Thought leadership is a position of power. As a thought leader you’re an influencer and a market commentator rather than solely a vendor – it’s a very different position, and one that brings with it credibility and responsibility.
The best thought leaders play a key role in the conceptualisation of new business ideas, trends and breakthroughs. They get a headstart on shaping the customer buying pattern by offering an in-depth experience of their company’s value before any product benefit is even mentioned.
So how do you make the transition from vendor to influencer? Here are five keys I believe are essential in order to become a thought leader:
- Solve problems
Good thought leadership should raise questions, but it should also offer answers. Even if it’s not specifically relevant to the reader, starting with a challenge then laying out informative solutions and demonstrating how you problem solve conveys exactly the type of approach potential clients are on the lookout for in uncertain times. Pipedrive, a cloud-based sales software company, are experts at this and their content is continually interacted with as a result, with multiple comments on each blog they post.
- Sell thoughts, not products
The best thought leaders excel because they remain conceptual and don’t stray down the conventional content marketing route of noise and quantity over insightful quality. When your prospects are consuming your thought leadership, they’re on a level footing with you in identifying and solving their problems. At this early stage, it’s your thought process that has value, not your product. Frame the issues that keep them awake at night and give them ideas, insight and solutions.
- Maintain a common thread
A returning audience means exponentially expanding ROI. If people are guaranteed what they’re going to receive each time they visit they’ll be more likely to return and be continually engaged. Scott Galloway’s videos, posted on L2’s youtube channel, consistently tick over 200,000 views — the topic may change but his approach as a thought leader does not. There’s a bidirectional assurance that he will publish videos using his tried-and-tested technique, and his audience will keep coming back. Each time they do, he’s able to introduce new ideas to a captive and receptive audience, and the impact of his thought leadership increases.
- Keep a finger on the pulse
When we publish content related to ongoing news or trends we see a vast uplift in readership. Our posts on the controversial Pepsi and Heineken adverts, for instance, received a boost of over 81% over our regular pieces. And topicality can be just as effective as timing. Our recent eZine on security wasn’t sent out until three weeks after the recent NHS cyber attacks. But it still had an impact, with clients emailing me their comments within an hour of receiving it, one even wanting to know if JPC were going to set up a cyber security arm! (No, just re-positioning clients to help them make the most of the cyber opportunity, was the answer.)
- Retain your credibility
Too often thought leadership loses impact because it isn’t credible. Countering this means more than authoring your content by someone vaguely relevant to the subject matter. For instance, in 2014 we approached Survey Monkey to co-write a piece on research and listening. Our collaboration gave the piece a credible foundation from two different perspectives, helping increase it’s impact.
Before you publish a piece of thought leadership carefully measure it against these five areas and you’ll be sure to be part of the solution, not the noise.