22 Mar What You Need to Know About Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is often described as the core of content marketing, but is it? What really is thought leadership, and does it live up to all the hype? Ask multiple people and you might get different definitions. It’s like playing the game telephone – one person may define it as one thing, but the meaning gets altered as it gets passed along.
Before we try to pinpoint the precise meaning of thought leadership, it’s important to break apart the different kinds. According to a LinkedIn guide, there are three distinct types of thought leadership:
- Industry thought leadership – insight on current or future news and trends within a particular industry
- Product thought leadership – knowledge of certain products made evident by how-to’s, best practices, and strategies
- Organizational thought leadership – expertise on company culture, recruiting, and talent development, etc.
All three types of thought leadership require knowledge that displays authority regarding a particular subject. Anyone can say they’re an expert on a certain topic. But in order to really prove that point, they must be able to provide new and thought-provoking views on the subject matter.
Why is ‘thought’ important?
Today’s buyers, whether consumers or businesses, do their research. Buyers want to see and learn how certain products – let’s say software – can impact their business. While a few bullet points on a website might be helpful, it may not be enough. They don’t want to buy the name of the software: they want to buy the problem it solves – and they want to buy it from a company that understands that problem.
That’s why businesses take it upon themselves to incorporate thought leadership into their content marketing strategies. Those how-to, best practices, and strategy content pieces that you see popping up so frequently across the web help executives establish their authority as reliable and trusted sources of information. Customers feel comfortable knowing that the person who wrote the article understands their situation and market. As such, they can feel good about purchasing a product from their company. That’s why effective thought leadership can often help influence a company’s purchasing decision.
Why is being a ‘leader’ important?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, thought leadership isn’t just about swaying buyers. It’s about standing out among the rest, which is exactly what a leader does. The LinkedIn Guide explains that “companies establish themselves as market leaders by building – and successfully marketing – the products and services that their target audiences wanted and needed.”
But most markets are now inundated with multiple products, services or solutions to the same problem, making it harder for companies to stand out. To do that, they must engage with buyers in other ways besides sales calls, advertising, and press releases.
Authored articles, blogs, and other pieces of editorial content can be great tools for engagement. Executives can use these tools to establish their own unique “voices” that showcase their expertise and allow them to put a stake in the ground regarding a particular topic. For instance, a spokesperson well-versed in hybrid cloud technologies can make it an ongoing practice to write about how those technologies are impacting companies today, and how they will be helping to shape IT in the near future. In doing so, they establish themselves – and, by extension, their companies – as leaders of the hybrid cloud revolution.
A well-crafted thought leadership program can yield many benefits. It can help companies and their executives establish authority and engage with their audiences, and help businesses breaking into emerging markets assert a sense of leadership and authority that puts them ahead of their competition. At the end of the day, it helps organizations stand out to potential buyers and among competitors, strengthen customer loyalty, and provide greater value through that most precious commodity – knowledge.