This steady stream of stuff is useful for gaining exposure and brand recognition, but it often fails to generate leads or sales. That’s why a renewed focus on true thought leadership warms my writer’s heart.
LinkedIn just published its new ebook, The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership, which details new research about the growing chasm between content and thought leadership.
So what’s the difference?
Content is often pretty straight forward. It can be as simple as a product announcement or a preview of your presence at an upcoming trade show. Thought leadership aims to spark a thought or an idea. It challenges your existing notions of how an industry or product works. Good thought leadership leaves the reader thinking, and positions the company as an authority with new ideas or best practices.
LinkedIn cites Jeff Ernst, principal analyst at Forrester Research, who says, “Business buyers don’t ‘buy’ your product or service, they ‘buy into’ your perspective and approach to solving their problems.” Good thought leadership articulates that perspective and approach, while enabling readers to see how it could apply to their business.
The rules of good content do apply to good thought leadership: keep it simple and approachable. Clear verbiage, summaries, and scannable graphics or bullet points help communicate your ideas quickly.
But to truly be effective, thought leadership must align with your larger marketing strategy. Sure, your day-to-day marketing activities must include new customer wins or a product launch. A cohesive editorial calendar can help you manage it all, weaving ongoing thought leadership into your weekly or monthly publishing schedules. Ideally, you apply the same core themes across everything you do. You could designate weeks or months with particular themes – such as an industry focus or an evolving market trend – and then integrate that theme into every piece you produce. Your customers may not overtly notice it, but if you do this well, they’ll implicitly pick up on the message you’re sending.
Your thought leadership can serve as the bedrock of your strategy. Use your other channels to drive people to that thought leadership. Interesting quotes or startling statistics can pique casual readers’ interest and draw them to your thought leadership – and that’s where you can shine.
Have you seen good examples of thought leadership done right? Share them below. And download LinkedIn’s ebook for a much more comprehensive overview.