Thought Leadership Content Marketing

Episode 984: Thought Leadership Content Marketing, with Tim Sprinkle

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Thought leadership content marketing—Unlock the secrets of profitable niching and streamlined operations in the realm of thought leadership content marketing

Thought leadership content marketing is an effective strategy that Tim uses to reach his target audience. Learn what it is and listen to the insights of our guest speaker for today’s podcast episode.

Maintaining a tight focus on a specific niche, rather than limiting your opportunities as you might expect, actually has the opposite effect — often opening new doors to opportunity by allowing you to demonstrate your expertise within your chosen niche. 

Tim Sprinkle knows this lesson well — he is the founder and Chief Strategist of Layup Content, a thought leadership and content marketing agency that specifically focuses on the financial services and fintech industries. Tim has leveraged his expertise and experience into a powerful platform for creating thought leadership content marketing for his specific audience. The effect on his business has been profound. 

In this episode of Onward Nation, Tim shares how creating the right thought leadership content for the financial services and fintech niches has helped him reach his ideal clients and build out his business.


What you’ll learn in this episode is about thought leadership content marketing

  • How Tim’s career started as a successful journalist before breaking into thought leadership content marketing
  • How Tim defines low-quality content, and why good content feels specific, narrowly focused, and personal to the target audience
  • Why Tim and the team at Layup Content decided to only focus on the financial services and fintech industries
  • How niching down and keeping a tight focus has helped Tim build his business and reach his ideal clients
  • Why Tim believes his focus on the financial services and fintech niches has made it easier to get referrals from existing clients based on his depth of expertise
  • How Tim started in thought leadership content with a book, and how the book led to other projects and opportunities
  • Why it is important for your content to stay on voice and reflect who you are and what you truly believe
  • How Tim coaches his clients to understand what unique voice they have to share, and what key skills business owners need to master to become great thought leaders
  • What critical lesson Tim learned from a past mentor that made a lasting impression that still resonates in Tim’s business today
  • Why Tim believes creative work comes down to having a plan and knowing where you want to go, and then executing on your plan


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Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Full Episode Transcript


Get ready to find your recipe for success from America’s top business owners here at Onward Nation with your host, Stephen Woessner. 


Good morning. I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI and your host for Onward Nation. Before I introduce our very special guests today, I want to take and share a few data points with you regarding the trust and the position of influence that you create when you plant your flag of Authority with intentionality because you were able to come to your audience with content, with the intent of being helpful to them. Onward Nation, and you did that. Not so you can build a business. I mean, maybe that secondarily, or maybe that’s even third or fourth, but you did that so they could become more successful. 


The content you create needs to be about them and for them, it’s not about you. So, okay. Recently, my research partner, Susan Baier, is the founder of Audience Audit. So she and I released our 30-page executive summary on our ROI or return on investment, a thought leadership study, and our research produced a number of really interesting findings. And one of those was the impact that your content in your position of authority has on customer choice. The data shows that when your clients and prospects perceive you to be in authority, they trust you. 


Because of that trust, they’re more likely to buy from you to continue working with you and to remit and recommend you to others, which seems reasonable in our research. Also, it shed some light on the characteristics of thought leaders that respondents felt were the most compelling. There are many, but two that really stood out were One. Are you a person who looks like me? Do you have similar characteristics and backgrounds? Do you come from the same geography? Do you have similar shared experiences career-wise? Do you have a depth of expertise in my industry or your industry in the audience’s industry? 


Again, all of this reinforces the importance of your content must be helpful to them. So, we’ll put a link to the executive summary that you can download for free in today’s show notes. Now, let’s take those two characteristics in match them up. With Edelman’s 20 to 20 trust barometer, the people who are building the highest amount of trust in positions of authority with their audiences are not the people who have a million social media followers. No, instead trust and authority is being built most. When a person is an industry expert, they have a depth of expertise in a segment, in a niche, whatever you wanna call it again. When someone looks like the audience, they have seen characteristics that may be shared values. 


When someone who gives and shares generously they’re smart for the betterment of their audience, authority goes up. So Onward Nation, if you’re looking for strategies for how you can double down in your thought leadership, how you can share your industry expertise, how you can help your audience grow by sharing your smarts you’re point of view, and your knowledge, which when you do it correctly, by the way, with the right intent and purpose will also help you build your business to then the conversation we have today with Tim Sprinkle is going to be super helpful. So, let me introduce you to Tim. 


Elevate your knowledge about thought leadership content marketing by reading this article from Layup Content


Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Tim Sprinkle’s Introduction


He is the founder and the chief Strategist of Layup Content, which is a thought leadership and content marketing agency for the financial services and FinTech industries. Well, before Layup, Tim spent over 20 years in journalism, Onward Nation working for outlets and publications like Yahoo Finance and Seeking Alpha while writing for some of the largest media brands in the world, he was also the author of the book. Screw the Valley A Coast to Coast Tour of America is New Startup Landscape so without further ado, welcome to Onward Nation, Tim. 


Thank you so much, Stephen. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me. 


You’re very welcome. And thank you for saying yes. I am grateful that you accepted my invitation before we dive in with what is probably going to feel like just a barrage or a litany firestorm, have questions coming your way on the topic of thought leadership and niching down and focusing on the industry before we get to that, take us behind the curtain and tell us more about you and your path and your journey in, and then we’ll dive in. 


Yeah, sure. So, as you mentioned, I have been a journalist for a really long time. God kind of got me started in newspapers, wrote for a bunch of magazines, as you mentioned, and then eventually kind of settled into the digital media world that was kind of coming into, into a player in 2002, 2000 or so. And you know, I worked with a lot of different digital and digital media startups that have been seeking alpha courses and Yahoo for a long time I will say you really enjoyed that career path. The journalism world has, has changed. I think we all know that over the last decade, as it gets, it has gotten a little weird. So I made a decision around 2014 or 2015 to head out on my own and do what I believe was really taking the same skill set that I developed over the years since the early nineties and really kind of applying that to something different. 


And you know, for me that it evolved alongside the whole idea of content marketing and thought leadership and all that sort of thing. And my general USP, where this is really about quality over quantity. And I saw that as a reporter, I probably get 500 emails a day or every catch you could possibly imagine. So a lot of crappy, lousy content. I saw a lot of boring covering the financial markets. So I got a lot of boring numbers and things like that, and important stuff was presented in a really boring way. They didn’t engage with anybody. And that was a, that was a whole that I just kind of recognize and decided that as a journalist, your job is to give context to explain things in a way that anyone could understand them, no matter how complicated they are. 


Elevate your knowledge about thought leadership content marketing by reading this article from Layup Content


Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Crafting Quality Content


If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing your job. And I wanted to bring that skillset, too. So, just regular Content for companies that are I worked with a lot of seed-stage start-ups as some kind of a middle market. As I said, financial services firms, and it’s helped them tell their stories better so that people care right now were all sitting in their houses, in our offices. Now, face-to-face communication is not happening and being able to engage with somebody over Zoom or over an email or anything like that is not easy. And it takes a lot of practice. And I think that’s kind of where we fit in. 


So this might sound like a really basic question, given somebody that has your expertise and depth of expertise, but when you say like crappy lousy, Content so define that for us. Give us a sort of litmus test as to what that is. And then we’re going to tie that back into the quality versus quantity, which I also think is fascinating because sometimes a business owner thinks, well, I just need 87 pieces of content on Instagram, as opposed to like the one good one. So what does crappie and lousy in your mind 


I’ll use an example if it’s one of those things like a win, like Tipper Gore said back in the day, like, you know it, when you see it, and for me it’s often content that is kind of feels generic and doesn’t really feel connected to you. If I get a, let’s say, an email from a broker, and I was like, he was like 10 things you should invest in. And in 2020, that could be from anybody. It doesn’t feel like it doesn’t. I have no connection to that and they can get that from any other person. And it is just not unique. It’s not engaging. And that’s what I mean when I just feel impersonal and just cranked out commodity type of content. And that’s what you’re, you’re missing that connection. ’cause like it, in the broker example, you could, you could take Tom shmuck and tele his name off of it in plunk, on Sarah Jones or whatever. 


What is thought leadership content marketing? And there is nothing different about the point of view being provocative, like his or her differentiation about it, right? Is just pablum. Content exactly it, that’s a missed opportunity to, because those folks have great insights and then as they are smart people and then they see things, but then they might not be communicating through the right way. And so does that for me, but I would love to get your point of view on this. This ties into quality versus quantity because I think what is so common today with business owners, and I wonder if you would also see this as being true, is that there are, there are some business owners are so focused on the number of times they post and all of that, as opposed to thinking, how can I be super helpful with this one thing or two things, or create a piece of content that I can slice and dice over a bunch of channels because it’s super helpful. 


Elevate your knowledge about thought leadership content marketing by reading this article from Layup Content


Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Quality Over Quantity in Business Approaches


Right? Right. And then when it comes out of two different kinds of approaches to your business, I mean the quantity side of it is if you’re going after SEO traffic, if you need to build a lot of an organic inbound interest, that quantity is still kind of the name of the game. But what happens is, is that you have a content library every day, you post something new, and you put in a ton of stuff out there in the world, and you’re getting inbound interest, but it may not be what you want it to be. They might end up on your site or kind of on the phone with you and may not be the right fit, or they just may not be interested. And you’re, you’re putting a lot of effort in four, what sometimes is kind of just a commodity traffic, and for like the higher level, I would say that when in doubt, don’t post, which sounds absurd to a lot of people, but like if you wanna like to make sure you’re saying something a value. 


And I think every business, every company out there has something that they can share. That’s super valuable and your right leg is having a big cornerstone piece of concept of the tent pole that you can kind of drill down and really give us some actionable steps. It proves your insights, and gives them the social proof that they need to really understand that you’re a smart person. If you’re the one that you’re the guy that is going to help them and use that to kind of push the conversation forward is, in the long run, a much more valuable use of your time. And it takes a lot longer. That’s not the kind of like saying you can crank out every day unless you are McKinsey, whose entire business does that, but it doesn’t work out in the long run, right? Yeah, exactly. 


Oh, okay. So, let’s take a look at Layup from the perspective, first of Niching cause, like when I, when I, when I first met Anna and I went through BYO and we are going back and forth in and so forth, and I saw financial services and FinTech, and I’m like, okay, this is going to be a fun conversation. Not only because we’re going to benefit from Tim Smart’s in the overall topic of thought leadership, which was going to be fun, super helpful, but here’s somebody who really understands niching. And so let’s talk about that. Like, why did Layup decide to plant its flag in financial services in FinTech vs. Financial services, FinTech? Oh, we are also going to do ag, and then we’re also going to do whatever. So how, how, how come? 


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? For me, it was about as organic as it gets. I was covering Finance. When I left for the journalism world, I had a lot of contacts there, and I knew the topic, but I also knew that they had a problem. They had they were doing kind of a bad job, all of these examples that I mentioned the thing when it comes to communications that they needed, they need help. And so I saw an opportunity, there is a business opportunity to kind of help these folks kind of get things off the ground, but I will tell you that early on, I was Niche down to, to Finance, but I did other things. I did a lot of different B2B-type companies in engineering and healthcare. All right. You know, this kinda just goes back to being a reporter, like interested in a lot of stuff. You know, I want to try I want to talk to some different people and learn different things. And for me, it became not a problem, but like the business’ kind of leaned by the lean fully into Finance after a few years ’cause it was, it was difficult for me to kind of shift gears and really apply that expertise to one topic. 


I mean, now I read a lot of industry reports that are kind of in the loop when it comes to FinTech and a few different industry segments like that, and it’s hard to do that across 10 different industries. 


Elevate your knowledge about thought leadership content marketing by reading this article from Layup Content


Thought Leadership Content Marketing: The Power of Niching Down in Business


Right. So, what happens when either you intentionally or accidentally lean into financial services? 


You can all get a lot, like a lot easier. I was able to scale what I was doing across multiple clients essentially. And so my process became a lot tighter. I was able to get a very strict onboarding process with every new client. We go through kind of how we would build their story. We kind of arrange what we’re going to do and things like that. And that when you’re working with clients and one segment, let’s say insurance is one that I do a fair amount, you’ve got to process that works. You have other clients who were doing it, and you are able to apply that same skill. Then it frees up your brain to focus on the content itself in the fun part and actually execute it. 


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? Yeah. Because you know, like insurance and depending upon a guest’s category, I have insurance, but it is highly regulated there. It could be compliance. There could be all sorts of loopholes, matte loopholes, and all sorts of processes that you need to know in order to publish a piece of content. Right. But, and so becoming an expert in that is helpful, not only to your clients but also to you and your team, because you just understand it, versus somebody coming from the outside saying, Oh, well, let’s just throw that on Instagram, without ever having, like, even understanding that it has to go through 


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? Compliance and review in all of that. Right. Exactly. Andwe’ve gone through compliment compliance processes hundreds of times now, and we know what, what, what, what they need, what do we know what to do? What they’re expecting. We don’t have to push the envelope and one direction over the other. And it speeds things up. I’ve definitely had times where it can take several days for a review and things like that, but the more we can do to help the client and help their compliance officers kind of work through it and then give them something that they can work with. And it speeds things up, and it makes the whole process easier for everybody. Okay. So let’s think about that a little bit more to when you mentioned a lot easier in the reason being is because I think in a, in a very, a good way, in a positive way, you are helping to shift may maybe some paradigms about niching down because it is, as I’m sure you’ve experienced you and maybe even with your own reluctance to niche down early on. 


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? But typically, when I talk with the business owner about Niching, I hear the, Oh gosh, but if I do that, then there’s all this other business over here that I’m saying no to. Right. And so my assumption, based on what happened when you leaned into it, is that you experience the reverse of that. And you actually experienced abundance because of the Niching, but I don’t want to make an assumption. Is, is that accurate? Oh, absolutely. Yeah. All my marketing was to be able to narrow down all of my messaging. My messaging was able to narrow down. I was able to look behind the curtain a little bit. I have essentially a structure for the content we’re creating. Some of your white papers are one of essentially five different templates that I kind of work with. And when you’re working with the same kinds of clients, they all have different things that we’re going to talk about. 


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? But, I’ve got to be a full-on outline line on my computer for that. For every kind of Locos, I have 15 different kinds of blog posts already outlining all the content that they are going to need. We’ve got, let’s say, 40%, and they already do not have their information. And that is the kind of thing that, for me, leads to subscale for us. ’cause it does make it easier to present your high-quality content. That really is true to their voice without slogging through, from a a hundred percent brand new draft every single time. And that’s how we scale the quality side of things. And if we don’t ever push it too much on quantity, we need to be able to deliver things on a regular basis. I mean, you’re not doing every day on a, on one of these programs, but you know, at least once a week, you need to have a conversation moving. 


Elevate your knowledge about thought leadership content marketing by reading this article from Layup Content


Thought Leadership Content Marketing: The Journey to Niche Expertise in Financial Services


We need to be involved, and it takes your time off. So that’s, for us, that’s kind of the secret sauce is that you have all the templates, all the outlines in the, in the background, and by working with essentially one type of client, they’re all going to need that kind of messaging. And we can find ways to have to move parts in a note smart. Oh, okay. So doing that, planting your flag of authority in financial services, FinTech, how has that made it easier for one of your clients to refer you to somebody else because of that depth of expertise? I think so a lot of people, some of the FinTech side of the things we work with them, some smaller startups they’re in a lot of times, if there is a small community, despite with all outward appearances and they all need the same thing. 


And once we have to have a number of clients who you’ve worked with for a long time, who were very good partners for us and they definitely do a great job of kind of selling us to their friends, and they were our coworkers. And then as things come up, as companies kind of fade away and new things get founded, it an easy thing to plug in just because we’ve already been there and they know it. 


Okay. So as you and I were talking about it in the green room, we were, we have a lot of agency owners, business coaches, business consultants who listen to Onward Nation so my guess is they’re probably thinking, okay, Stephen asked Tim about his own thought leadership. How did he plant his flag? So we now understand that you planted your flag, your niche down, or all of that, but how did you do it? And I know that he didn’t take over it; it wasn’t overnight, and it took many years to do that. But what are some of the days, strategies, tactics, or whatever you used to plant your flag of authority in financial services? Right? 


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? My favorite of all time. And it will be probably because of what we’re doing right now is just walk the walk, you kinda eat your own lunch, and you really kind of show it to you. If you’re trying to kind of attract a thought leadership client, that’s a very kind of hazy concept. It’s a lot of people don’t necessarily understand what this is or what it means, and showing not telling, is highly valuable. And for me, I wrote a book in 2015 that was kind of like the kickoff of just the whole Content side of things. But I obviously wrote for many years and covered the financial services world. I know the context is there. They are the general understanding was there, but they were just showing it to people. I mean, when he gets a journalism job, you take a package of clips and you show it to the editor, and they say this, you are good or bad. 


And it’s a part of the process that I used to promote myself as a writer to a company. It’s like, Hey, I’ve done this. It’s not rocket science. And here’s kinda my process. And it was a lot of showing, not telling ’em. It was a lot of ’em are really just kind of presenting myself as, as the expert and writing about it and just all of my own blood on my own blog. I did some stuff, and some ran a webinar series for a long time, grants, and podcasts for a long time. And just really just demonstrating that I know what I’m doing. And that’s when I talk about social proof, and this is a section on my website about social proof is like your trust isn’t built through just acceptance. 


Elevate your knowledge about thought leadership content marketing by reading this article from Layup Content


Thought Leadership Content Marketing: The Power of Proving It Over Time


It really comes down to it. You have to prove it. And people will trust you if you don’t have something to back it up. If we meet randomly and on the street, you don’t know who I am. You have no idea what was going on. You’d need to understand that I’ve got 10, 20, 30 years have other stuff I’ve been doing that has related and you know, kind of I’m building on top of that. And that’s where they are proving it to somebody on an online platform or a social media platform. It’s tricky because you want to have a fantastic scene, right? Like the New York Times best-selling book and you’re promoting it on your Facebook page, getting all kinds of great press. Everyone comes to your website and it’s 10 reasons to invest in corn in 2020. 


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? It’s a lot of like fluffy stuff that doesn’t go back up, your deep thoughts and you know, it’s a process. It’s not overnight. It’s a years-long process. Yeah. And it’s not about putting a Badger on your shirt and then yelling at the crowd. I’m trustworthy. Exactly. Right. It’s it’s about backing it up. I love how you said the showing, not telling a lie. I mean, that’s really pointed in because it’s your body of work speaking for itself because you’ve worked so hard at that for years and years. My guests are people who have come up to you and said Hey, could you do that for me? Right. So like your work is your best resume per se. 


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? Right. Of what Layup could do because they are, you don’t have to sell them on it. You can just show them. Right. Exactly. Yeah. If my situation was a little, a little unique because I was able to produce a lot of things to show people over the years and they are not every agency has, is that luxury? But I do think there is value in it and just doing things for yourself sometimes and using that as a proof-proving element. So what was, what was the, okay, so thinking back to when you first got started, because I know, I know that for me, for some maybe outside looking in thinking, Oh my gosh, he did blogs. He did a webinar series. He did a podcast, he did all this, and there is a stacking of that. 


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? There is a building of that, right? So you didn’t probably start day one and say, you know what, I’m going to be a thought leader in the financial services space. And I’m going to plant my flag in FinTech. I know what I’m going to do tomorrow. I’m going to launch a podcast or a webinar series of blogs, and I’m going to write a book. So I see that cheekily or whatever the expression of his sarcastically, but like we are with, with what of those channels or which channel did you start with first and then build on it? For me, it was a book. It just, because of that, my mind kinda went in that direction to head for a long time. It was a really long-term goal just for me to do something like that. And that, that turned into a, like, you kick off a lot of those conversations. I mean, it’s really easy to say, Hey, write a book. It will solve all your problems because I think many people would like to do that. 


Elevate your knowledge about thought leadership content marketing by reading this article from Layup Content


Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Extending Your Content Reach


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? It’s the kind of work. I mean, it’s fun. That isn’t the word I would use. I mean, if I’m glad I did it obviously, but a ton of work that big tenfold thing that was like, okay, I can actually accomplish this. And that led to some other projects for me, it kinda led to some of the community-building stuff, which was more of the webinar series. Because like when you are at the kind of work that I wrote, I had interviewed something absurd at like 650 people at different ecosystems all over the country, metal, a ton of great people are doing really interesting stuff and kind of pulled that together into a community. And that was an organic extension of that project. I think it’s not just like kind of hammering out a blog post. It’s really kind of taking what got and what you’re doing and making sense of it. 


Okay. So lemme, lemme give that back to you and make sure that we’re tracking with you and so the book was first and then you call it a, like a tent pole, a piece of Content, and you also mentioned cornerstones. So I put those in the same category. It’s a big piece of media content that if you want it to you could slice and dice and get a lot of value out of that one piece in a smaller piece. But I think if I’m tracking with you, it sounded like the webinar series was born out of the book. Maybe the blog was, or maybe the podcasts that you were on were tangentially hooked back to that big piece of content being the book. Am I correct? And tracking with you? 


Oh exactly. Yeah. I mean, really for me, it was like I spent three years in my life kind of working on this big project and I was done by the book, which comes out in January of 2015, and you’re kind of done, and you do the marketing for it. Of course, you do get involved. And I really wanted to keep it going. And that was kinda my way of keeping it going. And I didn’t intend to necessarily start a company out of this, but it just kind of turned out that way. And I like, it was a useful thing for me to have it, to just be sitting in a big pile of a concept that I had spent a lot of time working on. I can filter that down and I did a hundred, a thousand different ways for social and things like that. They need to keep that conversation moving and keep that to keep that network a lot because it was fun. 


Elevate your knowledge about thought leadership content marketing by reading this article from Layup Content


Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Maximizing Your Reach across Channels


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? I think that there is a super, super smart because you can get so much mileage out of the book Onward Nation. So if you’re creating weekly cornerstone content like podcasts or blogs or a video series or something like that, or if your cornerstone content is a book like Tim’s was five years ago when he wrote his first book, but you can get so much mileage as he just described out of social content or cut it up into blogs or record podcast based on the themes in the book. And gosh, it was just so much mileage. And then you’re not a one-trick pony. Onward, Nation your channel agnostic, which is super, super important. That’s really smart, really smart. I think it’s important to get to be the kind of thing that you can’t get anywhere else. 


So it’s got a unique, it’s got to be used going to feel like You and one of the things and say what you will about Gary Vaynerchuk does a really good job of this on his social and all of his different content he’s putting out if it feels like Gary, every single time, the color scheme is the same. He has a crazy screaming approach, and sometimes he does the same. And it’s the decision you’re making. That’s why, I mean, he’s obviously very good at that. And his team was very good at that. But when we start with a big cornerstone piece, it’s easy to stay kind of on a message and on voice as yourself and not be all over the place. Okay. So, it’s a great litmus test. I interviewed Gary a few years ago, and I was at VaynerMedia, and we could take the transcript of Gary’s part of that interview and now say, no, that was actually Tim Sprinkle. 


How can you initialize thought leadership content marketing? And then it feels congruent, it feels disingenuous right away, right? Because the power of the point of view and the voice is immediately not yours, it’s unmistakably his to your point. Right? Exactly. And he is like, always on the right message is saying the right things. It’s all straight, and you can connect to it. It goes back to the social proof you have laid on Gary’s LinkedIn page and you read through all of his posts and things he’s likes and comments he’s made. It’s always right along with the same message. So it’s not like he doesn’t drop in like his favorite baseball scores and random, personal things that don’t apply. He is able to stay really straight, and then you can get a real story from him just by reading what he’s been doing. Yeah. And so it would be, it would feel really weird if I went to Onward Nation and started talking about the New York Jets and jab jab jab right hook.


Right, exactly. Yeah. Because they know I’m not a New York Jets fan, and they know that I don’t use the language of jab jab jab, right? Hook, because he has planted a flag, and he owns that term or phrase, ology, or whatever. That’s all wrapped up in his point of view. Right. Exactly. And then it feels like Kim is super, super authentic. Absolutely. Oh, okay. So then, let’s take that piece because the voice point of view is oftentimes very difficult for a business owner, whether they’re letting the imposter syndrome get into their heads or, you know, what I have that is unique and different? What do I have that is special? What do I can share with the world that people are gonna think is valuable? 


Elevate your knowledge about thought leadership content marketing by reading this article from Layup Content


Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Unleashing Authenticity for Personal and Professional Growth


So my guess is that you win because you’ve been doing this for a long time, you’ve probably experienced some clients who’ve come to that, come to you and said, would you use, I mean, Tim, what, what do I have this unique and different? How do you coach a client through that? So they can see how unique, wonderful, awesome, and smart they actually are. And this is a lifelong process for all of us. So it really is a kind of coming into really understanding who you are and what you want to present. The story that I tell a lot to a client that we’re kind of on that boat is an author. John McPhee, a professor at Princeton, has published 25 books over the years and fueled surprises, an amazing writer. I met them 10 or 15 years ago out of here in Colorado. Suppose you’re on a book tour. And I sat down with him for a little bit, at the end of it, we talked about kind of his process and things like that. 


He was a teacher. So he was an interesting guy to talk to, a little unusual. He was a gentleman with a big long, squishy beard and kind of eyes like a darker Brown. He talks faster than I do. And I talk really fast and I could have called him out on it. It said like you’re, you are not what I expected for like a very high or high-level journalist writer. And he told me this really stuck with me that he uses his essentially normal personality and quirkiness to help take the other barriers down when he is dealing with your interview subjects. When you’re writing about someone who is talking to somebody and making introductions, you are not scared of John McPhee. And he’s a nice guy. You know, he doesn’t come across as a hard-hitting reporter who is going to really mess you over. 


And it’s just by being himself, he found a really solid advantage as a writer and as a kind of researcher and was able to get into situations that I couldn’t even imagine when he rode across the country with some of the different truck drivers kind of got himself into that world. That was a book in which he was promoted when I met them. And it was kind of like you’re getting people that are probably not your own, a little guarded and not necessarily down to talk to her, a reporter to like, let you ride around with him for months. And it just popped, kind of like being yourself. And I think that that’s a key kind of a lesson from John and from just life, is that the more you are yourself, the more, this is the kind of thing that a right, or shouldn’t say, the more defiant you appear to you everyone else a lawyer is a lawyer as a lawyer until you find a lawyer who doesn’t wear a tie or did you find someone who is a little different just because they’re themselves and their age, they’re more authentic and they are more engaging. 


That’s a massive advantage of every single person on the planet has, as long as you’re willing to kind of embrace it. And it can be any number of things. It can be just kind of your general demeanor, or it can be your approach to life. It can be wearing a shell necklace every day. What is your suit? I mean, or whatever it is the kind of having an embracing of that uniqueness is a big thing. I think that that’s been able to communicate that as a step two, but first, just really just understanding that everything that everyone has, something that can point to it, is just a matter of just taking it up. 


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Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Mastering the Essential Skills for Thought Leadership


That is awesome. In fact, I’m going to say that that’s one of the best answers I have heard about that topic, and here’s when I say that because that tells me that we overcomplicate it in that if we just actually are ourselves, like, like the story from, in Colorado when he was there on the book tour and you meet him really super disarming like, and he just being himself, but that endears you to him, doesn’t it? Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Wow. Okay. Really cool. Really cool. And profound, actually, I will say that it was profound, and again, the reason is because I’ve been in so many meetings with clients and our prospects or whatever. 


This particular topic gets overly complicated, and there isn’t anything that is unique or different. We run a successful business. So you’ve done that for 15 to 20 years. So, there must be something that your clients think is just awesome about you, right? It’s like we overcomplicate; we take away the really smart, wonderful, beautiful, and incredible things that we do every single day. And we forget about those things because that in and of itself is the area of genius. And therefore, we don’t know that. 


Exactly. Yeah. I mean, I always consider entrepreneurship a live-action MBA, and one of my favorite live-action MBAs. Things that I’ve learned is that it really just kind of the freedom to be whoever you want to be, just no path to follow. And that is in the agency world. There are a lot of people who have in their mind a picture of what, let’s say, a madman or what an agency looks like, or if it feels like, and then obviously the freedom to not do that and just kind of do it. However, what you want to do is a key advantage. And if it’s massive, and I think a lot of people worry about coming across to maybe the wrong way, they are saying things that are a little outside of what others are saying. And I would always advise not to worry about that and just say have an authentic conversation. It’s not guarded or just trying to follow the trend. 


Let’s continue down the path of thought-leadership because our, again, our audience was very interested in being able to plant their flag of authority to do that well, to be able to plant it in from the ground, to be seen as the experts or the authorities and their spaces and their niches, but listening about it from a skillset perspective. So when you think about it from a skillset perspective, like, are there a few skills, maybe there’s one, maybe there’s two, maybe there’s five, are, are there skills that you think a business owner needs to master in order to be successful at planting their flag before.


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Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Crafting Content from Your Audience’s Perspective


Do you need to flip the script a little bit? And I, sometimes I talk about this as a, there’s a lot of different ways to describe this, but you need to, whenever you’re creating something, you need to look at it, not from your side, but from the side of someone who was going to be reading it or watching it or otherwise consuming it, and what do they want, do they live in my writing style is super conversational, has been that way forever. And just how it is. And I am right in kind of short, punchy sentences, and I just know this about myself. And I always make a sense point when I’m writing something to either speak it out loud or just kind of make my way through it. And what does this sound like? It is this whole me through, if I’m reading this, am I getting tripped up on long, chunky blocks of content, things like that? It just kind of has an understanding of what the outside wants from you, as you see it in the marketing world. 


Of course, has all these personas. There are a lot of very technical ways to do this. And then sometimes it can be as easy as just thinking, like whoever, whoever it might be reading you are interacting with you. What do they think of you? What’s the takeaway? And I would start there, but I think that that’s the way it has to be taken into account for everything you create. Okay. 


Anything else that you can think of from a skills perspective? 


I think it’s important to, really, I got to go back to the making the, not forcing it if you’ve been as organic as possible and then put it in together, intelligent things like if you’re going to come across as forcing it, if you do kind of force it and really just take your time, do it slow outline at my own lines or my bread and butter. I’ve got a gazillion on my computer right now. You know, every piece that has to be created, every process we do in the company, every HR decision we make, we have outlined for this stuff. And it, it starts it’s as easy as like a blog post outline, which was topics and to have a few things we want to hit and things we want to do and not do ’em to every sort of a sales conversation and every sort of a business process and HR stuff. 


It really comes down to having a roadmap of where you’re going to go and how you get there. Otherwise, we can wander through the desert for a long time. 


Yeah. Well, and no joke, right? Instead of taking four or five months to write a book, maybe it takes years and years and years to write a book, love the organic and not forcing it in. And I think this was such wisdom when you mentioned a look at it through the lens of your audience, essentially, because if you’re trying to be helpful, Onward Nation to your audience, and you’re not thinking about it, thinking about what you want to share with them through their point of view or through their lens, then what you’re working so hard to be helpful. It might actually land completely raw. Right? Tim? 


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Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Lessons from Mentors and Experience


No, that’s exactly right. Yeah. And if it comes down to coming out of your presentation and who you are and sticking to it as honestly and real as you possibly can, 


Yeah. Love that. Oh, okay. So let’s think about it. Let’s think about mentorship for a second here because what you are giving us during this conversation is great mentorship. So, you’re a great mentor on top of authority and content, which is super helpful. So now I want to turn that off and go 180 degrees in the opposite direction and ask you to share with us what you would consider to be the most influential lesson that you ever learned from one of your mentors and how that lesson is still paying dividends for you today. 


There it goes back to the authenticity word that I keep hammering around, like, Whoa, this is a mentor of mine that I worked with at Yahoo. A number of years ago, my boss’s boss, he entrepreneur a deeply experienced entrepreneur, had done it several times since then. He’s I believe he sold two companies and is a super smart guy. He was the one who more or less blew up my expectations of what an entrepreneur had to be. And he has absolutely walked the walk, talk, the talk. He knew exactly what he was doing, but he did it on his own terms. Everything was on his own terms. He rebuilt really successful companies the way that he thought it should be done. And for me, that was an eye-opening experience. It’s not I’m a natural speaker or a presenter. 


And sending him in front of a room full of people is not my favorite thing in the world. And I entered into this with the expectation that you’re doing a lot of that. A lot of speaking, a lot of wearing a blue blazer in jeans, and getting up and trying to impress people. And we’re in a room, and I’m just not that guy. And I was able to kind of get the impression that it is whatever you make of it. And every, and that’s the beauty of the agency model, which is the beauty of entrepreneurship in general, which is that you get to run it however you want to. And I still talk to them, and then it’s still kind of how he runs the show, and it’s his way. And once you learn what works for you, then you can make it work. 


Well, I go back to the lesson from your interaction sort of behind the scenes and Colorado, when he, when he was very disarming, and then you said, I won’t be somebody different, be you as well. So this is really interesting, right? Hook that back to the mentorship lesson from years and years ago. So that’s a really interesting hook that’s like a through-line for you, this authenticity, and being transparent and authentic. Right? 


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Thought Leadership Content Marketing: Last Bit of Advice and Connect With Tim


Exactly. I mean, I sometimes joke with my wife that I’m a hundred percent unemployable now because I’m a terrible employee, but because I know I’ve seen the advantage I have seen behind the curtain, I understand that what you were getting when you were an entrepreneur, for example, they didn’t, they have the ability to be as authentic as you need to be is huge. I think it’s very overlooked, and you know, it’s great to do the work that you want to do and then work with the people you want to work with, but to be able to do it on your own terms, the kind of advantage if they don’t talk about too much. 


A great conversation, Tim. And you had been a great mentor to us again, as I said, just a few minutes ago, but before we go, I shouldn’t say before we go, because, because I know our time was running short, even though we covered a lot. Anything else you think we should cover? Anything you think we might have missed or any final advice you’d like to share? And then please tell Onward Nation, business owners, what the best way to connect with you is. 


I do always like to have to hammer home when I’m doing creative work and is a creative business, it really comes down to two things: planning and having a plan and knowing where you are going to go out. And then just execution: a lot of writing is boring. Sometimes it’s harder. It takes a lot of time. There is creating content, which is his word, and you have to be, well, I’m going to sit down sometimes and just crank through and use that as long as you understand that that’s the good part. That’s the fun part of being able to do that. You’re in a good spot, but you know, you can’t just force it out well, but yeah, that’s the way to reach me. 


Just one second. Just want to emphasize this point where you just said, because I think a super, super, super smart how you said you can’t form it out, right? It’s like this you’re point of view is so unique to you and sometimes, and often times you have to get in the trenches, you have to get your hands dirty in the creation process, and sure. You might be able to outsource some of the other pieces and some of the mechanics and that kind of stuff, but that message like yours, your truth as an authority that those have to come from inside you, right? 


No, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a very personal thing, right? Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you about how best to connect with you. Sure, sure. Easiest way to do this is just the website:


I see. Okay. Very good. Onward Nation, no matter how many notes you took or how often you go back and relisten to Tim’s words of wisdom, which I sure hope that you do the key is you have to take what he so generously shared with you. Take it, apply it, and accelerate your results, Tim. We all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day. And again, I am grateful. You said yes to coming onto the show, to be our mentor and guide, and to help us move our businesses. Onward to that next level. Thank you so much. 


Thank you, Stephen. I appreciate it. It’s been fun. This episode is complete. So head over to for show notes and more food to fuel your ambition. Continue to find your recipe for success here at Onward Nation. 


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The Sell with Authority Podcast is for agency owners, business coaches, and strategic consultants who are looking to grow a thriving, profitable business that can weather the constant change that seems to be our world’s reality.

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