5 Keys to Become an Industry Thought Leader
If I told you that there’s a way to build your brand, become an authority, advance the industry your business serves and be viewed as the solution to your customers’ problem, would you believe me? If that sounds too good to be true, then you haven’t considered becoming an industry thought leader.
As the President of a communications, marketing and association management firm, CMA, I understand the value of executive leaders having a recognizable presence and being a thought leader on behalf of their business and clients. Most importantly, thought leaders have a responsibility to help support, shape and advance the industry they serve in a profound way.
Other benefits to becoming an industry thought leader include:
- Solidifying relationships with your customers and prospects.
- Guiding them to a solution to help grow their business.
- Helping your brand build transparency and trust.
When it comes to trusting a brand, transparency is key. According to Edelman Trust Barometer, only 44 percent of Americans trust CEOs. Transparency has become a hot topic in the wake of the public relations crisis involving Facebook’s data breach. How Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO, responded to the fall out, as outlined by Inc., had a detrimental impact on the social media networking giant’s brand reputation.
The latest findings from a thought leadership impact study found the following:
- 89 percent of business decision makers said that thought leadership enhances a brand’s reputation.
- 87 percent of business decision makers said that thought leadership increases trust in an organization.
- 82 percent of business decision makers said that thought leadership being shared by someone they know and respect, is a critical factor in getting them to engage.
If those compelling statistics aren’t getting you excited yet about becoming an industry thought leader, this might push you over the edge. One of the trends that will shape marketing in 2019, according to Forbes, is thought leadership. Audiences strike to seek expertise, critical insight and ways to be better at all points of interest. It’s about offering information and encouraging feedback from stakeholders, in a way that establishes trust.
Here are 5 keys on how to become a thought leader in your industry:
1. Develop a thought leadership strategy
Begin the process 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.
It takes careful planning, time, patience and expertise in the various areas of marketing and communications. They comprise strategy, branding, public relations, social media and digital marketing to name a few.
One of the most important parts of this process is identifying thought leaders, who can achieve authentic thought leadership. Typically, they’re 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 also can 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 and all it stands for?
- 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 communications 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. Implement thought leadership content marketing
In one of CMA’s recent blogs on how to elevate your content marketing strategy, our director of content strategy shared that the Internet has completely flipped the buying cycle, where customers have many more options. As a result, your content marketing strategy must focus on publishing content that’s consistent and helpful to your target audience—whether it’s to educate, entertain or a mix.
In addition to creating relevant content, it also must be quality content. That means you must create 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.
Blog posts, guest posts, infographics, videos, news, case studies, webinars, email newsletters, checklists and white papers are all types of content. Carefully consider all of the vehicles where you can feature 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.
3. Create a digital presence with video marketing
Video is continuing to grow in popularity, is a vital tactic to compete in the digital marketing arena and is a highly effective way to personalize your message.
According to Smart Insights, 83 percent of marketers believe that video is growing in importance. It’s not surprising, given that the channel not only links a face to content, but also increases reach, is highly engaging and personalizes a brand’s message.
At CMA, we practice video marketing. Once a month, the firm produces a video blog (vlog) we branded as Reel Results. The videos feature our industry thought leaders and are based on one of its new and timely marketing or association management blogs.
4. Employ social media marketing
Brands must employ social media marketing, to amplify content and key messages as well as build and maintain a strong online reputation and promote thought leadership.
Once you choose the right social media platforms for your brand and the audience you are trying to engage, create and share different types of content. To boost engagement and conversions, you need to personalize your content for these platforms. By personalizing, you can deliver content in which individuals have already expressed an interest, thereby increasing engagement with your content and brand—which lead 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 your reach through social shares, as well as increase engagement through comments.
5. Distribute an email newsletter
Along with social media, I recommend including an email newsletter in your thought leadership strategy. In a Content Marketing Institute study, reported recently by OptinMonster, 91 percent of B2B marketers rated email as “important” or “extremely important” to their content marketing distribution efforts.
Email newsletters are sent directly to your target audiences, via email, to inform them of the latest updates, content, tips and news. They 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.
CMA distributes a monthly newsletter, which consists of its latest blogs, vlogs and company news. The objective is to stay in communication with its target audiences, which include customers and prospects. It also showcases the firm’s industry knowledge and service offerings in marketing and association management. To increase shares and drive additional traffic, there’s an opportunity in each section for recipients to share the content through social media or email.
Do you want to become an industry thought leader? Contact us today, to get the conversation started.
Christian Amato is the President of CMA, a full-service communications, marketing and association management firm, which has provided its clients with award-winning and proven results for more than 30 years.