When was the last time you had a clear inbox, free of sales emails? Or scrolled through your social media feed without being served countless ads? In our saturated market, it’s almost impossible to avoid sales messages — so it’s no surprise that people are feeling jaded and overwhelmed with traditional advertising strategies.
As a result, people are becoming increasingly resistant to situations in which they feel like they’re being directly sold to. Instead, they prefer convenient access to educational, helpful content on their own time and terms. And, I believe, one of the best ways to deliver this type of valuable content is through thought leadership.
What exactly is thought leadership?
Thought leadership is a form of communications that highlights your expertise within your industry. Rather than pushing out sales-heavy content, thought leadership focuses on connecting with your audience and delivering information that they truly want to read. The underpinning is to provide genuine value to your customers — free from self-promotion — to build trust and credibility, while establishing yourself as a reputable resource for knowledge.
Simply put, a thought leader is someone who — based on their expertise and perspective in an industry — offers unique guidance, solves problems, and positively influences others in their field. A thought leader is a reliable source of information and insight.
The benefits of thought leadership
There are numerous benefits to developing a thought leadership practice, these include:
- The ability to simultaneously boost your industry presence and build your brand. In doing so, you’ll likely enjoy more news coverage and opportunities to speak publicly. And, as any marketer will tell you, publicity and recognition are key to improving brand loyalty and revenue.
- Providing accurate and valuable information on a consistent basis will also earn yourself credibility and build rapport with your audience. At the end of the day, prospects will be more likely to reach out to you when they are interested in purchasing, rather than to a competitor. The methodology behind this is simple. Your customers will be receptive to you once you have demonstrated that you understand their challenges and that you can solve their problems.
- By building trust when your customers are at their most receptive, you will ultimately reduce resistance when you reach out to them to discuss new products or services.
How to become a thought leader
The fact of the matter is that you cannot become a thought leader overnight. Instead, it’s necessary to cultivate trust and integrity over time by sharing content that brings value to your audience. It’s important to be consistent and specific here, as it’s generally more effective to focus on what you know best and hone in on that message repeatedly. Don’t try to be a thought leader in every area related to your industry.
What’s more, successful thought leadership recognizes that there is both a buying cycle and a selling cycle. In the former stage, it’s important to focus solely on starting valuable conversations and building confidence in the expertise you have to offer. You can do this by sharing content that showcases your knowledge and offers empathy towards any pain points that your customers may have.
Finally, no matter what your industry, it’s vital that you keep learning. To be a successful thought leader, you must stay on top of what’s happening so that you can comment on trends in a timely manner. Being a thought leader always requires forward-thinking and keeping your finger on the pulse (no one said it was easy!)
Stand out in the noisy marketplace by providing real value
Be the change that you’d like to see in advertising. Become a source that people can rely on, show empathy and build trust slowly. Once customers feel comfortable with you, the dynamic will shift. Let customers come to you for advice and watch your reputation and sales soar as a result.