Penny For Your Thoughts, Millions For Your Business
It’s far too easy to describe how you serve your clients with business clichés that don’t really distinguish your work from the next guy’s. While you may think you’ve established your authority, when you rely on buzzwords, your message just fades into white noise.
People aren’t buying into interruptions these days. They buy into expertise. People buy from brands that offer value and are the leaders in their industry. Thought leadership is the buzzword on everyone’s lips. It is a critical component to an effective, modern marketing strategy. For small businesses especially, it’s one of the best ways to cut through the clutter and compete against bigger brands. The benefits are game changing for small businesses, specifically in terms of lead generation and partnership opportunities.
Establishing a thought-leader position on a topic in your industry builds credibility in the eyes of your targets. It helps your business stand out from the competition. After all, are you more likely to trust and purchase from a company whose leaders you recognize as experts in the industry, or a company whose leaders you know nothing about?
Positioning your company as a thought leader provides benefits beyond what a marketing or advertising program can deliver on its own. Yes, thought leadership is a buzzword. But as with many buzzwords, there is relevance behind the concept and even more persuasive reasons to pursue it.
A Unique Point of View
The first step in establishing your company as a thought leader is to develop a unique point of view. You just can’t mirror what others are saying about your industry and go to market, so to speak. If there’s nothing special, unique or innovative in the message, it’s not going to merit any attention. You must have an angle or point of view that brings something new to the discussion.
Thought leadership is about delivering new ideas and content to your target publics based on deep insights into the business issues and challenges they face. In the process, the value you deliver should go well beyond merely selling your product or service. Your thought leadership point of view should differentiate you from your competitors, establish you as the ‘go to’ expert in that field and position you as a trusted advisor – all with the intent of underpinning the sale.
Case in point – if a business purchase for a service is being held up for fear of making the wrong choice, thought leaders can ease that fear in potential customers by raising their level of comfort. They are perceived as experts and of course, businesses are always looking to hire experts. Working with thought leaders also lowers the risk of making the wrong decision.
Where do we begin?
So you’ve pulled up to the station, you’re standing on the thought leadership platform, you’re wondering which way to go. Here are some navigational signs to help you get to your destination.
Trend spot – scan the media and social media sites for issues impacting your brand or sector. This will offer greater focus for your thought leadership material.
Track the noise – make sure you track your competition and what they’re shouting about out there – this will help you determine the thought leadership approach you want to take
Follow the lead – analyze and understand your company’s vision (internal and external) to better define the thought leadership areas you should enter.
Be in the know – research your client’s needs, issues and emerging challenges they are likely to face to ensure that your thought leadership aligns with these.
Ready, set go – identify a thought leadership champion to lead your campaign – you need a spokesperson.
Experienced thought leaders will tell you to make sure that your content is first and foremost client-centric. It must deliver new and relevant insights. The key to becoming an authentic thought leader in your industry is to leave promotion at the door – otherwise it can undermine your credibility as an industry expert.
On the other hand, if people start to trust you and respect you as an industry thought leader, the indirect result will be greater trust in the products and services you have to offer, and ultimately, more business!