Whether you’re trying to find a recipe, diagnose those strange black spots on your tomato plants, or get the latest financial news, you probably have a favorite resource or “go to” site that you rely on. These experts have earned your trust by providing reliable information in a format that you like, which keeps you coming back for more. This is thought leadership at its best.
Unfortunately, the term “thought leadership,” has become somewhat overused and in some cases, misunderstood. However, when done right, it can be a powerful tool for branding, as well as an effective way to generate leads.
By definition, “Thought leaders are the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success.” (Denise Brosseau, Thought Leadership Lab). Just as you rely on trusted sources in your personal life, businesses depend on thought leadership to grow their network and connect with their target audience.
Why Become a Thought Leader in Your Field?
When you’re seen as a trustworthy authority among industry colleagues and peers, as well as potential customers, people become interested in what you have to say. This interest helps you cut through the clutter in what has certainly become content overload. Having someone seek out your expertise is far more effective than trying to reach a far-flung audience with your message. In other words, having them come to you is easier than going in search of them!
Buyers in this digital age are increasingly using online information, including social media to research products and services before making a purchase decision. They want to know you’re the expert before they make an investment. This is especially true in the B2B market where purchases can be expensive and complicated and involve a high-degree of risk. Demonstrate that you’re a trusted expert with your content, and you’re more likely to attract potential buyers.
Develop a Journey that Drives Revenues
Once leads begin to trust and engage with your content, it becomes easier to move them through the buyers’ journey with the right content, at the right time. In fact, integrating thought leadership with a marketing automation system will help you get to know your customers by tracking their content needs and developing a journey to ultimately drive revenues.
Thought leadership can also help you make friends in the right places… really.
Make Connections with Thought Leadership
We recently worked with a manufacturing company that developed a monthly thought leadership blog. It covers hot topics in their industry, including the latest robotics, the impact of artificial intelligence, finding qualified employees, and other pertinent issues. Instead of relying solely on internal information and company sources, they reached out to experts on each topic and featured quotes that were insightful and educational.
Not only did these pieces garner high readership and engagement among their intended audience, the company formed valuable associations with these outside authorities. Each of these experts shared the blogs with their own network, thus expanding the audience and creating valuable backlinks.
If you’re familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you understand the importance of backlinks. Backlinks are links that are directed towards your websites (aka, inbound links). Some search engines, especially Google, will rank websites that have more quality backlinks higher than those that have less. Create QUALITY backlinks and your website will be considered more relevant.
What constitutes quality? When inbound links to your site come from other sites that have related content, those links are considered relevant. The higher the relevance, the better the quality.
How to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
The first thing to consider is that thought leadership is not achieved through a single blog post or white paper. You must build your expertise and credibility over time. This takes patience, persistence and the willingness to listen and learn from others. It involves not merely explaining things but showing your audience how to use information to learn, improve, and grow. Also, be sure to focus on one area of expertise instead of trying to be the authority on many topics.
To develop thought leadership, you can:
- Conduct original interviews with industry experts and share their insights, as well as how those insights can be applied to your customers’ business. Find experts and influencers by reading their blogs and social media posts, as well as attending speaking engagements and networking events.
- Compile data into one convenient source. For example, we gather results from the annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, along with several other industry surveys and publish a handy annual marketing trends report to help our customers make more informed decisions.
- Provide an engaging analysis of market or industry trends. Don’t simply rehash, but rather take a position and support that position with data. Stay ahead of trends by anticipating “what’s next?”
- Establish a reputation as an expert with in-depth educational white papers, webcasts, podcasts or e-books. If you have the resources, create a library of research reports.
- Publish an online magazine, which can be hosted on a microsite (outside of your company website). Feature a variety of interesting and educational stories about subjects related to your expertise.
- Offer “skill building” courses, such as how to improve sales techniques, how to use marketing automation effectively, how to design more effective websites, etc.
These are just some of the ways you can become a thought leader in your industry. A brainstorming session with your sales people, your manufacturing folks, and your marketing team is sure to produce a list of actionable ideas. (For examples of some effective thought leadership campaigns, go to: mcguireeditorial.com/best-thought-leadership-content-marketing)
Overall, the key to successful thought leadership is motive: your goal should be to genuinely help your audience, not promote your products or service. This is the only way to establish authenticity and trust.