How to Leverage Thought Leadership to Ignite Your Sales Team

5 Steps to Build Credibility and Trust with Prospects and Clients

There are many ways to develop new business relationships in the staffing industry. Cold calls and emails are a staple, of course. In addition to those outreach efforts, marketing can produce inbound leads for your sales team, if it’s done well. And thought leadership can be one of the most effective components of a marketing strategy.

“Thought leadership is the creation of authentic, genuine content based on experience, skills, and subject matter expertise to educate and provide value to your desired audience.”

Brian Jameson, co-founder and partner of echogravity, describes thought leadership as putting yourself out there in order to increase the visibility of your brand, and differentiating yourself from your competitors. Doing so can produce real benefits to your sales efforts: attracting, motivating, and influencing potential buyers. According to a LinkedIn/Edelman survey, 47% of buyers engage with three to five pieces of content before talking to a salesperson. Furthermore, 65% of buyers said that thought leadership significantly changed their perception of a company for the better.


The term thought leadership is one that some find intimidating. You might question whether your opinions and perspectives will be of interest to clients, or whether your following is large enough. The good news, according to Jameson, is that you don’t need to be an established ‘influencer’ to be successful with thought leadership. Ultimately, it’s about telling stories.

“With your experience, there are specific problems that you can address, and everybody’s got stories to tell,” Jameson says. “Maybe in the form of a case study, or maybe it’s a blog post. Either way, telling stories is a very effective way to engage people.”

In a recent webinar presented to TechServe Alliance members, Jameson was joined by Pete Newsome, founder and president of 4 Corner Resources and Zengig, and Tim Glennie, co-founder and managing partner of BridgeView. They shared Jameson’s five-step plan for leveraging the power of thought leadership, and anecdotes about how each had put the strategy into practice.

1: Develop a thought leadership plan

Every successful execution starts with the right plan. In this case, the plan begins with your expertise developed through your experience in staffing, and your interest in sharing those valuable insights with your audience.

The four foundational elements of a solid plan, Jameson says, are as follows:

  • Have a willingness and desire to be transparent about issues facing your current and prospective clients
  • Have an opinion to share
  • Have expertise and passion about your subject
  • Have research to support your positions

“Do you have expertise? Do you have research? If you’ve been in this industry for any period of time and have survived and succeeded, you unequivocally do. The question is, are you able and willing to share that at scale?”

– Pete Newsome

“I think in general; our industry is a little bit behind on marketing compared to other industries. I think it’s because we’re in a relationship business, and it is based on your reputation and being a thought leader and being somebody or a firm that is highly respected.”

– Tim Glennie

2: Tailor content to your target audience

To resonate, and to create the results you want, your content needs to speak directly to the people in the audience you’re targeting. They should be able to relate to your content because it shows that you understand their challenges, and it offers them insights and information that is valuable to them.

  • Identify customer segments (buyer personas)
  • Identify current issues (pain points) that are important to the customers
  • Determine the type of content they’re most likely to consume (videos, blogs, podcasts, etc.)
  • Identify where they’re ‘hanging out,’ to determine your marketing channels

“For our business, there’s typically two buyer personas. There’s executive level – CIO, CTO, VP type persona – and then there’s more of a line manager. Understanding the buyer personas and really mapping those out is the first key. Second is building out an empathy map for these buyers. The buyer persona is the person you’re selling to. The empathy map is what that person cares about.”

– Tim Glennie

“It can be overwhelming when you look at all the different channels available from email and LinkedIn, to YouTube and TikTok, to Reddit and Quora and other sites. These things take a significant investment of time. Know what your goal is, start with that goal in mind. Stay narrow in your approach until you get your feet underneath you.”

– Pete Newsome

3: Align content with your sales funnel

Your content should be tailored to align with the customer journey. You might choose to focus on the very top of the funnel – attracting new buyers. Or it might be more effective to target buyers at the bottom of the funnel when they’re ready to buy.

To be effective, your content may be targeted to buyers at one or more stages of the sales funnel:

  • Attract
  • Convert
  • Engage
  • Sell
  • Connect

“We have feet on the street all day, every day. We’re hearing candidate challenges, candidate desires, candidate objectives. And we’re hearing the same from the buyers, from companies who have a difficult time hiring, or are frustrated for one reason or another. We live it every day. There’s nobody in a better position to be an authority when it comes to staffing, hiring, and recruiting than people in our industry.”

– Pete Newsome

“Since we’re talking about funnels, there’s one critical consideration. You can create any number of inbound leads, high quality leads, but unless you have a process in place to track the leads, it won’t matter. Leads are like fresh fruit; if they don’t get acted on immediately, they go bad. All these efforts are for naught, if you don’t have a good process to manage inbound leads.”

– Tim Glennie

4: Empower your sales team

Creating and publishing engaging thought leadership content is an effective marketing tactic. But if your salespeople aren’t using that content in their outreach efforts with new and existing clients, they could be leaving money on the table.

To “close the loop,” and ensure that the content is producing the results you want:

  • Train and educate your sales team on thought leadership concepts, and how to leverage them.
  • Train and educate your team regularly on the content assets that are available for their use.
  • Help your team understand how to align the content with their sales approach: identifying customer pain points, overcoming objections, and articulating value propositions.
  • Encourage outreach, collaboration, and social sharing across your team.

“It’s funny to me how frequently prospects and existing clients still ask for a brochure today. But our sales team has genuinely embraced the ability to just point them to our website. It’s a great tool for sales because we know customers need help. Like the job description templates we have online, or the salary data. It’s all online, it’s easy to manage. And it’s a lot less expensive than having to produce hard copies.”

– Pete Newsome

“With all the email scanners, attachments can get killed. For our sales team, having embedded email links pointing to a really rich website works very well. They could have a paragraph they’re writing to the client and there could be four different links: click here for our case studies, click here for our process, click here for whatever it may be.”

– Tim Glennie

5: Measure results

Deploying thought leadership content as part of a digital marketing strategy means that you can measure the results it produces. Over time, this allows you to tweak your approach to generate even better results. What to measure will vary, depending on the platform:

  • Website
    • Website traffic
    • Page views
    • Time on page
    • Backlinks
  • Social media
    • Follower growth
    • Engagement rate
    • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Lead generation and conversion
    • Emails sent, opened, clicks
    • Content downloads
    • Qualified leads
    • Conversions
    • Revenue attributed

“With digital marketing, it’s so easy to measure because a link is captured. Most of us have cookies on our website to track traffic, to see the behavior of people on the website. When it boils down to it, you’ve done all the work. So, is it working? What kind of awareness metrics and engagement are you getting from impressions? How are you ranking on some of your search terms? How much time are people spending on various pages? That can tell you a lot about what content is resonating and which isn’t.”

– Brian Jameson

“On the recruiting side, it’s super easy to track ROI. We can see how many submittals are coming from a LinkedIn posting or LinkedIn search or internal database. When you’re marketing to clients, the ROI isn’t as linear as it is on the recruiting side. You’re building brand awareness. Good content helps clients remember you when they like what you share. And when your salespeople call, they’re more likely to pick up the phone, or return the call. That’s extremely difficult to track, but that is brand awareness.”

– Tim Glennie

“It’s much easier to attract candidates than it is to attract prospects. That wasn’t our objective going in. And early on, the same keywords that we were using to attract prospective buyers were attracting candidates. It was frustrating, until I realized that we were getting so many applications through our online job posts or on the job postings on our website, we were able to eliminate any expense we had with LinkedIn for paid job postings.”

– Pete Newsome

Is thought leadership the right marketing strategy for you?

The information here was covered in the webinar hosted by TechServe Alliance and featuring Brian Jameson, Tim Glennie, and Pete Newsome. The guests covered much more than is possible to outline here, and the presentation was recorded. We encourage you to watch the whole video, which is available here.

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