As an ETF issuer, service provider, or financial services company, becoming a thought leader is one of the most rewarding and difficult paths you and your company can take as you seek to broaden brand awareness and get your products in front of investors. Before we dive into how you can position yourself as a thought leader in the ETF space, it’s worth taking a look at what the term actually means. What is a thought leader? A thought leader is an entity, usually one person, whose views on a given topic are understood by a target audience to be authoritative and influential. If you’re starting from zero, with little experience putting yourself or your firm out there as authorities on a given topic, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and set out a plan of attack.
If you want to be known as authoritative on a given topic, it’s critically important that you ask yourself what your core competencies really are, and how they’re relevant to the products and/or services you’re selling. Naturally, different products in the ETF sphere lend themselves to different competencies—everyone’s answer will be different, depending on what the focus is of their products.
You also need to ask yourself: what sorts of ETF news and content is your target audience—those who may be interested in your products—already consuming? Is there a particular kind of headline or topic that grabs their attention? Is there a specific website or news organization that specializes in your core competency? The important thing to keep in mind here is that you don’t want to try to position yourself as a thought leader—an authoritative expert—on a topic that you don’t know much about, unless you’re prepared to do a lot of research to bring yourself up to speed. In other words, if your company sells a “widget ETF,” then it stands to reason that you or someone on your team should be an expert on widgets.
So you’ve identified your core competencies, and have a good idea of what catches your target audience’s attention and where your target audience gets their information. Now what? There are a couple of different options. One great option to bolster your visibility in the space (and boost your SEO in the process) is to start producing content and distribute it through your company website. This content could be educational in nature, like a series of whitepapers, infographics, or animated videos.
Another great option is to start a blog devoted to producing content relevant to your thought leadership. Before you set about getting your blog set up on the company website, you need to be sure you’re devoting adequate resources to this initiative. We’ve all come across blogs that get updated once or twice a month, or in sporadic bursts. If you want visitors returning again and again to your blog, you’ll need to be consistent. That means blogs at least once a week. They don’t all have to be 1000-word magnum opuses, but they do need to be relevant and consistent.
As a thought leader, you’ll also want to get in the news, preferably in the news outlets your target audience is already reading, listening to, or watching. Getting mentioned or quoted in the news can be a lengthy, additive process, typically accomplished through a concerted, targeted PR campaign, but with patience and perseverance, it can yield big results. The nuances of a successful PR campaign are beyond the scope of this article (although we’ve written about it previously), but suffice it to say that reporters are not going to quote you just because you ask nicely: it’s you and your PR firm’s job to make you as useful as possible to a reporter. If you make their job easier, they just might return the favor. But after all that hard work, when you’re quoted in a major, authoritative news site or appear on a well-known TV show, guess who else looks authoritative? You! Repeated appearances in the media only serve to reinforce this impression.
Producing content, blogs, and revving up a PR campaign all work in concert with one another to accomplish the goal of establishing you as a thought leader. They do this by making your thoughts and opinions seemingly omnipresent to your target audience: your content and blogs are not only appearing regularly on your website, but you’re taking advantage of all available distribution channels, including social media, to drive traffic to your posts. Your target audience opens up their news site of choice… and there you are again!
By harnessing this multi-pronged approach to marketing, we’re confident you and your firm will be well on its way to establishing you as a thought leader—a key step in driving more attention to your company’s products and services.