How to Become a Thought Leader in Your Field.
When we think of the term ‘thought leadership’, it’s easy to see it as marketing jargon. It sounds generalised – the brainchild of a creative who has been waiting for the lightbulb moment for far too long. However, when we look into the meaning of the term, and how it can benefit both B2C and B2B businesses, it becomes essential to any business that wants to position themselves as the expert.
What exactly is thought leadership?
In a nutshell, it allows businesses to become the voice of authority in their field. It should be worked into every content strategy to help businesses rise above the noise of everyone else that is pushing their content out there. Thought leadership content demands to be read by the customer, because they begin to depend on it. Engaging but informative, it answers the questions that people might be asking at the beginning of their customer journey. It also keeps your brand in the minds of your current customers, because they’ll still want to digest your content.
Becoming a thought leader is about becoming an influential voice, through presenting content across multiple channels that addresses the big questions your customers need answering. What are the unanswered questions in your industry, or the topics that are normally glossed over? Thought leadership content dares to be brave, and encourages customers to voice their views and join the debate.
You can break thought leadership down into three different types:
- Product – this content will inform prospects (in a non-sales driven way) of why your product is the solution to their problems.
- Industry-based – here you can really research news and trends in your industry, to address the big questions.
- Brand and organisational – this content will focus on your business and its vision.
What isn’t thought leadership?
It isn’t sales writing – if you go into the process thinking like this, you won’t get the results you want. It’s more to do with engagement, and thinking of the long term gain of thrusting your brand into the minds of your customers. The aim of course, is to encourage your prospects to act, but becoming a thought leader is more to do with recognition – presenting yourself as the go-to in your industry.
How can applying thought leadership benefit your business?
It’s a powerful concept for both B2B and B2C businesses, but perhaps more so for B2B, as when it comes to your prospects, there is normally a longer decision-making process. The highest level of trust needs to be established for the sign off. However, it really does apply across the board – if you’re getting your brand out there by offering relevant and informative content, prospects are far more likely to purchase from you than a competitor they’ve never heard of. A good way of looking at it would be to compare it to the power of a friend’s referral – you know and trust that person’s opinion, and you’d be more likely to take the plunge than if you just hit the Google search. Your business will become an accessible face for your customers – they’ll rely on you to advise them on your industry, and facilitate their decision making.
Steps to becoming a thought leader…
- Brainstorm the big questions your customers want answering and prioritise them.
- Address your content plan, and identify where you can schedule this content. Don’t replace all your sales copy with it, but ensure that the concept underpins your engagement pieces or conversation starters across your social channels.
- Make it accessible to you reader by not putting up barriers. The last thing you want to do is disguise your message as sales writing. Don’t make your thought leadership content lead bait. As long as you strategically place it so it’s in front of the right people, it’ll work for your business.
- Read over the content you’re already producing with fresh eyes and remember that thought leadership content will most likely have to rise above it. It needs to really stand out – if content writing isn’t your strong point, outsource it to someone with this skill set. Remember though – the research and ideas should be from you, and the outsourced process should just be to bring your work together in written form.
- Invite customers to engage with your content. Whether you’ve created a blog post, a LinkedIn pulse post, or content on Facebook, always ask for your customers’ opinion on a subject.
And another point…
Don’t overwhelm your audience. Schedule in your relevant, leading content regularly, but see it more as an essential, ongoing element of your content strategy.