Thought Leadership vs. Content Marketing: Which Strategy Is Best?

Robbie Richards
November 30, 2023
Thought Leadership vs Content Marketing Which Strategy Is Best?

Content marketing and thought leadership both have value in a digital marketing strategy, though they have different outcomes and goals. Understanding the critical differences between content marketing and thought leadership helps you craft better strategies and make more effective marketing plans.


What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a broad term used to describe content production for marketing purposes. It includes written text, like blog posts and long-form articles, along with social media posts, graphics, videos, images, emails, and ads.

Content marketing intends to help drive lead generation and increase brand visibility through subscriptions or followers. It is a strategic marketing approach that specifies key audiences relevant to your brand.


What Is Thought Leadership?

Thought leadership, on the other hand, is a specific type of content marketing that promotes your business as a source of authority in your industry. Thought leadership informs and educates readers, so they rely on your business as a go-to reference for their questions.

When thought leadership is done correctly, it helps to guide customers towards your brand and inspires your readers to take a conversion action, like making a purchase or visiting a store location. Thought leadership comes in many forms, but the purpose is to showcase new insights, make compelling arguments, or educate readers on niche subjects.


Thought Leadership vs. Content Marketing: Key Differences

Now let’s look at some of the ways thought leadership and content marketing differ.

Content marketing drives conversions, while thought leadership drives relationships

Businesses use content marketing to fill their sales funnel, connect with people at each stage of the buyer’s journey, and drive conversions. For example, a SaaS company might create a content marketing strategy that includes:

  • Top-of-funnel (TOFU) content, like keyword-rich blog posts that attract organic traffic.
  • Middle-of-funnel (MOFU) content, like “listicles” that compare the company’s product to competitor products.
  • Bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) content, like case studies that illustrate how a company’s product solved a problem for a customer.

Thought leadership develops relationships with audiences that have already been identified through content marketing. For example, if your site analytics show that many people reading your blog posts work for Series B startups, you could write a thought leadership post about how to optimize a new website for search engines.

Content marketing uses existing research, while thought leadership offers original ideas

Most content marketing assets will use existing industry or common-knowledge research to support claims and back up ideas. Sourcing other businesses or building off of the ideas of others helps businesses produce content quickly and deliver honest, verifiable statements.

Thought leadership heavily relies on independent research done by your brand or a member of your team. By generating your own facts and research, you can establish credibility and create original ideas and talking points without relying on the work of others.

Content marketing is about quantity, while thought leadership is about quality

Content marketing is about producing at scale to meet customer expectations on multiple platforms and channels. That might mean using templates for quick content creation or repurposing the same content in different formats.

Thought leadership still needs to produce enough content to be noticeable to audiences, but the focus is content quality. That quality builds trust with audiences and establishes brands as authorities in their industry.


Using Thought Leadership and Content Marketing Together

Content marketing and thought leadership work together to raise awareness, drive sales, and build your brand reputation. So it makes sense to incorporate both in your marketing strategy.

At Virayo, we help B2B SaaS companies improve their strategies and drive conversions. To learn more, schedule a strategy session with us.

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