When you think of Apple, who do you think of? Steve Jobs, right?
When you think of Facebook, who do you think of? Mark Zuckerberg, right?
That’s because these men didn’t just build businesses. They built sustainable brands by first branding themselves as thought leaders in their industry.
Keep reading to find out why it is important to build a solid thought leadership strategy and how to become a thought leader.
We will also discuss why you should have more than one thought leader in your business and how more established leaders can be used to demonstrate thought leadership.
The Importance of Thought Leadership
It’s no secret that the world of marketing and business is changing rapidly.
If you want to position your business to win, it’s important to provide insight and intelligence to customers. In fact, IBM’s Capitalizing on Complexity survey suggests that 76% of CEOs believe this is the most important way to realize their business’s goals and reinvent customer relationships.
Regardless of your product or service, today’s marketplace can be cluttered and complex. While your competitors are throwing everything against the wall to see what will stick, effective thought leadership is a good way to stand out among the crowd.
Much like any other aspect of life, business and sales are becoming more human-oriented. Consumers want to know the stories behind the brands. They want to relate to the people behind the brands. It’s more important than ever for experts to lead — rather than simply sell.
When you connect your ideas to solutions for your ideal consumer and expand the public’s thinking to tie your insights back to your company, you start to build a competitive advantage over competitors who don’t do the same.
The Many Benefits of a Thought Leadership Strategy
By executing a strong thought leadership strategy, you add value to a variety of aspects of your business.
If executed properly, a strong strategy will:
- Create influence and authority. Becoming a known and trusted leader in your industry not only helps your personal brand but also helps to build your company’s reputation and the authority of all those associated with it. If consumers trust you, they trust what you’re selling.
- Improve business and marketing plans. Your investors and board of directors will be more likely to get on board with your big plans and goals if you’re able to explain them in a rational and well-thought-out way.
- Demonstrate compassion and empathy. Especially in a post-pandemic world, consumers want to know what kind of brand they are doing business with. Strong thought leadership can help to improve compassion in tough situations — both within your organization and within outside society.
- Build networks. A huge part of thought leadership is sharing what you know with others. This helps to build your network and improve company connections.
- Increase public relations opportunities. The more you put your knowledge out in the world, the more people will want to connect with you. This will lead to increased opportunities to take part in panel discussions, articles, guest blogs, and public speaking arrangements.
- Assist in your company’s recruiting efforts. People want to work with well-known and established companies. As you build your thought leadership and authority in your industry, you are also drawing the attention of other smart and talented people with who you may want to collaborate.
- Increase sales opportunities. Of course, establishing your authority will increase your sales. If people know and trust your knowledge, they are more likely to buy your product or service. Developing thoughtful and knowledgeable content will drive consistent customers through your sales funnels.
Now that you know the benefits of a strong thought leadership strategy, let’s discuss how to develop one.
How to Develop Thought Leadership Within Your Organization
Creating thought leadership happens through meaningful and well-crafted content. It gives your organization a voice that will, hopefully, drive the current and future conversations in your industry.
In order to achieve this goal and avoid losing customers to your competitors, there are five components your strategy needs to contain:
- Establish your idea. What idea, or ideas, will be the driving force behind your leadership? What solution can you think of that will revolutionize your industry? What about this idea makes you stand out from the competition?
- Draw attention to it and make sure it carries water. Your idea can be great and world-changing but it won’t matter if you don’t have the right communication strategy surrounding it. Make sure to lay out exactly how you are going to get your idea across. How are you going to get people to notice your idea? How are you going to translate it from an idea to thought-provoking and eye-catching content? Where are you going to post this content? All of these things matter when you’re building your thought leadership strategy.
- Make it worth something. Why should your audience care about your idea or knowledge? Throughout your content, make it very clear why and how your solution solves their problem.
- Establish trust and authority. Now that you’ve planted the seed that your idea can solve their problem, help them understand why they should trust you and your solutions. Taking the time to nurture this relationship and build trust now will keep your audience coming back to you again and again.
- Motivate them to act. In order to establish yourself as the go-to person in your industry, you need to influence your audience to take action based on the knowledge that you’ve shared with them. Their actions don’t always have to result in purchase right now. A lot of thought leaders aim to educate their audiences so that, when the time comes, they turn to the thought leaders to influence their purchase decisions.
Establish Multiple Organizational Thought Leaders
As the idea of experts leading rather than simply selling is evolving, so is the idea that a business should only have one trusted thought leader.
In fact, part of being an effective thought leader is how well you inspire and shape potential leaders in your company.
A huge key to using thought leadership to establish authority in your industry lies in building relationships with your consumers.
Different consumers relate to different thought leaders. Different experts have different ways of articulating their ideas and solutions. Rather than fight against this and force everyone to fall in line with one leader’s ideas and way of thinking, play into the diversity of your leadership team.
Right now there may be a variety of potential thought leaders within your organization who haven’t taken the steps to make their voices heard. Take a minute to think about why that is.
Maybe they are afraid to put themselves out there.
Or maybe they don’t have the means to do so.
Whatever it is, demonstrate strong leadership skills by helping to develop new thought leaders within your organization. Encourage and allow them to use their voices to add ideas that will help to form solutions for your customers.
How to Encourage and Develop Thought Leaders
Creating thought leadership within your organization starts with identifying which voices need to be heard.
Then, it’s important to decide how to coach them. Not every emerging leader is the same and your coaching strategy will likely vary from person to person.
For emerging leaders who can articulate their solutions well, start by recording interviews that you can splice into short video clips or use for multiple articles. Your interview can be something as simple as a Zoom call between the emerging leader and his or her mentor.
If they are nervous or unsure of themselves on camera, frame it as a simple conversation between the mentor and the mentee. This will help them to feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas while providing you with some great clips to slice into shorter clips for marketing and educational purposes.
Some emerging leaders may be more comfortable articulating their ideas and solutions through written content, such as blogs or other content writing. Have these potential new leaders create an outline of ideas for writers within your organization to build out.
After the writer produces the piece, have the leader edit and add information to create a final draft. This gives the leader a hands-on opportunity to share their ideas with your consumers.
You could also focus on hosting webinars and live events with or for your emerging leaders. Having them take part in an interactive event helps to get their ideas articulated while also creating more content for your company to use when connecting with potential customers.
Benefits to Having Multiple Thought Leaders Within One Organization
Much like the benefits of having a diverse team, having multiple thought leaders will only help improve the authenticity of your organization’s authority.
Rather than building your entire strategy around one person’s thoughts and solutions, lean into the diversity of the team you’ve built. Each different voice can be used to help craft some incredible ideas and open a dialogue to create new and innovative solutions in your industry.
Each thought leader can build off of one another, as well. When they work together as a team, not only do they feel more connected to your organization, they are also able to cover more ground in your industry and establish expertise in more than one area.
Establishing expertise in multiple areas will help you scale your business — both in terms of sales growth and in terms of authority. When you have multiple leaders offering their knowledge and ideas at the same time, it’s easier for your content creators to craft engaging content that will resonate with your audience.
The more quality content that comes out of your organization, the more your consumers and competitors will see you as a leader in your field and as the go-to authority in your industry.
Establishing a Thought Leadership Strategy That Works
While it may take some work, establishing a thought leadership strategy could do wonders for your organization.
Not only will it establish you as an authority in your field, but it will also help build your company’s brand and reputation — and those of your leaders.
In order to establish a strong thought leadership strategy, keep the following four things in mind:
- Thought leadership is a long game. While you may not see results overnight, if executed properly, you will see returns in the long run.
- Build up more than one thought leader in your organization. Doing this allows you to scale your content and authority by covering more than one area of your industry.
- Allow your emerging leaders to develop strong voices — and feel comfortable using them. Innovation always comes from new and fresh ideas.
- Focus on creating quality content. You can easily scale your content through interviews with your company’s thought leaders or by having them prepare outlines for the writers on your team.
Establishing strong thought leaders within your company will put your organization in the best position imaginable to scale your business and dominate your industry.