The term “thought leadership” was first popularized in 1994, quickly ascending into buzzword territory by the early 2000s. And since at least 2015, the term has drawn the ire of the internet as a business buzzword to avoid. Maybe it is, but does that mean it’s not useful? For instance, no matter how much I rant about my distaste of the term “air fryer,” it doesn’t change the fact that air fryers make some tasty morsels.
Regardless of how you feel about the term, the fact is: Thought leadership has real benefits if you know how to use it (much like an air fryer). So, allow me to lead you through some thoughts on thought leadership, what it is, why you need it, and how to get started.
What Is Thought Leadership?
Admittedly, thought leadership’s definition can be a bit fluid. There are over 1 million people with “thought leader” listed somewhere in their LinkedIn profile, and each one of them may have a different definition.
Let’s keep things simple. Thought leadership is when an individual or organization shares their expertise to educate their audience.
It may seem a bit generic, but that’s kind of the point. There are a variety of ways to share your expertise: write a blog or article, speak at a conference, host a webinar, record a vlog, start a podcast or appear on one. Name a marketing tactic, and it can be thought leadership as long as the intent is to educate.
Why Should I Add Thought Leadership to the Mix?
Many hesitate to add thought leadership to their marketing efforts simply because it takes work. If we can return to my “tasty morsel” analogy, it’s like cooking an egg – Easy to do. Hard to do well.
Don’t let this dissuade you. As with anything, it just takes time and practice. And there are numerous benefits to businesses willing to break a few yolks (I’ll stop now, promise). Here are just a few:
- Establish credibility and trust
This is what thought leadership is all about. It’s how experts show their work. Because calling yourself an expert just doesn’t have the same ethos as having someone else call you one.
- Keep up with the Joneses
An estimated 65% of businesses have thought leadership as part of their marketing strategy, so your competitors are probably benefiting from using it. This is also a good place to get ideas for your own content. Look for areas and topics that are missing from your competitors’ content, and start filling in the gaps. More on getting started later.
- Earn a penny or two
Effective thought leadership can help get your business in front of potential customers, or even increase what your current customers buy from you. One study showed that, due to an organization’s thought leadership efforts, 53% of buyers increased their business with the organization and 54% purchased a new product or service that they hadn’t considered before.
How Do I Start Leading Thoughts?
That best way to get started is to find a topic you know something about and join the conversation. Don’t get too hung up on having something “unique” to say. People want to hear your perspective. Here a few things you can do to help you prepare to jump in:
- Know your audience
Content is only valuable to a particular audience, so you have to start there. Learn what you can about your audience and keep learning and adjusting as you go. It’s often helpful to create personas if you don’t have them already. Check out this blog from my fellow word nerd Kristin to learn more about them.
- Create valuable content
Avoid being “salesy” at all costs. The content you create should benefit your audience. By all means, include a call to action (CTA) at the end telling them where they can learn more. But if you focus too much on making a sale, you won’t see much movement on the credibility front.
- Be authentic
The best way to distinguish your content is to be yourself. Studies show people prefer a more human, less formal tone in the content they read and watch. Drop the business jargon, and craft content the way you’d speak to someone over a coffee.
If all of this seems like a lot, don’t worry. The Moxers are here to help at any and all stages of your thought leadership process. Go to experiencemoxie.com or call us at 319-234-7055 to learn more.