Nowadays, the corporate world is buzzing with the word ‘Thought leadership.’ People are yet to grasp its full potential, though. To explain it simply, Thought leadership involves guiding your team in making the right decisions.
A thought leader, in fact, is not created overnight. There is a lot of hard work and perseverance that goes behind setting up yourself as a trusted figure in your field. To elaborate, Thought leadership is a subset of content marketing. Showing your authority on a topic needs careful research at all levels.
Here we tell you thought leadership meaning in complete detail. Use this information and gain a foothold in the already competitive industry.
Table of Contents
What is Thought leadership?
First of all, we need to understand what is thought leadership. A simple Thought leadership definition can be “a form of content marketing where you find talent and experience in your business. This means you use the expertise of your team to find answers to customer’s questions.”
There is, however, confusion among the team members regarding how to go about the process. Most executives consider having a unique point of view as the ultimate resort. They want to portray their company as offering unique answers. The truth, however, is that the customers only want the answers to their questions.
It is appropriate to differentiate the content only when it is required. Use visual design to create a unique impression. Mostly try to become an authoritative figure and help the customers. Offer them a different type of content every day.
There are people who consider thought leadership as some useless jargon. You should not give in to the trap. Consider it as an innovative approach to get your customers to realize what you know.
Benefits of Thought leadership
Even now, not everyone realizes what thought leadership means and the potential it holds. But the value a company derives from having a thought leader is more than they can even fathom. Here are some benefits you gain by using the thought leader approach.
With competition at its peak, it is tough to show your exclusivity to the world. Using the thought leader, thought firms break through the muddle and provide unique services. Having the right project and client combination, thought leaders have an advantage over nearly 80% of their competitors. If you are one of the few who have aced the concept, you will grab attention and garner sufficient clients.
Marketing your services is an arduous task. Having and maintaining a thought leadership position ensures that you get a secured place in the customer’s mind. Being a thought leader offers a Unique selling proposition that no one can replicate.
This, in turn, benefits your company internally as well as externally. Clients link your brand with having great ideas and pioneering concepts. Employees remain contented as their workplace is creatively satisfying.
Boost in sales
It goes without saying that your being a thought leader works in your favor. Most thought leaders end up getting more and satisfying work than their competitors. Companies that have a vast portfolio of services benefit the maximum.
Experts promote and sell the services of almost all their departments and that too with ease. Your being a leader gives you the independence to play around with the market.
Thought leadership not only increases your sales but multiplies the profits too. Profitability hike works on two levels- creating higher margins and increasing internal efficiency. Companies lose money because they tend to undervalue their expertise.
Plus, their operating systems are inefficient and prone to errors. When companies create a thought leader, they also learn the tactics of value-based pricing. Getting new clients is quite time-consuming. By establishing yourself as a leader, companies strengthen their position as authoritative figures.
Better offerings due to innovation and development
Thought leaders try their best to remain on the top of the graph. Naturally, they have to find ways to convert their ideas into reality. This passion leads them to provide high-quality services aiming at achieving excellence.
The pursuit of maintaining a leadership position leads to innovations in work. This, later on, converts into better value given to customers.
Company growth and value
Thought leadership could be precious to the brand it upholds. Having a thought leader at your base is an asset that companies cherish. Many companies monitored the impact of having a leader at their helm. The findings were surprising as stock and brand value showed double-digit growth.
No one gets to predict the pace the market will choose. At times the recession strikes when you least expect it. In such circumstances, following the principles of thought leadership helps.
The company needs a fresh approach In such dire economic conditions. Individuals who established themselves as thought leaders are most likely not going to suffer the brunt. Since they are full of ideas, companies want to keep them. Even if the leader needs to abandon the company, it is easy for him to land with another option.
Individual thought leaders feel a sense of accomplishment. They are not just driven by the monetary benefits offered. Instead, they work on a passion that forces them to work hard and accomplish their goals. Giving professionals an option to develop creative talent boosts productivity. In most cases, it is a situation that works best for the company and the employee.
How to create and build a thought leadership strategy
When we talk about what is thought leadership definition, we put the first emphasis on content. Usually, well-designed content plays a critical role. It helps you to build relationships and reach a broader base of customers. Mostly you have to try and make your credibility which needs time and planning. Your content should be exclusive and in accordance with the strategy to prove yourself as a leader.
Best thought leadership strategies will help and maintain your trust with the audience. Usage of a variety of content creates a cumulative impact of increasing your brand recognition. Here are some steps you should start in building a thought leadership strategy:
- Understand how you can build trust
Everyone has a goal, and your audiences understand that too. Exceed their expectations by giving them something rather extraordinary. When you share your insights with them, the audience starts to believe in you. Leave aside the need to promote your brand to them. Instead, focus on providing real value to the customers, something they would benefit from.
Provide content that gives valuable information on their topics of interest. When your content teaches them something useful, entertains, or educates them, your job is done. People do not want lectures on why they should trust them; they need proof, and you have to work on giving that.
- Build your expertise
At this point, you must define your area of expertise. Instead of focusing on the whole industry, just pick up a specific niche to work on. Creating useless content for a variety of topics does not work. Instead, just create knowledge-based content for the niche you are focused on.
Once you have chosen your area of expertise, building your brand becomes easy. Plus, when you focus your energy on one topic, you lend it a sense of credibility.
- Identify your audience
Before formulating your strategy, you must comprehend your audience. As a brand, you must have already done that to quite an extent. You just have to streamline and align your thought leadership plans according to the same. Identify your brand’s persona and start working on synchronizing both.
- Competitor’s strategy
Your competitors are not sitting idle. They are also working on thought leadership endlessly. It will help if you keep your eyes and ears open in this regard. Notice their plans and strategy to avoid any duplication from your side. Naturally, your competitors will not be exploring all the avenues of promotion. It is these gaps that you can work upon.
You must also find places where they are posting their content. It is futile for you to log in to your content there too. However, you can always look for schedule gaps that are waiting to be filled.
- Create content to build an experience
You have by now understood the importance of compelling content in this situation. You have to develop specific types of content to work at different points of your relationship. Here the essential thing is to garner new customers through the content.
Your company’s blog may be excellent; however, focus on off-site content too. Getting links through guest posts or mentions in the press are superb ideas to do so. Once you know you have their attention, keep adding value by providing the content.
You could work on blog posts, videos, case studies, and e-books, anything that emphasizes your position as a leader. But all your content will go to waste if it is not shared further. Use your social media accounts and email newsletters to inform the audience what you are up to.
- Putting your content to use
Though you have created content, you will have to utilize its potential. Explore your most valuable contacts and share your content with them. Surround the brand with exclusive and exciting content and create your online presence around it.
Keep using and recycling the content in multiple creative ways. Thought leadership needs content, but the same should be value-based. You need a strategy focussing on your goal only. Start by creating your content with a specific purpose in mind. Join all the pieces of your content such that it portrays a sense of harmony.
- Avoid the tendency to be promotional
It is easy to misinterpret thought leadership as the mode of brand promotion. But you must resist this temptation as it would only push your audience away from you. As a thought leader, your responsibilities are different. You have to understand trends and problems raging at that moment.
You have to show your audience that you have the expertise in your industry. Audiences dislike content that is generic, lacks originality, and does not address their problems. Give them solutions, and they will want to read more of your shared content.
- Use various platforms to share content
Don’t think your blog is the only place where you should post content. This is because people access information from multiple platforms. If they miss your blog, posting the content on social media will grab their attention. Expand your range and include YouTube, podcast, and social media handles to get it more takers.
One habit most successful thought leaders adopt is being at many places. Their content is splashed on various avenues apart from them sharing their ideas at events. All in all, the key is to increase the visibility of your content and get customers interested.
- Consistency is critical
You cannot hope to get any returns if your strategy is erratic. Maintain an editorial calendar where you can plan, schedule, and release your content accordingly. You could also modify your content as per the needs of the platform you want to share it on.
For example, on Instagram, you need to add more visual aspects to the content. On the other hand, the content posted on LinkedIn could use infographics to get more traction.
- Be genuine in your approach
It is very easy for customers to understand the difference between real and fake posts. Always know that the customer wants to trust you blindly. If you are putting information that is untrue, he might never come back.
Apart from that, being genuine humanizes your brand. The audience veers toward someone they can relate to easily. You can show your brand as someone who worries and cares about the customers. When you make such an impression, the consumers want to confide in you. They believe that you have the answers to their queries and that they can turn to you.
How to become a thought leader?
After having a quick understanding of thought leadership, we will move on further. Next, we shall talk about how to become a thought leader. Not everyone is able to master this art perfectly. Here are some tips that prove helpful when trying to become a thought leader.
There are two ways to start your blogging journey. You could either create your own blog and post content there. Or you could guest post on other people’s websites. If you are good at attaining a balance, you could do both of them.
The key here is to portray your presence as a person adept in all facets of the industry. Your articles should display your total command over the particular subject. If you can describe the issue in light and context different from others, you are sure to grab eyeballs.
In order to get credibility in your niche, you will have to create a bank of content. Update the content regularly and share it on various platforms. Ultimately your blog or posts should gather a solid following of their own.
Publish your content
Another way in which you can strengthen your position as a thought leader is through content publishing. Content that is published gives you long-term exposure and drives traffic to the website. Do not restrict yourself to the mode in which you will publish your content.
Books, eBooks, guides, fact sheets, and articles for respected publications all boost your reputation. Share ideas, offer practical advice and answer queries that your audience may have. Your ultimate aim should be to provide something of value to the readers.
Do not restrict yourself to the number of articles you publish. You may write as frequently as you want. Choose websites with High authority and well-known publications to increase your recognition. Posting the content on platforms like Quora, Medium and LinkedIn also fulfills your purpose.
Nowadays, influencer marketing is on the rise. The influencers already have a strong following that believes whatever they share. You can consider them as a potential source to increase your reach and visibility.
Find out influencers in the same niche as yours. You can follow them on social media and offer your opinion on their posts. By opinion, you have to write meaningful advice and suggestions that show your expertise too.
This kind of engagement will increase your bonding with the influencer and his followers. Another way you can build a relationship is to offer your help. Showing them your assistance or sharing articles to post on their blog could be a great initiative.
Aim for the awards and accolades
A person backed by a solid professional and educational background gets credibility as it is. The other awards, accolades, and honors you accumulate help in boosting your image. Obviously, your audience needs to know about your achievements. Your blog and LinkedIn page are the perfect places to endorse your skills.
The more impressive platform you create, the better are the chances of media link-ups. But, remember not to flaunt your achievements more than is necessary. Avoid using your posts as a means to do so. You could also prepare a short bio that you publish along with each blog.
Use content marketing suitably
As the name suggests, content marketing is a tool to inform and educate your audience. Prepare a content marketing strategy that yields you instant results. Start with a blueprint and match it with your brand’s image and goals.
Always keep in mind that your aim is not to provide SEO-based content to the readers. You only want to portray your authoritative approach in the niche. Naturally, then your content should convey the same. Optimize the blogs with the keywords your audience is searching for.
You will have to do deep keyword research to pick the most impactful ones. Remember, other competitors are also following the same strategy, and you have to show exclusivity.
Engaging with the audience
Most of your audience is present on social media. Try and build a bond by initiating conversations. Share your content to garner the appropriate response. Later try and gauge what your readers feel after reading the same.
Videos are instant methods to grab attention. A lot of viewers love watching short videos that inform and engage them. Sharing those once in a while will get you the attention you want. For maximum social media engagement, share valuable and insightful posts that they will share further.
Networking within the industry
You can also reach out to your industry contacts and increase the chances of networking. Attend events, conferences, seminars, and in-person events. This is where you can update your knowledge and expand your audience base.
Find out more about the other thought leaders in your field. Learn new tactics from them and, if possible, take guidance from a mentor. Such events also have a sufficient media presence. This is your easy chance to let them know what your credentials are. It is such inhibited interactions that convert into fruitful associations later on.
Find out opportunities to speak
Getting a chance to voice your thoughts is the most effective step in your journey. Speaking at events and conferences increases the exposure you get. In the initial stages, you could start by giving speeches at colleges. Inaugural addresses and thematic briefings could follow after this.
It is immaterial who you are talking to. Your aim should be to give a certain level of value to the listeners. Your presentation has to have strength and substance in it. Apart from that, it should provide the audience with insights and facts.
The speech you showcase here can prove helpful in other forms. Use the same content and convert it into a blog post or infographic. Later publish the same on your blog or social media networks. This will garner you double the attention you received in the first speech.
Popular Thought leaders
In the end, here are some thought leaders who have made a mark for themselves. These people discovered their niche and went on to ace the same.
When you talk about Internet marketing, a famous voice leading the rest is Neil Patel. He is co-founder of 3 digital companies and a published New York Times best-selling author. Even though he maintains other interests, his newsletter regarding his niche is insightful.
Neil helps companies understand the scope of marketing. He guides them as they use digital marketing to garner more sales. Neil started in the field young at the age of 16. Since then, he has not looked back and built businesses from scratch. So, much so that his achievements are recognized by the White House as well.
Patel’s content is easy to access through his website. Millions go to his blog to read through his content and engage with him. His followers are just not numbers. They are loyal to him, and that makes him a great leader.
Sally is a powerhouse of presentation and speaking skills. Her research with nearly one million participants led to the creation of “The Fascination advantage.” Instead of talking about how you see the world, Sally teaches how the world will see you.
Sally is again a published author. Her book FASCINATE: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist and HOW THE WORLD SEES YOU is a New York Times bestseller. Apart from that, she is one of the 172 members of the Speaker Hall of Fame. As a speaker, Sally found her calling and is now a formidable figure.
Daniel is a thought leader in niche work, life, and human behavior. He has written nearly six books on the topic. The latest one, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, remained on the New York Times bestselling list for four months.
Daniels’s expertise includes behavioral science, science secrets, and social science. The strategies he uses to do so are multiple. This provides life hacks, easy-to-grasp videos, and instructional podcasts. Daniel Pink is the resource to check when you wish to study behavior in detail.
People know Verne Harnish as the “Growth Guy.” For the last three decades, he has helped firms scale their operations. He has published several books under his name. One of them, “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits,” was translated into nine languages.
Verne also founded Entrepreneurs Organization; a peer-to-peer network targeted at Entrepreneurs. The organization has nearly 13000+ members in over 57 countries. Verne provides business planning guides, coaching, and courses for executive education.
Susan Cain already has two bestsellers to her name. She teaches the power of words and how introverts should use them to gain a break. Her content is popular enough for Bill Gates to name her Ted Talks as the best he heard.
As a person, Susan emphasizes being relatively quiet. Yet she has given hundreds of talks till now. Though she never aimed to, Susan ended up giving a voice to the introverts. The reaction she received to her first book “Quiet” shows her credibility. Susan uses science and words to change the way the world looks at introverts.
Understanding the whole concept behind Thought leadership could be tricky. However, once you grasp the basics, the road towards growth becomes easy to pursue. Being a thought leader requires perseverance to attain the goal. Hopefully, we have clarified a lot of doubts about thought leadership and how it works.
Realization of your customer’s needs is also crucial. Achieve a balance between all of them if you want to explore the potential of becoming a thought leader. Keep in touch with the industry trends as your knowledge convinces the audience to trust you. The more you network around, the better are your chances of acing this leadership game.