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Thought Leadership: Getting Past the Buzz

Everyone seems to be talking about “thought leadership” these days.  But with everyone trying to be a leader, who’s left to follow?

Moreover, just because a company tries to position itself as a leader doesn’t make it so.  

Thought leadership means having a reputation for unique and innovative ideas and perspectives on an industry or market … the forces shaping it … and what the future holds.  

In the B-to-B world particularly, customers and prospects find these traits especially attractive because of the often-complex process of decision-making.

So how can your organization get from here to there?  How do you become a company the market naturally turns to for expertise and guidance?

There’s no silver-bullet solution.  But here’s a roadmap you should consider:

Focus on your audience.  The most valuable attribute of thought leaders is that they provide answers to the questions their target audience has.  Whether these are technology trends or industry best practices, people are hungry for information and insights that will help them make informed decisions backed by credible evidence.

Deliver ideas … don’t “sell” products.  Before selling products and services comes delivering ideas.  This is what attracts an audience who will in turn be receptive to your sales pitches. (It’s easy to spot when a company is violating this principle and aggressively pitching instead.)

Find a niche.  The more you can specialize your expertise, the more you’ll be perceived as uniquely able to deliver valuable insights.  The days of the “generalist” thought leader are long gone – if they ever existed.

Commit to content.  Thought leaders build their reputation on the quality and quantity of their content.  The truth is that companies which have the best reputations in their fields produce fresh content continuously and distribute it through every practical method:  industry presentations, news releases, blog posts, white papers, videos, webinars, social media posts, etc.

By the way, all of this takes time:  producing and distributing content of value … participating in industry conferences and events … building relationships with trade media editors and industry analysts.  If you think you can accomplish this in a matter of weeks or months, you’re kidding yourself.

And that’s something important to remember:  Thought leadership is a long-term commitment. It isn’t?an “initiative” – it’s a way of life.


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