What is the real definition of a thought leader?
It’s true that the term thought leader is used far too often when there’s no reality behind it. That’s all the more reason to take a good look at what it really means and why there is value in becoming a true thought leader for your industry.
The path to adoption of new technology and the purchase of new products has changed dramatically in the last few years. There’s no longer one primary source of information for customers to learn about products. Instead they’re using a multitude of touchpoints including Google search, social media, online reviews and websites to learn about brands before they ever connect with sales personnel.
They’re looking for guidance. And one of the most common ways they’ll do this is to ask someone they trust.
If you can establish yourself as a trusted source of information about your industry, people will believe in what you have to say – and that will splash over into believing in what you have to sell. Your exposure will also raise awareness of your brand in a very positive way.
That’s what a real thought leader does, and why it’s good to try to become one. It’s important to note here that just talking in general terms about your industry isn’t enough. You need to give people true value in what you say, how you guide them and the validity of your information. If every time you have a forum, whether in print or at a speaking engagement, you talk about your company’s products and how great they are, you won’t be seen as a trustworthy source of information. The value has to be real.
What is “thought leadership marketing”?
Thought leadership marketing is using true thought leadership to make prospective customers aware of your company and products. You do this by demonstrating your expertise in your industry through editorial and other content, which has the effect of influencing the consideration and purchase process.
To do this it’s not enough simply to get bylines and interviews published, or to write a blog. Those are all necessary and fundamental – again, great content is the centerpoint of any marketing program – but with today’s omnichannel experience, it’s necessary to syndicate and amplify this content across multiple platforms.
Your potential customer should come across your valuable content whether he or she is searching for information on Google, reading a trade publication they brought along on a flight, checking into their favorite LinkedIn industry group discussions or scanning a Twitter list for industry news. The content should be relevant, timely and informative, and new content needs to be created, added, posted and shared frequently enough to make sure prospects see it often – but not too often – no matter which channel they are on. Making sure this happens requires expertise in omnichannel integrated marketing, which is more of a science than an art.
It’s a longer-term, top-of-the-funnel strategy that is extremely effective in positioning a brand and keeping it in the purchaser’s thoughts throughout the sales cycle.
We want our CEO to be a thought leader. How can we get started?
Great content is at the core of any thought leadership marketing program. Your thought leader needs to be a prodigious producer of articles, blog posts, podcasts, videos etc. This can be a challenge since most CEOs don’t have time to write a grocery list.
However, you can work with a skilled provider who is highly knowledgeable about your market and who knows your company’s products and culture and can produce a steady stream of content. Still, this is only one piece of the puzzle.
Without an integrated marketing plan in place, thought leadership content isn’t going to move the needle on ROI. You need to know what your business objectives are and create a blueprint to execute a program that will meet those objectives with measurable results.
Your best possible tactic is to find one provider who can both create your integrated marketing blueprint, and also produce thought leadership content that has high value to your audience. They will take the reins, put together a program and a schedule, and go to work.
How do you measure thought leadership success?
In a digital world you can measure almost anything – clicks, shares, conversions or a multitude of other things. But the only way to measure success is to align that metric to a specific objective. Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, you can build a plan around it and measure the outcome to see if the program was successful.
A thought leadership program is unlikely to cause a sudden sales spike; it’s more of an audience-building program with longevity that creates a base of awareness, respect and recognition. A comprehensive integrated marketing plan would likely include a thought leadership component, but it wouldn’t make sense as a sole tactic.
Because every organization is different, the best move is to work with a person or agency who has developed expertise in creating integrated marketing programs. They will look at your company, your products, your presence, your competition and more and create an ideal program that works with your resources to meet your objectives.
There are a lot of people trying to capitalize on the rush to thought leadership by pushing tactical write-and-publish strategies that will cost a bundle and do little to advance your real marketing agenda. Real thought leadership has tremendous value when planned and executed according to a strategic marketing blueprint that begins with specific objectives and ends with success.
Do you have questions on how to turn your CEO into an industry thought leader? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll show you how to get started.