Gathering 'Sage' Advisors to Promote The Brand
Partnering with an industry thought leader is a dynamite way to promote a brand, and it can be a real win-win for both sides. But the thought leader has a “brand” too, and each side has to maintain their integrity. If the thought leader comes off as a shill, then win-win can quickly become lose-lose (witness the commercials Willie Nelson did for Taco Bell).
When the partnership goes right, a thought leader can make a huge difference in a content marketing campaign—lending credibility, creating (or curating) content and influencing the campaign’s direction from behind the scenes.
Here’s an example of a match made in heaven: Sage North America, which produces financial management software for the construction industry, and Leslie Shiner, who’s a financial management consultant focused on construction firms. Sage marketing VP Liz McClellan first met Shiner at a trade show where Shiner was speaking and promoting her books. Later, she invited Shiner to an expert panel of accountants to discuss whether Sage’s collateral was well-positioned for the industry. (The rest of the panel, incidentally, was recruited through Sage’s Twitter account for the construction industry.)
Shiner’s comments were lacerating—and McClellan ate them up. “She was vocal in a good way, calling us out without trying to be politically correct or trying to be rude…we ended up hiring her to work with us on a variety of things.” Among them:
• Shiner wrote three bylined white papers available on Sage's white paper site.
• She edited Sage collateral, including a spec sheet, to ensure it was better-tailored to contractors’ needs.
• She was featured in two webinars (on business issues in contracting) that were promoted by construction industry trade journals. In the webinar, Shiner used Sage Peachtree software to demonstrate best practices in financial management.
Shiner, McClellan says, provided an “honesty check that we were speaking in an authentic voice for this audience, and that we were delivering quality content to them.” McClellan gained from Shiner’s expertise, and was able to get it more quickly—and more cheaply—than if she had to hire an employee or an agency.
And what was in it for Shiner? Well, she was paid. The work also gave her exposure to Sage’s customer base (for the white paper) and to trade magazine audiences (for the webinar). That could boost her book sales or lead to consulting engagements, which is Shiner’s bread-and-butter.
But Sage lured Shiner not by pointing out her prospects for gain, but by appealing to her desire to educate. “They came to me and asked, How can we work together to educate our clients and potential clients?” Shiner says. “They didn’t ask me to write an advertorial. They didn’t ask, how can we write something that will advertise our product. If there’s a way to educate clients or potential clients and at the same time promote Sage, I’m happy to do that, because I like Sage as a product—if it was a bad product, I wouldn’t do it. We had an alignment of goals.”
McClellan says she’ll likely turn to Shiner again, calling her “a trusted advisor to our business.” The trust is mutual. Like the trust between brands and customers, the trust between brands and thought leaders is one that builds up over time.
Story Photo Credit: Used with permission from Steve Z Photography
Richard Sine writes about business, personal finance and health for magazines and content marketers. He writes regularly for Men’s Health magazine and for brands such as Fidelity Investments, UPS and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.