In a world where content is king, there’s no denying the ability of thought leadership to establish credibility and trust among potential prospects and customers. Eighty-two percent of B2B decision makers say thought leadership has increased their trust in an organisation, and almost 90% consider it to be critical or important during the early stage of the buying process.
For those unfamiliar with the term, thought leadership is a content marketing tactic designed to communicate insightful and persuasive ideas that position your business as experts on the topics that matter most to your customers. When executed well, a thought leadership strategy should bring new ideas and educational content to the table while helping to distinguish your business from the competition.
In the words of thought leadership experts Craig Badings and Liz Alexander, “Thought leaders advance the marketplace of ideas by posting actionable, commercially relevant, research-backed, new points of view. They think on behalf of themselves and their clients, as opposed to simply churning out product-focused content.”
So what are three golden rules to creating powerful thought leadership content?
Don’t sell anything, except ideas
Be authentic. Create content that is informative and opinionated – not a sales pitch. Trying to ‘subtly’ mention your services and products in the content detracts away from the conversations that you’re trying to generate. You want to become the go-to person for your expertise and knowledge, the one who is ‘in the know’ and excites your target audience – rather than be perceived as a salesperson disguised as an expert. Volunteering information without having an ulterior motive will ensure your interpretations and observations are considered credible and respected by others.
‘I agree’ won’t cut it
Offer a unique perspective. This means taking a position on something and interpreting it for others in a meaningful way. Make your audience feel smarter by taking them along with you on a journey and build their knowledge and understanding around topics you are passionate about. As a thought leader, your wisdom and confidence to discuss the latest issues or trends impacting your industry are what will set you apart. Be bold enough to speak up and say what others are too afraid to say, even if this means taking a controversial viewpoint. Contributing meaningfully to existing conversations in the industry can be the best way to generate cut through and be heard above the noise.
Solve your audiences’ problems
Thought leadership can only work if you understand the pain points of your audience. What’s keeping them awake at night? Where do they need support and advice? Your goal should be to create content that addresses their concerns, provides encouragement, and offers them new ways of thinking. By helping to tackle their issues and problems head-on, your customers will see you as a respectable source of insight they can listen to and learn from.
Investing in thought leadership is one of the best ways to earn the trust, respect, and attention of the individuals you’re trying to reach, and it’s going to continue for the foreseeable future. As Jeff Ernst, Vice President of Marketing at Forrester Research, neatly summarised, “Business buyers don’t ‘buy’ your product or service, they ‘buy into’ your perspective and approach to solving their problems.”