Three Keys to Successful Thought Leadership
First century Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca was quoted as saying, “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” Other prominent public figures have since made similar statements about the merits of hard work and preparation in relation to their direct impact on a person’s good fortune. Thought leadership can be thought of in much the same way — only it’s your company’s preparation meeting with the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise.
At its essence, thought leadership is the practice of demonstrating authority on urgent topics in your industry by providing answers to the questions on the minds of your audience. The idea is not to actively promote your products, but to deliver relevant information that establishes expertise in your field.
The concept of thought leadership is not a new one. It’s been around for more than a few years and rode the coattails of another noteworthy trend: content marketing. Although both terms may get tossed around as business jargon, they are not only entirely legitimate but also inextricably linked. This is especially true in B2B marketing where complex offerings, multiple decision makers and lengthy sales cycles are the norm.
At TriComB2B, we see thought leadership as an especially effective tactic. But, before embarking on the journey of thought leadership, it’s important to consider the key ingredients of a successful program.
- A known problem or difficult situation in your industry — thought leadership is most effective when addressing the challenges faced either by your customers or your industry as a whole. The more vexing the situation, the better the opportunity for success.
- Credible internal expertise — it takes expertise to answer your customers’ tough questions and demonstrate industry leadership. This can come from any internal source: executives, product managers, sales, etc. From our experience, companies often underestimate their level of expertise.
- Consistent content delivery — the output of any thought leadership program is consistent informative content, and should be multi-faceted to engage your customers on many levels: webinars, seminars, participation in industry associations, self-produced publications, speaking engagements, etc.
Finally, it’s important to resist the temptation for shameless self-promotion of your products. Instead, try to strike a perfect balance that contextualizes your products as solutions to the problems you’re addressing.
So if you believe that you create your own luck through preparation — and that your expertise can help address a difficult situation in your industry — then thought leadership may be the perfect opportunity for your company.