Thought leadership has become a common topic in content marketing circles. But, do you really know what it means? One of the best definitions comes from Denise Brosseau’s Thought Leadership Lab:
“They (thought leaders) are changing the world in meaningful ways and engage others to join their efforts. They create evolutionary and even revolutionary advancements in their fields not just by urging others to be open to new ways of thinking, but when they create a blueprint for people to follow – they provide a method, process, guidelines or a set of best practices.”
That may sound overwhelming, but you’re probably already doing these things within your company. Thought leadership just means sharing that expertise with the outside world. And why do you need to share your learning with the world? Used correctly, thought leadership marketing can be a great way to jumpstart business growth and sell your products and services.
What is thought leadership marketing?
If thought leadership is knowing everything there is to know about your industry (and where things are going), thought leadership marketing means sharing that knowledge with others to help them achieve their own goals. It’s in high demand, too: According to Social Media Today, 96% of B2B companies want more content from industry thought leaders.
How can thought leadership marketing spur business growth?
Getting your thoughts out of your head and into the world to build thought leadership can help your business to grow in several ways. These are just a few of them.
People who aren’t sure of what they want or need usually love to have an expert let them know. And, if that expert shares knowledge freely, it builds personal trust. Your goal should be to become the go-to source in your field, the authority people turn to when they have questions.
Consumers who count on your thought leadership pieces for guidance are more likely to choose your product when they’re ready to make a decision. If you’ve been engaging with them on social media and answering questions about challenges they’re facing, you could (for example) even invite them to give you or your sales team a call to discuss how you can help more directly.
Gaining a better understanding of your audience
Your market data is a valuable asset, but it’s not the same as engaging with your target market on a personal level. This is why politicians host town hall meetings—so they can look at their constituents face-to-face and hear about their concerns straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth. When you engage with your followers directly, you’ll learn about their thoughts, questions, and points of view in their own words.
Shaping the conversation
You can also use thought leadership marketing to shape the conversation about topics of interest to the company or industry—for example, advocating for or against proposed regulations by explaining what the impacts would be. That’s thought leadership at its most powerful—not just establishing yourself as a subject matter expert, but guiding interested parties in the direction that is right for them.
Successful thought leadership creates a self-perpetuating cycle. The very best get calls from industry publications asking for quotes, and get invited to speak at conventions and seminars or to participate in panel discussions. That third-party recognition increases your status and authority even more.
What’s the best way to implement thought leadership marketing?
Thought leadership marketing should be part of your overall marketing strategy, have its own place on your editorial calendar, and integrate with the rest of your marketing stack. Remember, the end game is to drive business growth by capitalizing on the fact that consumers feel more confident buying from someone with proven experience, knowledge, and vision.
Here are some of the most common channels for thought leadership marketing:
Bylined articles are an extremely effective type of thought leadership marketing. You’ve probably read dozens of them in publications like Entrepreneur, Inc., etc. Rather than being written by a staff reporter, they’re written by a “contributor”—a thought leader offering expert insights on a topic that’s timely and relevant to the target audience.
Since these publications often have strict guidelines for the articles they accept, many bylined articles are written by a ghostwriter. The key, however, is to make sure the content and the “voice” are those of the thought leader; the ghostwriter’s job is to write the content in a way that will get it past the editor’s desk (instead of being thrown out for not adhering to their guidelines) and garner serious consideration.
LinkedIn is another great place to publish thought leadership blog posts as well as to engage with other users by making comments or answering questions. Lastly, don’t overlook LinkedIn Groups, which provide plenty of opportunities to engage with others who share your interests.
Social media is perhaps one of the quickest and easiest ways to offer thought leadership. For one thing, you can use it to promote your latest content. But, an even more effective use of social media is to engage with other users: join conversations, answer questions, and ask questions of your own to learn more about what your audience is interested in. You can even provide a link to one of your posts for additional information. Get some brand awareness and continue to build trust.
Webinars and podcasts
Webinars and podcasts have become increasingly popular, especially when they’re published on a regular schedule, because then the audience knows when to come back for the latest industry news, a deep dive on a particular topic, etc. Another good tactic is to participate in a well-known series on another site, like Moz’s Whiteboard Friday.
Using thought leadership marketing to drive business growth
Thought leadership marketing can help drive business growth by building trust in both your organization and in you as a leader. Moreover, taking just a few extra steps can turn it into a real growth machine:
- Send your sales team every piece of content (preferably in a digital format they can share) before it’s published. That will give them time to absorb it so they can discuss the information with leads.
- Provide them with a schedule of upcoming events, such as the dates of conferences where you’ll be a presenter or attendee.
- Since they’re in direct contact with customers every day, ask them for suggestions on future thought leadership topics.
In a time of content overload, true thought leadership stands out like a guiding light, something real and substantive that makes customers want to do business with you. We here at Catalyst Sale can show you how to use thought leadership marketing to drive business growth, and we’ll be right by your side as you do it, adding our expertise to yours. Give us a call today to find out more.