Many people think of thought leadership as a content marketing buzzword – but it’s so much more than that.
I’m sure many of you are asking, ‘Verity – what the hell IS thought leadership?!?’
Basically, thought leadership is a practice of consistently coming up with, developing, and communicating your ideas so that those ideas can spread and have a bigger impact. The way that you share those ideas may vary – content marketing, new business offerings, speaking, etc. – but it’s the combo of doing the thinking and sharing the thinking that matters.
Thought leadership is a strategic decision to own a unique position in your industry and do the deep thinking that will help you stay ahead of the rest of the field. It’s also a fantastic way to grow your business, connect and widen your community, generate leads, and improve your business.
So here’s what it takes to use thought leadership to grow your business and change your industry.
Own a position in your market
We all want to stand out.
When your market’s busy with other organisations and people doing similar things – products with the same basic functions, similar aesthetics, competitively priced services – you want (and need) to create a point of difference. To do that, you’ve got to say (and do) something different to the others in the crowd.
To find that unique position, I always suggest taking a PEN to it:
Think about what drives you – why you do what you do. Then consider what you are the MOST expert in – what can you do better than virtually anyone else, or what do you know the most about? Finally, think closely about your ideal target market – what is their biggest need?
At the intersection of those is where you’ll find your unique position. Then, it’s just a case of looking at all your offerings and the content you put out and asking yourself ‘does this paint a picture of me as the go-to for that topic?’
Adding value to the conversation
All great growth starts with an idea. Thought leadership sees you create a new category within your market that’s driven by intelligent contributions that people want to hear, rather than unnecessary waffle. Here’s an example: It’s not pushing out blogs on ‘the ten best couches today’ but instead driving a conversation on why and how you believe your brand’s USP and values help raise the standard of, say, sofa sustainability or what need is not currently being met in furniture design for people with disabilities.
Ideas are the currency of leaders. The more you speak out about the successes and pitfalls of your industry – and the kinds of transformations you’d like to see – the more people will come to you for insights, and to support you and your organisation as those in the know.
Build and connect with your audience
To grow, you need a community behind you – and thought leadership is an awesome way to build a community of people who support, empower, and challenge your work and thinking. It’s a conversation with your market.
We say this because thought leadership doesn’t assume that you know best – but that you’re in pursuit of better. That’s a journey of learning and growth on which you can bring your audience and market along.
Part of that comes with listening. Thought leadership isn’t about tooting your own horn all the time. Listen to your community, ask for their advice and feedback, and let their questions inform how you shape or communicate your next big idea. Not only will having constructive conversations build your audience, but you’ll also form meaningful connections in your industry and potentially across to other industries too.
Think about what value you’re offering. A thought leader shares ideas in a way that will improve their audience’s work or personal lives (or ideally, both!); they build trust and give a reason for customers – potential or current – to choose you over the competition, irrespective of price. And those raving fans become advocates for you, working harder to showcase your work and USP to their friends and colleagues – who’ll go and spread the good word about your work. Easy.
Prime leads to work with you
Sharing your thinking can help get your ideas in front of a bigger audience. But more importantly, it gets your ideas and your business in front of a more engaged audience.
Owning a thought leadership position means leads will already be primed to work with you. They’ll have read your articles, attended your webinars, watched your videos or tried out your methods; they may have heard your name mentioned in an article by an industry peer eager to showcase your thinking. Your content and ideas will have helped the qualification process and ensure your leads are committed to working with you – and chomping at the bit to get started.
By focussing on potentially fewer, more dedicated clients, you’ll be able to focus on growing your business and offerings – and continue to develop the thinking that has people queueing out the door to work with you.
Spark your thinking and creativity
Thought leadership is great at expanding your community, bringing in leads and making awesome connections. But it can also have just as much of an impact internally as it does externally.
When you embed thought leadership into your business strategy, you foster better thinking. You start thinking critically, and stay motivated, engaged, and inspired to continually improve what you offer and how you do it.
If things are feeling a bit flat and you’re needing a strike of inspiration, thought leadership might be just the thing you and your business need to head out into a new territory. When you’re thinking your best, that’s when your business is primed to perform and grow.
Making the strategic decision
Let go of the idea that marketing and sales are the only way to grow your business. They’re vital for getting you recognised, but investing in communication simply for communications’ sake might be holding you back from your true potential – and inadvertently getting you lost in the crowd.
Thought leadership shouldn’t be seen as ‘supersized comms’ but instead an approach that opens you up to driving forward not just your business, but also the industry you’re in. That means it’s going to take some work. It’s not something that can be embedded overnight.
To successfully adopt thought leadership as a strategy for growing your business, you’ve got to invest time in it – to really THINK and put careful consideration behind it. But making that investment means you can have a greater impact than you ever thought possible.
So, what’s holding you back?
You can learn more about how Verity helps her clients build credibility in their market and become thought leaders here: https://www.intelligentink.co.nz/