approach to accomplish the outcome the reader is looking for. That theme should resonate with the hearts and minds of those readers and be different than what others in the market are saying about the subject. Being provocative doesn’t mean being risky; it just means your company may have an approach that is better than the status quo.
You also need to have a clear, concise message. People are using mobile devices and they’re not going to read 15-page pieces on small devices. Rather, they need content that is shorter and more immediately impactful.
Finally, you have to make it credible. We use relevant statistics or facts backing up our statements or clear examples from customers who have followed that same approach or used the technological approach we talked about enabled by our partners and SAP.
MC: We have found people need to engage with different types of content. What is your favorite mix?
Dante: When we build thought leadership, we align the topics we want to cover with the other teams within SAP and with relevant partners, then we build a package around each topic. For example, we may start with a research-based white paper. Then we use that as the basis for building out different content types, like an infographic and blogs linking to the white paper. One piece of thought leadership may go out in four or five different channels and structures.
MC: Do you do any video for thought leadership?
Dante: We love video, but focus them mostly around how customers are using technology. I think those types of videos are the most impactful way to show people how their colleagues are using technology to improve.
MC: That makes sense. Back to the thought leadership, what is your approach to developing a content strategy?
Dante: I align to the corporate strategy and go-to-market strategy for the specific industry and topic area. The content strategy should be focused on building content aligning both the corporate strategy and our customers’ issues that we can help solve by delivering relevant innovative solutions addressing their business needs. We ask ourselves many questions before we choose a topic, such as: What capabilities do we have in our solution offerings that can help our customers achieve their mission? What insights can we convey that will help them achieve their mission? What are areas where we co-innovate with our customers leveraging design-thinking methodology?
I also suggest creating some type of scorecard — building a content strategy, but not executing on it and being accountable for it is not very helpful. Our scorecard includes the impact on market awareness measured by SAP Share of Voice, where we are, what the status is, next steps, and expected due dates for content. You need to constantly assess, realign, and stay accountable for your strategy based on analyst, customer, and partner feedback.
MC: Once you have this content plan, how do you drive the audience to those pieces? What kind of strategies are you using to make sure that they get seen?
Dante: This is an interesting question because I think there are a lot of different ways you could do this. Our aim at SAP is to build the highest quality and impactful content. High quality trumps quantity in my experience. We embed the content into social media — all the relevant digital channels. We send content to industry influencers and customers, and engage with them at their preferred communities.
The point is, you can’t just develop a quality piece of content and assume people will find it. You have to actively push it out.
MC: Finally, just out of curiosity, who are some of the thought leaders you follow?
Dante: I follow people who lead with purpose, whether that is helping others or helping the world become a better place. The SAP company purpose is closely aligned with my personal interests.
I follow my best friend, Sean Burch. He’s got eight world records for climbing mountains and doing all kinds of expeditions. His purpose in the world is not only to climb mountains and do interesting expeditions, but he likes to tie those together with purpose. For example, when he goes to a place like Nepal, he will collect donations and make deliveries while he’s there, and spend time helping others and volunteering. I think that’s neat.
I like Dan Rockwell because he really helps me think as a manager, as a person at a workplace, how to improve things. Lolly Daskal is motivational in terms of thinking about helping the world become a better place.
I also follow the World Economic Forum. They use fact-based graphs and charts that are easy to read and help clarify my thoughts around our global issues. And I recently started following Richard Branson — he is definitely someone who leads with purpose.
There you go, some good reading to follow up on! Thank you Dante for taking the time to speak with us.