The term “thought leadership” has seen a resurgence in recent years but the concept – no matter its name – has really never gone out of style. Some people – like Gates, Jobs, Branson and Buffet, to name a few – seem to always be one step ahead of the curve. In our mind, they embark on journeys of discovery them to leave the competition behind. Here are a few thoughts on how they manage to do this:
Consider the Big Picture
In a nutshell, thought leadership is where you – as the owner or senior executive – consistently tap into the talent, experience, and passion located inside your own business to consistently answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience on a particular topic. In short, you should be looking at the big picture and not being distracted by the details. Simply put, it is the main difference between short and long term thinking.
Create Thought Leadership on Multiple Levels
We all can’t be geniuses on the level of Einstein but the “hive mind” – that is, the agglomeration of multiple brains – can produce some stunning revelations even if the individuals are only of moderate to above level intelligence. In other words, do not dismiss the musings and thoughts of your peers and subordinates out of hand. It is much like finding a pearl in an oyster. You never know where or when you will find one but… find one you eventually will.
Innovate… Even if It is Painful
Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration.” This statement is as true in the business world as it is in the scientific one. Innovation – even inspired innovation – requires a lot of follow-up effort to make it work. It may seem like a platitude but do not be afraid to take a flyer on an innovative, but carefully crafted plan. With that thought in mind, ensure that you do not commit too many assets or resources to an untested theory. Beta tests are extremely valuable in this situation.
Brand, Brand, Brand
With thought leadership comes a simultaneous ability to frame the most important questions in your particular marketplace. This allows you – as the thought leader – to frame those questions to your advantage. In other words, the final result should be that when a potential client asks the most pertinent questions in your business space, they should be thinking of you even before the see the final question mark. The goal, is an entry point, a pathway into your business, and a barrier against others.
Continue the Process
Thought leadership is exactly about that ineffable quality defined in its name – leadership, and it demands a continual effort. Without a constant attention to the effort – especially from those “on high” – the entire process will falter if not disappear entirely. For more guidance, look to these thought leadership examples as they have proven themselves time and time again:
- Elon Musk – Cofounder of Paypal, this visionary then went on found Tesla Motors and SpaceX – a fairly amazing range of thought leadership.
- Wayne Dyer – Not your typical though leader, this man has thrown his monumental marketing acumen behind funding public television programming instead of accumulating a fortune for himself.
- Charlie Munger – The lesser known half of the Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger is a thought leader as a business magnate, lawyer, investor, and philanthropist
Building a Thought Leadership Marketing Strategy
You’re going to need insights about the questions and problems that key audiences in your industry are asking and trying to solve. Your audience might be competitors, vendors, or current customers. However, offering solutions and insights about their problems is only part of the answer. Being able to understand the behavior around how a particular audience pursues those answers will guide your content, community, and conversation strategies. You’ll know what signals to listen for and how to be accessible through digital marketing channels and become a coveted go-to resource in a network of informed, and connected colleagues and potential advocates.
For more information on how your company can develop a thought-leadership strategy, contact us for a free consultation about your objectives and the possible solutions to drive a successful inbound marketing program..