Thought Leadership is the latest marketing buzzword. You’ll hear it everywhere, usually dropped casually into conversations to do with social media marketing, content marketing, inbound marketing, lead generation etc. Clearly it’s nothing as specific, explainable and executable as engineer-type people would like, for example, implementing Google Analytics on your website, tracking traffic performance and optimizing the user experience based on collected metrics. If marketing is fuzzy, thought leadership is among the fuzziest of them all: somebody found 21 definitions floating on the web.
Our favourite, adapted and reduced to its essence is: having the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your potential buyers.
Why? Thus educating and inspiring them about the industry/field/product, being seen as knowledgeable, credible, and authoritative. Building up a reputation. And then and only then, converting some of that cachet to business and sales. Everybody wants to be a thought leader, because in our highly-networked and content-consuming days, it’s good for business.
How? If we had to boil down a philosophy, it would be: Create Good Content.
Some basic guidelines:
Give useful information.
There’s a difference between company updates on your blog, and an article that is actually useful to your readers. It doesn’t mean you stop posting on the former. It does mean that any other content you generate for the purpose of thought leadership should be helpful in answering the big questions readers may have. Keep in mind: Does it address a need? Are you credible enough to answer it?
Focus on creating value, not promotion.
Thought leadership isn’t about straight up sales. Subtlety is key. Everybody’s attention is divided up among multiple channels, and if your entire blog post contains nothing more useful than a sales pitch, they can and will go elsewhere. This brings us to the next point.
Perhaps the most important thing about thought leadership as a strategy is: to give. Give first, and don’t worry about receiving. Create good content. Share it, by making it social, by contributing guest posts, by volunteering to talk it up at every opportunity. Think of your audience as potential customers, not customers.
Ready to level up? Since the core of it is content creation, good thought leadership has similar qualities to good journalism. Two things to take note of:
Take a stance.
Your business should stand for something. Readers are looking for expert opinion. That is, you have knowledge + opinion. Choose a side. Make your point of view known. So what if it’s controversial? We’re looking for ideas to quote, to talk about, to make us think, and sometimes even to argue about.
Readers are not stupid and can spot inconsistencies a mile away. Research your facts, check them, and cite your sources. Concepts are explained, and arguments substantiated. If standard marketing is just show and tell, thought leadership requires you to convince.
Lastly, be famous!
We’re only half-joking here. Fame is a great credibility boost. How do you practically do this, if you’re not already famous? How about giving speeches at conferences, winning awards, and the holy grail of credibility – publishing a best-selling book. It’s not easy, but welcome to a new world of marketing.