What Is Thought Leadership? Why You Need It. And Steps To Get It Right

What Is Thought Leadership? Why You Need It. And Steps To Get It Right

 What Is Thought Leadership? Why You Need It. And Steps To Get It Right

Like most buzzwords, thought leadership is an often misused and misunderstood term. But what is it really? And why do you need to consider developing and publishing thought leadership.
Content marketing is being defined as one of this year's top priorities for CMOs, and a mainstream discipline in marketing departments.  Thought leadership is a key component of content marketing. So let’s nail down what it is, why you need it and the steps to get it right
What Is Thought Leadership?  To highlight the problem with most buzzwords, Wikipedia calls thought leadership “business jargon.” And defines it as content that is recognized by others as innovative, covering trends and topics that influence an industry.  This post on Forbes went so far as to define a Thought Leader as a person or firm that is not only recognized but also who profits from the recognition of authority. And Daniel Rasmus provided this definition:

Thought leadership should be an entry point to a relationship. Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.  To me, Thought Leadership is simply about becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.
While it can include your unique perspective on hot topics relevant for your customers, the key for me is that the agenda is set by your audience. They determine what the questions are. You simply need to answer them. So your level of authority is really determined by how well you answer those most important questions.

Why Is Thought Leadership important?  

Thought leadership is important for both Consumer (B2C) and B2B (Business-to-Business) companies but I think it is especially important in B2B. This is because of the complexity and length of the decision-making process in B2B environments and the large number of people involved.

Thought leadership content can help anyone involved in the business decision making process to gain alignment across their company regarding the problems they are facing. It can help them to “name” the problem.  For marketers, Thought Leadership allows us to define the category or context of our solution in customer terms. And I believe branding is all about being associated with the questions our buyers are asking.

Where Does Thought Leadership Come From?  

Thought Leadership can come from any source – executives, customers, product managers, designers, customer service reps, sales people. We all have knowledge, experience and a point of view.  But ultimately, thought leaders need to inspire our buyers to act – to take the next step in their journey. Of course, the challenge is in the telling!

What Are The Benefits Of Thought Leadership?  

The benefits of Thought leadership start with brand affinity. By communicating thought leadership you become part of the conversation, early in the buying journey. You allow your audience to get to know you.  Ultimately, Thought Leadership is one of the outcomes of a solid Content Strategy. Because content is bigger than marketing. Leaders are everywhere. Expose your thought leaders and you begin the process of becoming a more social business – real people with real faces talking to real customers and buyers.

5 Steps To Thought Leadership That Gets Results?

  1. Identify the questions your customers are asking. Identify them all. Then prioritize them.     
  2. Answer those questions across multiple formats and multiple channels in a way that adds value to your audience. Start with the most important and work your way down the list. All you have to do is have the right content to answer the basic questions.     
  3. You gotta “Give to Get” so do not promote or put registration hurdles in front of your thought leadership content.     
  4. Make it interesting. My SAP colleague Timo Elliott calls this the “Return on Interesting” that you get when your content rises above the noise of all the boring, overly-promotional, gated content that is bombarding your audience. Educate them? Yes. But try to entertain them in the process. Tell stories. Use examples.     
  5. Invite customers to participate: I love the idea of interviewing customers to create content or curating content from other sources while adding your own perspective.
Now tell me what do you think? What does Thought Leadership mean to you? Please follow the conversation on Twitter (@brennermichael), LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+ or check out my original thoughts and some great comments on the subject. 

 Michael Brenner                 

Marketing has a marketing problem. Ask most people what they think “marketing” is and they will likely say “ads.” Yet most of us are trying to avoid ads in every aspect of our lives.  Now, more than ever before, we don’t want to be sold to especially when we’re not ready to buy. But we are always looking to get educated, inspired, supported. And we are open to thought leadership from brands. That is why thought leadership and content marketing beats the ROI of ads, hands down. 
Marketing should attract your audience. And this can easily be measured by looking at your rankings in search. That's why we help our clients earn page-one rankings that deliver traffic, leads and revenue that = ROI.   Even now, your customers want  helpful content that answers their most important questions, and this kind of marketing allows you to show the business the ROI it demands. There’s an incredible opportunity for you to break through all the noise of promotion that's out there.  
There’s a very real chance for you to dominate your market, make your people happy, get known as a thought leader, and rank #1 for the most important keywords in your industry - all by simply sharing the expertise your customers are looking for. Here’s what is most important for you to know in this time of global crisis:   
*The formula for winning online today and ranking for your audience's most important keywords is not a huge investment, In fact, it can cost less than a single ad in an industry trade publication & be considerably less expensive than your current advertising budget.    
*The most important factor is CONSISTENCY:  steadily and regularly  publishing customer-focused content. Our data and research from real companies shows that publishing 1-2x per week can increase traffic AND leads by as much as 100-200%.    
*This approach can produce massive ROI in the form of attracting an audience to your website BEFORE they are ready to buy, engaging your audience with helpful content, and converting them to sales. When I was VP of Content Marketing At SAP, we achieved 7x ROI - that’s $7 in actual revenue for every $1 we spent in the FIRST YEAR!   
If you are struggling with declining or flat website traffic, too few inbound leads, or paying too much for ads or content that isn’t helping your customers (or helping you rank for the keywords that matter most) let’s connect for a brief call so I can help.   Whether we decide to do business together, I’m confident that I can provide some insights that will make a real difference for your company. Contact me today

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