A Guide To Meaningful Thought Leadership Marketing

If you’re not implementing thought leadership into your client’s content marketing strategy, now is the time. Why, you ask? The data speaks for itself.

Here are the Top Insights from Edelman and LinkedIn’s 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Study:

  • More than half (51%) of C-Suite executives say they spend more time-consuming thought leadership than before the pandemic began.
  • 54% of Decision-Makers – and 48% of the C-Suite – say they spend more than 1 hour per week reading and reviewing thought leadership.
  • Decision-Makers say there is more thought leadership content than they can manage or that the market is oversaturated with thought leadership content (38%).
  • B2B thought leadership, when done well, significantly influences brand perception and buying behaviors throughout the entire decision process. 42% of decision makers invited the organization producing thought leadership they enjoyed to bid on a project (when that firm was not in their original consideration set).
  • Thought leadership remains critical to customer engagement with over 70% of respondents indicating they consume it to keep up to date- with the latest sector thinking and the stimulate thinking and creativity.
  • 87% of buyers say that thought leadership content can be both intellectually rigorous and fun to consume at the same time — striking a balance between being authoritative, provocative, human and fun.

With increased competition for attention and rapidly shifting buyer preferences, now is a good time to re-evaluate whether your thought leadership strategy is meeting your customers’ needs.

Bottom line? The pandemic may have diluted leadership content, but individuals and companies that can create strategic and insightful content will see many positive results.

But what does thought leadership really mean?

What Is Thought Leadership Marketing?

Thought leadership is a strategy that content marketers utilize to build credibility for themselves or leaders in their company. By developing educational, helpful and informative content (and sharing it regularly), colleagues, members of your field andpotential new leads will hopefully begin to think of you or your brand as an authority in your industry.

In other words, an individual or company uses thought leadership as a content marketing tactic because providing insight showcases helpfulness and understanding of a topic. Thought leadership content includes participation in events, conferences, seminars or webinars, in addition to publishing blogs, podcasts, videos, or social media posts.

According to Edelman, when thought leadership marketing is “done well, it can make specialized expertise accessible, strengthen a business’s reputation, and spark meaningful conversations that lead to real business results.” Not to mention, it can lead to increased visibility to your desired audience, generate new leads, grow your engagement online and much more.

Thought Leadership – Corporate vs. Personal

There are differing elements based on whether your thought leadership is as an individual (personal) or through a brand or organization (corporate). As stated in this LinkedIn blog post, “personal thought leadership refers to individuals sharing their own views and beliefs, while corporate thought leadership refers to cultivating views and beliefs from a brand standpoint. In many cases, corporate thought leadership is largely shaped by the collection of voices within, so personal thought leadership plays a major role.” If you are working on a corporate thought leadership strategy all team members should be aligned on organizational values, standpoints and style/tone.

What Are The Essential Components Of A Meaningful Thought Leadership Marketing?

Begin With A Strategy

You may think you want to go write your first blog post immediately on a timely topic, but before you dive in, you’ll want to have a game plan. Consider setting a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely). What are you hoping to achieve by doing this? How often do you want to share content? In what mediums will you do so?

Then, brainstorm content ideas. What is relevant and meaningful to your desired customer base and audience? What are they looking to better understand? In addition, analyze what competitors are doing and how they are doing it. Does your competitor have a podcast they record regularly? Do they participate in weekly webinar sessions? It would be beneficial to fill in the gaps and talk about what others aren’t.

Next, you’ll want to identify HOW you will create and publish content. If you are an entrepreneur, will you be writing all the content yourself? If you have a larger company, who will be handling copywriting? Where will you share this – social media or an email newsletter? And finally, decide how you are going to measure the impact. Use your goals mentioned above to determine how you will track success.

Understand Your Audience

Understanding and knowing your audience is essential for producing relevant thought leadership content for your audience. Consider what they want to know, what questions they continue to ask, what impacts their business and more. To get started check out the social media channels of your audience, conduct client interviews, ask colleagues in your field and read articles covering various topics in your industry. What is missing? Where can you offer your perspective? THAT is where your thought leadership begins! Answer the un-answered or questions that lack meaningful answers.

Consider also re-evaluating this as you continue implementing your thought leadership strategy, as your audience could change their needs or mindset. For example, with the world currently in the midst of COVID-19, are there challenges your audience is experiencing that are different than normal? Most likely. Evolve your topics as needed to ensure your content is helpful and meaningful when your audience needs it most.

Engage & Be Active On Social Media

Utilizing social media is an easy way to share your thought leadership content in a natural way with colleagues, members of your field and potential new leads. In addition, be sure to engage! Comment on trending topics. Share interesting articles with your insight included. Join LinkedIn groups and answer questions or offer assistance to those seeking advice.

Address Timely Topics

To be an effective thought leader, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest news and trends of your industry and those you work with. An easy way to start is reading trade publications, setting up Google Alerts and Google Trends and following prominent industry players on social media. Identify topics that are relevant and where you could highlight your expertise and perspective.

For example, if your brand is in foodservice, could there be a new regulation impacting U.S. restaurants? Consider writing on how that will influence the sector and ways restaurateurs can manage or adapt to the changes. In addition, consider the trends that are growing and also the ones that are decreasing. Why is that happening? Leverage newsworthy topics and share predictions, key takeaways and more to your audience.

Offer A Fresh Perspective

Don’t be afraid to offer a fresh or thought-provoking perspective while using current data. This showcases you’ve done your research. Being innovative will help you and your brand stand out from the competition. Creating something new and different is what makes it valuable. To garner credibility, speak thoughtfully on specific issues in your industry while highlighting your expertise. Do a deep dive into one subject area at a time (if producing something like a blog or podcast) in order to provide depth in the subject.

Think Beyond The Blog

While a blog is a great place to start when creating thought leadership content, it is not the end all, be all. Being an effective thought leader means being engaged on social media, active in professional industry groups, speaking at events or on podcasts, participating in webinar panels and more. Consider the various types of content you are putting out – you’ll ideally want to have a combination of mediums you are sharing on. Your thought leadership content should be where your audience goes!

And remember, publishing content and showcasing your leadership frequently and consistently is key in being perceived by your audience as a thought leader.

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