Thought leadership, as a word, has been bandied around for over a decade. People on Twitter and Instagram who have a large following also call themselves thought leaders. The pandemic has also spurred people to consume more content, leaving marketers scrambling to create more content centered around thought leadership. Unfortunately, along with the good content came the bad. These low-quality content diluted people’s perception of who thought leaders are and what they could offer.
So, what is thought leadership?
“Thought Leaders: Insights on the Future of Business,” in 1997. In his book, Kurtzman defined a thought leader as someone who ‘possesses a distinctively original idea, a unique point of view, or an unprecedented insight into their industry.’
There are many definitions, but what they all have in common is that a thought leader is someone who shares their expertise, ideas, knowledge, and insights so that they can add value to others. They wish to influence and create a positive change. And steadily, over a period of time, they build followership.
Why is thought leadership important?
More decisions are being made digitally
According to a study by Edelman and LinkedIn, 61% of decision-makers say that an Organization’s thought leadership can be a lot more effective at demonstrating the potential value of its products or services than traditional marketing. When it comes to B2B organizations, a study by McKinsey confirms that 70-80% of decision-makers prefer to take decisions digitally. Against this backdrop, thought leadership becomes the path through which one can reach decision-makers and the C-Suite.
With so much information readily available online, all buyers carry out their research before even contacting sales teams. They want to buy from people and organizations they can trust and respect. They also want to hear and learn from those who can tell them what is happening in the market and provide them with a solution that will solve their problems. Thought leadership becomes the organic route through which this knowledge can be provided.
A necessary inbound marketing strategy
A 2022 study by SEMrush shows that 65% of businesses currently include thought leadership as part of their content marketing strategy. And 29% are looking to implement one shortly. This shows that thought leadership is one of the cornerstones of an inbound marketing strategy and cannot be ignored.
Leaders and organizations can add value, inspire, and educate by sharing research-filled, insightful, and authentic content that stems from experience. A good thought leadership program and strategy will build brand equity, which over time, will benefit the demand generation process.
It can tie into your PR strategy.
When implemented effectively, thought leadership can feed directly into your public relations activities. Traditional forms of PR, which include a big investment, some content, a campaign, and a big launch, will not be sufficient anymore. In order to influence, thought leaders consistently need to drip-feed content. This keeps the brand front and center of the audience.
Magazines, newspapers, and other media outlets would seek you out for interviews and quotes. One can argue that this is the final goal of thought leadership, where you (or your organization) can cement your position as an authority and go-to person in your niche.
What are the benefits of thought leadership?
A study by SEMrush shows that thought leadership content increases social media following and engagement by 65% and organic traffic by 81%. It also generates leads and/or sales of 47%.
Having a good thought leadership strategy can have a ripple effect. Some of the benefits of thought leadership include:
Builds credibility, authority, and brand equity
Thought leadership builds trust and, ultimately, loyalty among your audiences. By answering the burning questions that your audiences have and providing them with solutions to their problems, you will be able to build your credibility and, in turn, your authority in your niche. It builds brand equity and increases strategic visibility. You will build awareness among your target audience, improve social proof, and boost online engagement.
Access to further opportunities
Consistently sharing your thoughts can give you access to other leaders, industry changemakers, event organizers, etc. This will provide the opportunity to exchange, share information, and gain different perspectives, all of which will further build your thought leadership. It can also attract invitations to give interviews and keynote speeches, join corporate boards or industry boards, etc. Individuals who have built their thought leadership are also less likely to be unemployed.
Ability to influence
As the world continues to adjust to new realities, the one thing leaders agree on is that the ability to influence will be an important way to evaluate success. As you gain access to newer audiences, you can frame specific issues with your unique point of view. Thought leadership gives you the power to persuade and the ability and authority to change direction and innovate.
Attract potential clients
Although thought leadership is not meant to bring in leads directly, it builds a loyal following who could turn into potential customers. The more people know about your business, the more likely they are to purchase your product or service. Also, due to the ‘halo’ effect, people could think you are a thought leader in related niches as well, which can boost sales of other products and services.
The war for talent is very real. The great resignation is still ongoing, and more people are considering leaving their jobs to pursue something more meaningful. A good thought leadership marketing strategy will attract potential employees who resonate with what is being said and find value in what the organization is doing.
Identifies your purpose
In the end, for individuals, it answers the bigger question – What is my purpose? What is the legacy that I would like to leave behind? Thought leaders are driven by passion, leading to greater job satisfaction.
Even after a decade, thought leadership remains critical, but breaking through the noise and earning trust and credibility will be challenging. When an organization or individual is recognized as a thought leader, they are requested to be part of a broader conversation. The market pulls them into the dialog instead of the organization pushing their thoughts into it.
Investing time to identify a good thought leadership strategy is key to providing value for your audience, which in turn builds brand awareness. To read more about thought leadership, click here