5 Strategies for Becoming a ‘True’ Industry Thought Leader
Last updated 8/31/2020
What is a thought leader? It is certainly one of those “buzzwords” that you hear being thrown around. However, it is more than just a buzzword. Thought leaders are visionaries. They are authentic, action-oriented and passionate leaders.
Although often misunderstood, a thought leader is a brand expert who shares his/her expertise in the field as part of a larger movement to ultimately grow and add value to an industry. Most importantly, thought leaders are cutting-edge thinkers who fully immerse themselves in everything about their business to help support, shape and advance the industry they serve. They relish in an opportunity to connect with peers to cultivate and nurture relationships.
Thought leadership is about offering information and encouraging feedback from stakeholders, in a way that establishes trust. It is a way to build your brand and advance as an authority in the industry. Thought leadership is often considered a hybrid between content marketing and public relations by positioning company leaders as experts and transforming their unique perspectives into engaging content—videos, blogs or presentations.
In addition to the CEO’s or founder’s insight, showcase the talent and knowledge within your company. Your organization is full of subject matter experts (SME), who can share nuances of the industry and the tools they use to solve problems. Leverage their influence in sectors where your competition does not have traction. A thought leadership campaign can be spread across several experts, creating a synergistic thought leader effect for your company.
A thought leadership campaign positions your brand as an industry expert. Businesses and associations that can secure a thought leadership position have a lot to gain:
- Solidifying relationships with customers and prospects.
- Guiding them to a solution to help grow your business.
- Helping your brand build transparency and trust.
When it comes to trusting a brand, transparency and credibility are key. You can’t become a thought leader without demonstrating that your advice can be relied on to solve business problems. Thought leaders do not rebroadcast information. Instead, they share their unique perspectives and create compelling storylines that draws on their internal expertise.
Thought leadership continues to dominate business to business marketing. It is one of the trends that will continue to shape marketing in 2020 and beyond with integrated content marketing, increased use of video and reliance on emotion to build deeper relationships.
Here are five steps to become a thought leader in your industry:
1. Develop a thought leadership strategy
To secure a position at the top of the thought leader bracket, begin by developing a long term thought leadership strategy, which will support your business goals and become part of your marketing plan. This strategy will become the framework for how to establish thought leadership in your industry.
Publishing a couple of articles every few months won’t cut it. It takes careful planning, time, patience and expertise in the various areas of marketing and communications—strategy, branding, public relations, social media, digital marketing and SEO to name a few.
One of the most important parts of strategy development is identifying thought leaders, who can achieve authentic thought leadership. Typically, they are employees in your C-suite and leadership team who are credible, have a passion for what they do and can share their experience and industry expertise. Those individuals can also include specialists in key areas, who are not part of the executive team. The essential point here is to take a broad view of your organization when determining who will be your thought leaders.
Before you make a final decision, ask yourself the following:
- Will this person accurately represent your brand?
- Does this person have a passion, deep industry knowledge and experiences to share?
- Is this person a dedicated employee, who believes in your brand?
- Will this person dedicate the additional time it will take to become an industry thought leader?
- Will this person be a good communicator and come across well on the different communication mediums, including video and social media?
Finally, media training needs to be a key part of a thought leadership strategy. This will ensure that everyone who is representing your brand is speaking the same language, properly interacting with the media and communicating key messages—especially if a public relations crisis were to hit.
2. Leverage content marketing to capitalize on native expertise
Your internal expertise comes from your daily interactions with the subject matter. Use your company’s owned channels to supplement media coverage with your content, such as blogs and videos that feature the CEO or the company’s under-the-radar experts.
In addition to creating relevant content, it must also be insightful, engaging and among the best the industry has to offer. That means you must create engaging content that has correct grammar usage, is well-written and most importantly typo free. During the content creation process, begin by creating memorable key messages and connecting your value proposition to your target audience’s needs. Generate content that not only positions you as a thought leader among other leaders in your industry, but also grabs attention and provides valuable information or offers a unique angle.
Blog posts, infographics, videos, case studies, webinars, email newsletters and white papers are all types of content. Carefully consider all of the vehicles where you can share your content. Think beyond digital and place articles in leading industry publications. Also, look at which ones will be most effective in speaking to your target audience, depending on where they are in the buying cycle and how they consume information.
The three stages of the buying cycle are awareness, consideration and decision. To elevate your content marketing strategy and connect with sales activity, thought leaders need to write from his/her point of view and frame content to match these different stages of a buyer’s journey. The goal is for your target audience to build a relationship with your brand, products or services during the different stages.
Along with social media, use an email newsletter in your thought leadership strategy. In a Content Marketing Institute study, it was recently reported by OptinMonster that 91% of business to business marketers rated email as “important” or “extremely important” to their content marketing distribution efforts.
Email newsletters are sent directly to your target audience, informing them of the latest updates, content, tips and news. Email newsletters are one of the leading ways to engage a customer or prospect. You can maintain engagement through ongoing email newsletter communications. The frequency, which could be weekly, monthly or quarterly, depends on your objectives and how much content and information you have to feature.
Comparable with other content, distributing an email newsletter that features thought leadership content will continue to position your executives as business leaders, build your audience and increase your customers and sales.
3. Use video to establish meaningful relationships
Video is continuing to grow in popularity and is a vital tactic to compete in the digital marketing arena as a thought leader. It is also a highly effective way for customers and prospects to get to know your company’s experts on a personal level. However, to take the lead as a thought leader, you first need to grab the viewer’s attention. Presenting key information at the start of the video will help you hook and quickly draw in the viewer. Always start by asking: What impact do you want to have on your audience?
Online videos will account for 82% of all Internet traffic by 2022, according to the Cisco Annual Internet Report. It’s not surprising, given that video not only links a face to content, but also increases reach, is highly engaging and personalizes a brand’s message. Video showcases a thought leader’s passion and authenticity in a way that is hard to duplicate with words.
Throughout the year, CMA produces a vlog that is branded as Reel Results. Videos feature the firm’s industry thought leaders and are based on one of our new and timely marketing or association management blogs. As a result of adding video to blogs, page time and engagement rates have doubled.
4. Use events and conferences as a platform
Visibility is the cornerstone of thought leadership. Speaking engagements are a powerful platform for increasing your visibility and credibility as a thought leader while supporting your marketing goals. Once you identify strategic opportunities to showcase your perspective, tailor your delivery to the audience. Create an engaging presentation that offers a unique perspective and speaks to the audience’s pain points.
Every business starts with a “big idea.” How did your company or association get its start? How did you become a better leader? How did you arrive where you are today? Instead of sharing your bio or executive profile, say something new. Use the stage to share your expertise through memorable and humanizing stories. Identify your unique angle and share it.
Although not the primary goal, speaking engagements can help drive qualified leads down the sales funnel. Use speaking opportunities to build rapport and connect with peers in a meaningful way. Then leverage social media to enhance your thought leadership positioning.
5. Use social media to grow thought leadership
Leverage social media to increase brand recognition by employing social media marketing to amplify content and key messages, as well as to maintain a strong online reputation and promote thought leadership. Once you choose the right social media platforms for your brand and identify the audience you are trying to engage, create and share different types of content.
For example, following a speaking engagement upload your presentation to YouTube or post a snippet on your website. Tweet about it or post excerpts on Facebook. Consumers want a human connection with the people behind their favorite brands and for many that means hearing directly from the President or CEO.
Presidents or CEOs can offer insight on topics encompassing leadership, culture, entrepreneur insights and vision—which is a higher-level perspective. This strategy gives them additional visibility and further positions him/her as an industry thought leader.
To boost engagement and conversions, you need to personalize your content for specific social media platforms. By customizing, you can deliver content in which individuals have already expressed an interest, thereby increasing engagement with your content and brand—which leads to more loyalty and conversion rates.
Thought leaders, in addition to CEOs, can leverage social media by being featured on a regular basis, providing valuable industry tips and sharing pertinent content through blogs, starring in videos and more. Be sure to include a personalized message with each post, that’s tailored for each target audience. One of the many benefits to having thought leaders leverage social media is that he/she has different audience followers, which will expand the company’s reach through social shares, as well as increase engagement through comments.
Remember, building credibility and visibility as a thought leader takes time and requires nurturing relationships in a non-sales environment. To become a source that your audience relies on, consistency and relevance are key.
Do you want to become an industry thought leader? Contact us today, to get the conversation started.