Boost Your Business through Leadership

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Boost your Business Action Guides

Thought Leadership

What Is Thought Leadership?

If you’re a relatively small business owner, you may not have considered thought leadership as a relevant marketing strategy for your business. Generally, thought leaders quoted in the mainstream media tend to be associated with globally-recognized brands.

However, thought leaders can come from any business, big or small, in any industry.

Thought Leadership in a Nutshell

A thought leader is seen as the authority on any given subject. He or she is the go-to person within a specific niche. Their opinions are trusted because they are the authority. They inspire others with innovative ideas and provide the guidance to turn ideas into reality

The Value of Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is an incredibly valuable marketing asset for your business. By becoming a thought leader within your industry, you build brand credibility and raise your profile as the best choice within your market.

Being a thought leader has several benefits.

  • Establishes your credibility within your industry
  • Boosts your brand value and increases your industry presence
  • Establishes you as an expert resource who can influence others within your industry
  • Highlights your strengths
  • Inspires forward-thinking in others

How Thought Leadership Can Benefit Your Business

According to research at Semrush, 65% of businesses are already using some form of thought leadership for their content marketing and 29.5% plan to start using it soon.

When you consider thought leadership as a marketing strategy and incorporate it into your content you increase the credibility and authority of your brand.

Expertise, Brand Recognition and Trust

Sharing expertise with your audience is the cornerstone of thought leadership. With so much information available to the average consumer on the internet today, people are looking for gurus to separate fact from fiction.

When you put in the work to become a thought leader, you establish yourself as an expert and authority in your particular niche.

Exposure

As you build your reputation as a thought leader, your business will gain more exposure. This can come through the media, word-of-mouth from people following you, public speaking and more.

Thought leadership keeps you on the radar of the customers within the buying cycle. More exposure means more brand awareness, which will help you when the time comes for the lead to convert.

Conversions

Really, the goal of any marketing strategy that you implement is conversions. Thought leadership pulls your audience through a complete cycle of the sales funnel. From awareness to conversion, your thought leadership content can be there to keep building trust and nurturing them toward the sale.

How to Become a Thought Leader

Thought leaders have informed opinions about subjects within their fields of expertise. In order to be recognized as a thought leader, you need to have a proven track record you can show to others so they’re confident you’re a voice worth listening to.

Carve Out Your Niche

Before you can become an effective thought leader, you have to define your niche. The niche you choose should be relevant to your industry, experience and target audience.

Passion is an important aspect of choosing your niche, so it should be a consideration. You’ll also want to choose an area that you already have significant expertise in, so that you are authentic.

Identify Your USP

Defining your USP, or Unique Selling Proposition is an important part of becoming a thought leader. Being able to pinpoint what makes you stand out among the competition within your industry gives your content direction and allows you to target your marketing successfully.

Challenge the Status Quo

Disrupt typical thinking and challenge the status quo. People are interested in new ideas, new ways of thinking, and different points of view. You want your brand to be considered forward-thinking but not controversial just for the sake of being controversial. Don’t lose your authenticity. Stay true to your brand message.

Don’t Forget to Stay Human

A big part of thought leadership is humanizing your brand. You can accomplish this by sharing your story. Talk about your passion and motivation but don’t be afraid to be vulnerable as well. Sharing your challenges and weaknesses will tremendously impact your audience.

Thought Leadership Content

Content marketing is an integral part of thought leadership. This is how you establish yourself as a thought leader within your industry and attract more leads to your business.

Thought Leadership Platforms

Content marketing can be done through many different channels.

Start publishing a blog. Launching a blog is a great starting point for finding and developing your thought leadership voice.

Use social media to engage your followers even more. Don’t forget to use your social media channels to promote your blog, as well as engage your followers.

Podcasts can also be very helpful in building thought leadership. Either by being a guest on an existing podcast or starting your own, you can use podcasts to get your expertise and opinions out there, stay current on trends within your industry and invite others within your industry to share their thoughts.

Achieving Authentic Thought Leadership With Content

Engaging with people on a human level is the key element to achieving authentic thought leadership. Building your credibility as a thought leader through your content strategy creates an authentic, engaged audience for your business.

Here are five ways to achieve authenticity in your thought leadership strategy.

1. Start writing. Producing quality, value-filled content is one of the most effective ways to build thought leadership.

2. Reach out to influencers. Partnering with influencers is a great way to expand your reach because they already have an established connection with their audience.

3. Awards and accolades. Having a solid professional background and experience is a solid foundation for building authority in your industry.

4. Leverage content marketing. Content marketing is a very effective way to educate, inform and increase your reach.

5. Engage your followers on social media. Billions of people worldwide are using social media. You can use it to broadcast your thought leadership and grow your audience.

Best Practices for Thought Leadership Content

If you really want to utilize your content to its fullest potential, you can follow these tips:

  • Only publish high-quality content: Quality is one of the most important elements of thought leadership content.
  • Don’t over-promote: Focus on providing value to your audience, not selling your products or services. 
  • Consistency is key: Building trust with your audience doesn’t happen with your first blog post. It takes time and publishing useful content on a consistent basis.
  • Social media matters: Complete your profiles on different channels and grow your following on social media.
  • Remember, you’re the expert: High-quality, non-promotional content will showcase your brand and establish you as a thought leader.

Thought Leadership Strategy

Developing a thought leadership strategy is not a one-size-fits-all type of deal. Many elements are the same for every business while others will depend on the specifics of your business.

Step 1: Defining Your Goals

As with any strategy, your first step is to determine what you want to accomplish with your actions.

Defining Your Target Audience

It’s always helpful, when considering your marketing goals, to know exactly who your audience is. Some well-developed buyer personas can help you with this but also consider others beyond those personas who might benefit from what you have to say.

Step 2: Research Existing Thought Leadership

After you’ve defined your goals and audience, it’s time to do some research to discover the existing thought leadership within your niche. Check out different communication channels within your industry.

Step 3: Identify Your Focus and Your Thought Leaders

In a high percentage of companies, upper management and CEOs are the primary creators of thought leadership content. Other companies have SMEs (subject matter experts) create their content while others give this task to staff or freelance copywriters.

As you consider the experts working within your organization, keep this in mind:

  • Align your brand and values with your thought leadership. If those you choose to be thought leaders don’t stand firmly behind your brand and its values, your story, and your position, your content is unlikely to have the desired effect.
  • Knowledge and expertise are key but don’t forget passion. Being knowledgeable and passionate about the subject matter will organically make others want to follow you.
  • Embrace revolutionary opinions and inspired ideas. You will always run the risk of alienating some with your beliefs and you have to be okay with that. When it comes to thought leadership, you can’t appeal to everyone. Be sure to use your brand story and values as guidelines for your content.
  • Create great content. This can include writing and speaking, being a guest on a podcast, hosting a webinar or event, etc. It’s also helpful for thought leaders to have credentials or memberships from relevant organizations to help boost their credibility.

 

Step 4: Create the Content

Now it’s time to actually start creating content.

Research

A good starting point for creating thought leadership content is to simply take your knowledge of your goals and audience and then use this information to generate content ideas.

An important part of this process is to know what the current trends and topics are within your industry. This allows you to know what issues your audience is interested in so your content is received and consumed successfully.

Types of Thought Leadership Content

Thought leadership content, as with most content, can come in any shape or form. According to research done by Semrush, here are the most popular types of thought leadership content being created.

Articles/blog posts 91.4%
Video 44.1%
Webinars/events 36.2%
White papers 33.2%
Research 33.2%
Ebooks 29.9%
Podcasts 21.7%
Data visualizations 20.7%

Step 5: Publish and Promote Your Content

In order to have a successful thought leadership campaign, your content has to be consumed by your audience. If no one sees or hears what you have to say, there is no path forward. Distribution and promotion of your content is vital.

Don’t forget the importance of engagement. Thought leadership, at its core, is about starting conversations. Be sure to follow through and interact with the comments, communities and influencers that are discussing your content.

Give Thought Leadership a Try

As you can see, thought leadership can be a powerful strategy for carving out more for your business. When you become the expert and build trusting relationships with your audience, you can achieve powerful marketing gains.