Who are your favorite types of people to be around? Do you gravitate toward folks who give and share freely, without strings — or those who always seem to have some kind of ulterior motive? We all know people who only pop up when they need something from you…
Most of us prefer to surround ourselves with open-handed, self-assured, service-minded people who prioritize helping over selling.
Business is no different, really.
This basic facet of human psychology gets to the heart of why thought leadership marketing is effective, and very much worth the investment.
What Is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership marketing is the process of generating content with the aim of positioning yourself, or your company, as an industry leader. Proving that you know what you’re doing can take many forms. But the gist is to produce content or experiences (don’t forget events!) that’re somehow useful for your audience, be it educational, enjoyable, or something that makes their lives easier.
Thought leadership is all about establishing yourself as a proactive, transparent, leading authority in your field. Here are a few reasons why it’s a strategy worth pursuing and investing in.
1. Tie Goes to the (Fore)Runner
In today’s business landscape, competition is increasingly dense, and even global. Your fiercest competitor could be in Bangalore, Bangor, Bangkok, or just across the street (Banger Street in Baltimore?).
Thought leadership marketing is a way to stand out from the pack, to separate yourself from the other guys who are trying to undercut you. All other things being equal, most people will usually just go with the cheapest option. Well-executed thought leadership can be the tie-breaker you need to win business.
In baseball the tie goes to runner. In business, the tie very often goes to the forerunner, or the person who goes the extra mile to provide something of value before any sort of sales pitch takes place. One report found that 61% of consumers were more likely to buy from a company that provided custom content.
A whitepaper chock-full of relevant research, an insightful infographic, a webinar tackling a common challenge in your industry, a how-to video, a series of blog posts, a timely article… these can all transform the perception of your company and sway those who might be on the fence about who to call.
2. Establishing Trust, Authority, and Goodwill
So much of marketing is about the long game. You have to be patient, intentional, and willing to invest in long-term initiatives that might take a while to come to fruition. Establishing trust, building clout (or klout), and beefing up your brand’s authority won’t happen overnight. But those intangible commodities are well worth the wait (and the investment).
Building trust and establishing authority — or demonstrating expertise — are not just the key to increasing sales on an individual level. Working toward becoming a trusted, credible, helpful source of appealing content is a great way to generate shares, recommendations, and good old fashioned word of mouth endorsements. Which is a big deal, as 92% of consumers trust peer recommendation over ads.
It’s not just a matter of winning over the people in front of you. It’s about providing a benefit for the people in their circle, who can in turn help their circle, and so on throughout your industry audience.
Industry-centric sharing of practical, useful content makes you look like an attractive business partner, but it can also create positive vibes within your community. And goodwill tends to multiply.
This is why taking the time to write articles for publications beyond your blog are worthwhile, as is guest blogging and providing content for other outlets. Ginning up external coverage can affirm your credibility, and get people to start equating your brand with leadership, insight and success. So long as you go easy on the hard sell, you also have a chance to build a reputation as a supportive, community-minded team player.
Ultimately, trust and authority give you the ability to exert influence in your field.
3. Return On Investment
Of course the bottom line for any business endeavor is ROI. Is this strategy really worth it? In the case of using thought leadership marketing, the verdict is a resounding yes. We are in the ‘year of thought leadership marketing,’ after all.
But as with any other form of marketing, you need to have a specific purpose of what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there. You don’t want to waste time and resources in an effort to just sound smart.
In order to produce content or experiences that are viewed as irresistible and indispensable within your community, you need a clear strategy, measurable metrics, and an investment commensurate with your goals.
This is true, whether your aim is to increase sales, inbound calls, or applications, or to generate new leads.
Regardless of your goals, or industry, thought leadership can amplify and enhance the perception of your company. That’s the key to unlocking more sales and building a stronger business.