What is Thought Leadership? 4 Key Things to Know


Many people are quick to equate the term ‘thought leadership’ with being the guru or an expert in a particular industry. These traits are indispensable, but we should take note that there is more to being a thought leader. So, if you are wondering what is thought leadership…

Thought leadership refers to innovative thinking and intellectual influence employed by a company/person, which could be for so many reasons. Thought leadership is a term that emerged for eons, although many are just getting to understand the term and its importance.

Indubitably, a thought leader is known by peers, industry experts, and customers for being profoundly knowledgeable about the business he/she is in, the customers’ needs, as well as a broader marketplace which they work.

Apart from these, a thought leader must possess the ability to promote a thought which influences both customers and prospective customers to focus on the themes they consider crucial in unconventional ways.

Thought leaders make use of original ideas, unconventional insights, and unique points of view to manipulate the thought patterns of their target audience.

Thought leadership is pivotal in content marketing, and it requires that a company provides nonpareil and most in-depth answers to the biggest questions of its target audience, in a format considered most appropriate by the target audience.

Thought leadership is the act of promulgating a particular viewpoint that reframes the thoughts of customers and stakeholders about issues important to them.

A company can only achieve this through its behavior and communication – it is worthy of note that it takes far more than articulating a company’s viewpoint. A study has shown that 35% of B2B buyers are investing about one to three hours of their time per week in reviewing thought leadership contents.

Also, 49% of B2B buyers stated that the impression they had of a company had become more inferior upon reading a deplorable quality content, and a third had taken away a company from consideration because of its thought leadership output.

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP OBJECTIVES

It is vital for companies to carefully think about and analyze their objectives when planning thought leadership. The top management of the company should ask themselves:

  • “What exactly are our desired outcomes?”
  • “What determines our success?”
  • “How do we identify the period our project can be called a success?”

Different companies have different thought leadership objectives they desire to achieve with thought leadership, which some are explained below:

Closing more SALES

Consumers never want to be sold: they love to carry out their research on products and services, in order for them to make wise purchase decisions.

With educational and succinct content available to prospective customers, they can be guided through their questions and concerns, which induce increased leads and conversion rate.

Strengthen SOCIAL PRESENCE

When it comes to making considerable sales, brands must find their way to the mouth of people.

 One of the best ways to achieve this is by staying relevant on social media. To remain relevant, a brand may share and promote extremely valuable contents, engage closely, and maintain cordial relationships with its audience on social media.

 Attract Top Talent

A company that shares and promotes valuable content consistently will not only gain the attention of prospective customers but also gain the attention of top talents and highly skilled people in the industry.

 Some of these people would perceive your company as a coveted one for employment, and when more of them are employed, your company would most likely grow bigger with their knowledge, skills, and experience.

Increasing Trust in the BRAND

Owning a company with a well-reputed brand is what is desired by quite a lot of business owners. Fortunately for them, shaping and strengthening personal brands and humanizing an organization in the eyes of people is possible with thought leadership.

 Since consumers want to transact with people, rather than companies, then it is irrefutably shrewd to be a thought leader. According to a survey that involved 1,300 business-to-business (B2B) professionals, 81% intimated that thought leadership had increased their trust in a vendor company.

TYPES OF THOUGHT LEADERSHIP (WITH EXAMPLES)

INDUSTRY THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

One of the reasons many companies have adopted thought leadership programs is to stand out in their various industries.

 To be a thought leader in an industry, a company must focus on the news, forces, and trends that shape the market. This focus will influence innovative thoughts and insights that will be developed and promulgated to a target audience.

An example of an Industry thought leadership is  Autodesk.

Autodesk is a company that can be put in this category. Autodesk is a giant leader in the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) industry. Autodesk has a museum called Autodesk Gallery and has its Redshift website that contains valuable resources for its target audience.

ORGANIZATIONAL THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

An organization’s vision, innovations, as well as uniqueness, should be pre-heated by its thought leadership.

 Quite simply, your thought leadership should reflect and drive your organizational culture. The degree to which you are able to manage talents in your organization may also be a determinant in this category.

For instance, some organizations allow their customers to decide the products they develop. They either give prototypical options to their customers to vote or allow their customers to make suggestions randomly.

PRODUCT THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

This involves implementing the best practices and strategies to make your products unrivaled. It requires learning religiously and being innovative.

 An example of product thought leadership is Apple.

Apple is a company that can be put in this category. Apple has made use of their outsourcing strategies, utmost hardware, and software security, and many more strategies to influence the perception people to have of their products.

HOW TO ESTABLISH THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

  • The first step to establish thought leadership is to discover the topics that are associated with your brand very deeply. Now ask yourself and think about it if you are an authority on those topics.

That question can actually be answered by simply making use of a search engine. Usually, brands do not only compete with direct competitors – they compete with everyone. As a matter of fact, all publishers of contents in your niche are direct competitors for authority and mind share.

  • The next step is to find and identify the questions your target audience is asking. After identifying them, you should list them and make them a priority.
  • Next is to choose experts in your organization that can give answers to those questions in the most appropriate way.

It would be best if you understood that the questions should be answered across various formats and channels using an approach that adds value to your current and prospective customers. You should sort the answers according to importance, and try to give the best answers possible.

Quite importantly, your thought leadership contents should be created in the most engaging way. You should place your utmost priority on educating your audience, but since your audience are humans, adding a shade of humor wouldn’t be an unwelcoming idea.

Make use of a plethora of examples, quotes, and facts. It is also incontestably shrewd to interview customers to create good contents or curate contents from different sources and coat with your perspective.

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP STRATEGIES

  • DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE AND THE INFORMATION THEY NEED: It is crucial to first invest your time in identifying your audience as specific as possible. This puts you at a higher chance rate of reaching and engaging them with your thought leadership.

 A thought leader never thinks his audience is everyone. Therefore, a thought leader will never spend quality time and money promulgating his contents to everyone.

The target should be people who most likely love what you do, how you do it, who you are, and what you want to pass as a message. Strategic and informative topics/messages should be developed for this targeted audience.

  •  EXERT THE POWER OF EXCLUSIVE OFFERS: After knowing your targeted audience, you should work on becoming an expert in the topics offered to them. One way to be considered an expert by people is to provide them with exclusive resources to engage – give them various touchpoints.

Develop remarkable gated content, such as e-books, for them to download after an engagement. Provide special offers and make your VIP customers engaged with high touch services. Partnering with well-reputed brands to develop freakish offerings is another good idea.

  •  KEEP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE OPTIMIZED: Evidently, social media is an excellent platform to connect with one’s followers endlessly.

 It has become quite effective on thought leadership, and every thought leader should see it as an exceptional opportunity. However, rather than joining every social media platform and staying less engaging in some, a thought leader should choose one or two platforms where his targeted audience dominate more and place unwavering focus on the platform/platforms.

  •  FILL YOUR EDITORIAL CALENDAR WITH FRESH CONTENT: Doing the steps mentioned above and ignoring this particular step will yield a miscarriage.

A thought leader should perceive it as his unremitting duty to create highly valuable contents consistently. If you are in a bid to become a great thought leader, you should consider having a complete editorial calendar with well-organized topic ideas, strategy, and properly planned schedule.

CONCLUSION

Thought leadership is the most exciting yet challenging endeavor a company or a person can pursue. To become a thought leader not only means that you / your business will be recognized as the best in class, but also that the level of expectations and quality of your product and services should be that much higher, and remain as such.

There are multiple thought leadership strategies you could use to build your personal or company brand, to attract the best possible customers, to gain credibility and continuous business from them. However, it would be best if you first decided what your priorities, your thought leadership objectives, and where you see yourself or your business after you implement the strategies are.

Thank you for reading this far! Would love to read your comments on the topic, and please like and share if you enjoyed it.

REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

Denise Brosseau. What is a Thought Leader? https://www.thoughtleadershiplab.com/Resources/WhatIsaThoughtLeader . Accessed on 07/30/2019.

Michael Brenner. What is thought leadership and when you should use it? https://marketinginsidergroup.com/content-marketing/what-is-thought-leadership-and-when-you-should-use-it/ . Accessed on 07/30/2019.

Skye Schooley. What is thought leadership, and why does it matter?

https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/9253-thought-leadership.html . Accessed on 07/30/2019.

Amelia Keyser. What is thought leadership? Everything you need to know. https://brandyourself.com/blog/guide/what-is-thought-leadership/ . Accessed on 07/30/2019.

Emidio Amadebai

For the past 2 years, I have been working as the head of Customer Experience, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Finance at an international pay as you go solar home system company working in rural areas in Africa. After my previous 7 years working in B2B, IT&Telecoms industry, as a Service Delivery and Project Manager, having worked with Vodacom, Huawei, and other multinational companies. My job is to make sure we improve the lives of thousands of families, with access to electricity, utilities (radio, TV, lights), doing our very best so that they get the best-in-class customer experience, and succeed in acquiring the products for themselves.

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