Thought leadership is one of those terms that is bandied about during corporate meetings and marketing discussions, but very few people are actually clear on what it means. The Muse defines it as a way for brands to position themselves as a leader in a certain field by demonstrating their expertise. It’s not just about having something to say, it’s understanding what you’re saying and being able to prove it. Thought leadership also drives a company to focus more on the customer, rather than the products they’re selling. Entrepreneur’s ‘Selling 101’ article details that consumers do not want a product, they want a solution to their problem. So it is vital that companies focus on the benefits, just as much as the features, of their product or service.
Becoming a thought leader is a powerful way to boost your brand growth, but it’s not something that happens overnight. Establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry takes a lot of time and effort. The business leaders of today need to be adept in their chosen field, and not only contribute ideas but execute them as well. The good news is that now is the best time for thought leaders to take the lead in their chosen industry. Maryville University states that 3.6 million executives were expected to retire in 2017, which has opened up positions for new leaders to take their place and push forward new ideas.
The simplest way for you to grow your brand or business is to create meaningful and helpful content that reflects your expertise, have a clear vision of what your business stands for, and make sure it serves your audience more than it serves you. On 10Fold we pointed out that rising above thought leadership noise is important as this can distract you from making applicable content that matters. Especially since we live in an age where content marketing has become an essential part of a brand’s success in the digital world.
Content that demonstrates thought leadership is often more compelling because it’s grounded in heavy research and backed up by numerous data and studies. It has clear authority, perspective, and inherent trustworthiness. But before you can come up with provocative content that shows your audience you’re a thought leader in your industry, you need to make sure you figure out your expertise. Inc notes that the greatest thought leaders understand their niche, and are constantly asking themselves what makes their brand or business different from their competitors. Innovative thinkers and great thought leaders also understand their audience well. This is best shown through Ann Handley’s advice on the importance of knowing your brand’s story. Hadley, an expert in B2B and a respected thought leader, shone the light on Baking Steel, a company that sells baking sheets to improve the home pizza making experience. She noted how the company didn’t just create a useful product, they also became a useful service for their customers through publishing recipes and sourcing the best ingredients to use. This created a brand story that allowed the customer to see past the standard baking sheet, and see it as a way to bring people together. Future thought leaders should look at why this company succeeded and how they can apply the lessons to their own brand.
So how else can you be an effective thought leader apart from creating good content? The answer is to focus on first-hand knowledge. When you do your own research, your brand knowledge and insights are unique to you. Apart from giving you more credibility, this allows you to differentiate your content from the competition. The value of thought leadership in your business is not just to put you at the top, but to give your business more credibility—something that will be far more valuable in the long term.
Guest post by: Allison Lee