How do you make your fintech thought-leadership article stand out in a sea of sameness?
In my view, there are 5 non-negotiables if you want to produce work your readers will find valuable and which will actually position you as an authority, instead of adding to the noise.
1. Get off the fence
Let's get this out of the way.
A thought leadership article isn't one of those school essays where you superficially discuss both sides of an issue and present a balanced view. It's deliberately and intentionally biased.
That's the point.
You're not trying to give your audience an overview of the topic or challenge you're writing about (though there might be scope for that either as part of your article or in a separate piece).
The goal is to present yourself as somebody who has thought things through and formed a considered opinion. So you need to say what you really think.
'Considered' is the key word here.
You need to really believe what you're arguing for and back this up with facts.
Taking a contrarian view or, worse, spouting a hot take — a deliberately controversial opinion that might not even have a factual basis — just for the clicks and likes will backfire as surely as compliance will have something to say about the wording of your latest campaign.
Your audience will sense you're insincere.
More to the point, when somebody inevitably points out the fallacies in your argument, you're going to have a hard time defending it. And poof goes your authority.
2. Know your audience
I once came across a quote — and I paraphrase a bit here — that said: 'Most B2B marketing is marketers telling other marketers stuff they already know.'
I see this all the time. Thought leadership articles where most of the space has been wasted explaining the basics instead of getting to the point, i.e. What do you bloody think? Why? And how is this relevant to the audience?
Of course, you can't argue a point in a vacuum. So, in most cases, your thought leadership article has to give some background to put things in context. The tricky bit is deciding how much context is enough, and that's where knowing your audience becomes critical.
Say you bump into your sibling while out shopping for your other sibling's birthday.
You'd probably say something like 'Hey, what are you getting Alfie?'
And your sibling might reply: 'Not sure yet, but I asked Marcel for some ideas so I'm not stressing too much about it.'
As an outsider, I've no idea who Alfie or Marcel are or when Alfie's birthday is.
But that's fine, because I'm not the target audience. You and your sibling are. And you know this stuff, so there's no need to explain it before you can get on with your conversation.
Similarly, you need to determine what level of implied knowledge your audience has.
If you're writing for an audience of developers, for instance, you definitely don't need to explain the finer details of how APIs work, unless it's a very niche bit of knowledge.
The C-suite, on the other hand, might know what an API is but not have an understanding of how it works (or they might have a number of misconceptions). So some level of explanation might be appropriate.
It all boils down to understanding who you're writing for.
Do they really need this bit of background, or can you safely assume they're already familiar?
3. Get specific
A lot of thought leadership is very abstract, theoretical, and — dare I say it? Yes, actually I do. Fluffy.
In my view, this is a huge missed opportunity, because the format lends itself really well to storytelling, especially when the story you pick is a good metaphor for what you're trying to say.
Imagine you're writing a piece that argues a certain payment technology isn't going mainstream because it requires too little human involvement, which makes people nervous.
You could use the story of Betty Crocker food cake mix as an analogy.
The story goes that, when Betty Crocker originally launched the product, consumers just had to add water and pop it in the oven, and they'd have a delicious cake in no time.
But the product tanked because many consumers felt they were 'cheating'. So Betty Crocker added the requirement to beat an egg to the recipe, and the extra effort took the product from flop to unreserved success.
Stories like this, as well as metaphors, analogies, and, if appropriate, a dash of humour, seem like bells and whistles. But they make things more relatable, easier to understand, and more memorable.
Yes, people read thought leadership to learn and get the information they need. But doesn't mean you have permission to bore them to death with it.
If anything, given how so many brands take their content and themselves too seriously, these elements will help you stand out.
Plus, why shouldn't you have some fun with your content?
4. Subject-matter experts > Google
The worst thing you can do when you're writing thought leadership is rehashing what's on Google.
That's a one-way ticket to uninspiring and unoriginal content: the complete opposite of what good thought leadership should be.
The best thought leadership is driven by subject-matter experts.
What have your people learned from their experiences in sales, marketing, product, or other fields that are relevant to the topic you want to write about?
And how have these experiences shaped their opinions?
The true value of thought leadership lies in how your subject-matter experts answer these questions.
5. Don't forget the basics
I shouldn't have to say this, but I'm continually amazed — and I don't mean this in a good way — at how many thought leadership articles don't follow basic readability guidelines.
Just because your audience is other businesses, it doesn't mean you should produce huge walls of text without any subheadings, and liberally use overly formal words like 'hence', 'thus', and 'whomsoever' (though I personally think we should bring back 'hitertho').
Difficult language is often a sign of woolly thinking. If you can't explain something in simple terms, chances are you're either unclear about it yourself, or you don't feel confident enough in your understanding.
Studies also show everyone prefers stuff that's easy to read — even technical people.
Your audience may all have Phds, but that doesn't mean they'll be happy to wade through your huge, one-paragraph article or pop every second word in the thesaurus.
If anything, the easier your work is to read, the more accessible it will be. And that means you'll get in front of a larger audience.
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