Beginner Guide: Thought Leadership Marketing [2021]

If you have been looking for ways to grow your business, then you might’ve heard the term “thought leadership marketing.”

I don’t know what you have learned so far about it, but if you still have questions about what is and how you can become a thought leader, then this beginner guide to thought leadership marketing is just what you were looking for.

Let’s get started with the basics.

What is Thought Leadership Marketing?

Thought leadership marketing is a form of inbound marketing where you serve as an industry expert, generating and publishing content for your target audience. The point of this type of content is to establish you as an industry thought leader. Thought leadership help answer questions your prospective customers may have, which can earn you more opportunities to make a sale.

Thought leadership marketing is perhaps one of the most powerful ways someone can sell a product or service. It is showing that you are authorized and an expert in your field and influencing people’s purchasing decisions.

Thought Leadership

Why is Thought Leadership Important?

Thought leadership marketing creates visibility and credibility for companies. Thought leaders are the key to building industry recognition for brands.

With thought leadership marketing, companies create a trustworthy outlook for potential buyers and attract customers willing to pay higher prices. They make more sales an have higher billing rates.

Young and talented people are also attracted to companies with respected and recognized ideas. So, when they see an opportunity to work with an organization that is a thought leader in its industry they are more inclined to take that job.

Having interesting and viable content creates the perception that the content-maker is authorized. This draws more attention to your website and company both from the press and the public.

This recognition in a specific field can also lead companies to get more business development opportunities, including public speaking engagements at events and conferences, or partnerships with other companies.

Overall, thought leadership marketing helps your company to grow faster and become stronger while granting access to great opportunities.

People buy from people

The impact a content makes depends on how it connects with the audience and how well promoted it is. The content can have the best insight and information, but if it doesn’t relate to the audience or if it’s not well-advertised it will not make the necessary impact.

All of the thinking behind the thought leadership of a company or a group is shaped by the individuals within. Therefore thought leadership marketing creates a great opportunity for personal branding within the organization.

People relate to other individuals more than they can relate to companies. Thought leadership marketing provides the base for you to create personal brandings and thought leaders which will connect your audience to the work you do.

So, encouraging employees or leaders in your company to be thought leaders of their own might help you reach a larger part of your target audience.

Can we send you our next blog article?

Only the top quality growth & marketing content. No spam.

How does thought leadership affect people’s buying habits?

In the past five to ten years, people’s search habits changed from using short and simple keywords to using longer and unique keywords.

About ten years ago, people were asking Google to tell them what to purchase, whereas now, they want to compare companies to buy from and decide on their own.

With search habits changing, Google modified its results as well. Back then, as search results, company names or products used to be listed. However now, websites listing companies related to the searched topic is being listed as search results on Google.

Currently, informational websites that are objective are the ones affecting people’s purchasing decisions the most. And publishing content that influences buying decisions while educating people is what thought leadership is.

Common sources of thought leadership content

It is extremely important for your content to attract your audience. It should be authentic and sincere. It shouldn’t be too promotive, but it should make people want to work with you. You need to show your expertise and authority in your industry.

You can achieve this goal through many different forms of media. You might consider writing a book or conducting a research. Or if you don’t want to go that big, you can try writing a personal blog. You can even focus on having active social media platforms.

Below are five thought leadership content sources that will help you create good thought leadership content.

Counter-Narrative Opinions

Holding a strong opinion that goes against the consensus in your field can put you and your ideas forward. Many people who can’t find a place to work within the norms of the industry might find what they’re looking for through your counter-narrative thought leadership content.

However, you shouldn’t be contradictory just for the sake of it because what you are saying should sound true. Your words should make people think, “That’s what I was trying to say!”

You want your potential customers to relate to your ideas and find just what they were looking for. If you can create that feeling in people, than you have reached the goal of creating good counter-narrative leadership content.

Can we send you our next blog article?

Only the top quality growth & marketing content. No spam.

Personal Narrative

Ever since humanity has existed, we’ve enjoyed tales and stories. We like listening to others’ accomplishments, what they have been through, their success and failures.

Similarly, people will like to see your stories. They will want to know about your past and the decisions you made. Incorporating your own narrative about your work into your thought leadership content will allure people to the content you create.

It will not only attract them, it will also create a bond between you and your customers. They will feel connected to you with your stories. The narrative you share will continue to interest new potential buyers while the bond they created will keep your customers loyal to you.

However one point you should keep in mind with your personal narrative is that it will not work unless you have an insight to your experiences. You shouldn’t just tell your story, you should connect to your audience. You need them to understand and relate to you.

Network

You work with many different people throughout your work experience and you can use them as a source to attract more people. Show your successful customers as an example of the work you do. Use your network to gain more network.

If a customer that has worked with you is accomplished, share them in your social media, write a blog post about them, or feature them in your website. Show others that you have helped a customer come this far.

The best part about network thought leadership content? It’s a cycle.

  • You share about people you work with and how good they are.
  • That makes other people want to work with you.
  • New people start working with you
  • You bring them to success as well.
  • Then you repeat from the top.

You do what you do and you advertise with it. You show your expertise in your industry —which is the number one goal of thought leadership marketing— with solid examples of your own.

Can we send you our next blog article?

Only the top quality growth & marketing content. No spam.

Industry Analysis

To do thought leadership based on analysis, you should be able to follow your industry or discipline closely and be conscious to changes. Your work and content should be genuine and authentic, however not parted from the rest of the field.

Keeping a close eye on the newer trends and developments in the space around you will help you stay up to date. You should be able to see what other brands are doing, and analyzing their success and failure.

This is another way of proving your authority in your area. Putting up content that constructively critiques different behavior in your field, shows that you have the ability to understand and comment on topics of your expertise.

Data Storytelling

Collecting and scanning data is one of the biggest sources of thought leadership content. And the most important type of data is the data you collect on your own or with your own product: proprietary data.

Like the previous source, you need to look at your industry closely and collect and compare data. You can look at the works of other brands, or how some different products function, or customers’ preferences. Basically, collect data about both your industry and your audience, and analyze those to give insight that will show your expertise.

One of the good sides of data-based thought leadership is that you can start small with superficial data, but don’t forget that analysis is everything. The insights you give should be too strong that there isn’t need for collecting data over decades.

Creating a thought leadership marketing plan

Okay, we need to show that we know what we’re doing, that we’re experts, but where do we start? How do we create a thought leadership marketing plan for our brand?

Here is a five step plan to get you started on thought leadership marketing:

  1. Find your focus.To become a thought leader, you first need to become an expert. And to do that you need to focus on a certain area. It might seem like having a broader field may attract more people to your brand, however it is hard for you to be efficient in many different areas.Instead, try defining your focus. Find where you fit in your industry. Decide on what specific areas you want to become a thought leader in. Ask yourself questions like these:
    • Where do we stand as a brand in the broader context of society?
    • Who are we trying to reach? Who is our target audience?
    • What is changing in our industry, how do we adjust?
    • What makes us different from our competitors? Why do people pick us?
    After you find your answers on keypoints like these, focus deeply on them. Keep researching. Keep discussing them within your organization. Define your standing on each topic and make them adjustable to future changes.
  2. Set your goals.Now you know what your area of expertise is. You know where you stand and who your target audience is. It’s time to focus on what you want to reach with a thought leadership marketing plan.This is again a step where you need to answers from yourself. You should ask yourself what you want to get out of this new marketing plan. Do you want more people to visit your website? More people to buy your product? More partnerships?Whatever it is that you want, it is very personal to your own brand. Set your own SMART goals. Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. They should be reachable and personalized.
  3. Decide on your content strategy.The thought leadership content you create is perhaps the most important step. This is how you present yourself to your audience and competitors. It is your channel to broadcast your expertise. And you need a strong strategy for that.Start by finding what your audience wants. What do they search for on Google? What do they want to know? Find their questions and keywords, then respond to that.Your content should address your customers. It should be the things they want to see, read and watch. You can go back to the common sources for thought leadership content section and see which ones fit better to your audience and might attract more people.Then you need to find out what format of content would be in interest of more people. Is your audience more inclined to watch videos or visit blogs? Are they active on social media? Remember, where the target customers are is where your content needs to be.While finding your audience’s wants, you should also consider you competitors. You need to know what content your customers are consuming from other sources and analyze them. Find what they’re lacking and what they’re good at. Incorporate those to your thought leadership content and make your work better than theirs.Now since you know what your audience is looking for in which format and how the existing content can be improved, it’s time to create your own content. Make sure that they are easily accessible, consumable and shareable.
  4. Become more visible.Creating and publishing your content is not enough. You need to develop your visibility strategies. This means that you need to be present at places where your customers are.You can use the data you collected from the previous step about what audience likes and which type of content they’re already consuming.You need to show yourself where they will see your ideas and find out that they like them. This could be guest-writing at a blog they already visit, or joining popular conferences, or partnering with other experts.You can create amazing content that your customers will like, but this if you are not visible to them and if they’re not aware of you, you cannot benefit from the content you put out there.
  5. Make sure that your plan is open to changes.We live in world that changes every second. Especially with the internet, it is so easy to spread ideas, communicate, and reach people.This means that your industry is probably subject to change. Of course the core topics you focus on might stay the same, but the trends will come and go and it is important that you follow them.As what’s popular in your field changes, you should be able to shift your content and thought leadership marketing plan. You should keep adjusting according to your audience and keep your content relevant.

These are five steps that help you get started with a good thought leadership marketing plan. However, it doesn’t end here. You should always go back and evaluate your accomplishments, and that is what this next section is about.

Can we send you our next blog article?

Only the top quality growth & marketing content. No spam.

Tracking the success of thought leadership marketing

Your goal with thought leadership marketing is to grow your business. Although it is a good system that will help you if it’s executed properly, you cannot assume that it works just because you put up thought leadership content.

You need to track your success. You need to know how thought leadership marketing affects people who consume your content. You need to see if you reach your goal —that you have set at the second step of creating a thought leadership marketing plan.

Using the marketing sales funnel can be helpful with this.

Let’s say that a company’s goal was to get more people to buy their product. They started with creating thought leadership content and made it visible to their audience. They need to track how people act once they consume the content.

Their primary goal is to lead people to their “products” page and sell the product. So, they want to see where customers go after the content. They track the path people follow and see where they go.

With the path they have, they can entice people to buy their product at each point on the way and gradually push them to their “products” page. This is marketing funnel.

And it starts with your thought leadership content. Those are the initial attractions that allure people to your website or page. And by tracking how they lead people, you can see if they are actually successful, or if not, how you can adjust them to work the way you want them to.

To analyze your customers’ journey at each step you need an analytics tool.

So that you can filter your users by the actions they took on your website and analyze their sessions so that you can understand where they came from, what they did, and why they did it.

HockeyStack's User Journeys

from HockeyStack’s dashboard

Tired of google analytics? Want step-by-step visitor journey fast?

HockeyStack is a no-code web analytics tool that tracks every single action with a 2-second setup and helps you grow your businessTry for Free

Another important aspect to track your success is sources. You cannot track your thought leadership content’s distribution without analyzing your sources.

You can also use UTM tags so that you can analyze sources that you see as “direct.” Here is a guide on UTM tags if you are not familiar with them.

HockeyStack's UTM Tracking

Tired of google analytics? Want step-by-step visitor journey fast?

HockeyStack is a no-code web analytics tool that tracks every single action with a 2-second setup and helps you grow your businessTry for Free

20 marketing thought leaders to learn from

If you are interested in thought leadership marketing and want to see more examples, here are twenty thought leaders that you can learn from.

  1. Chester Elton is the co-founder of The Culture Works. He provides constructive ideas to make work environments more robust and lead high-performance teams.
  2. Debra Ruh, the Global Inclusion Strategist, talks about how diversity and inclusion can be fostered at wok.
  3. Whitney Johnson is a notable Harvard Speaker & Lecturer. Her interview is focused on building high-performing teams.
  4. Seth Godin, is an author and blogger and has exemplary content of thought leadership.
  5. Sid Godbole is the Managing Director at Bucephalus Consulting Ltd. has valuable opinions on process thinking in cross-functional team engagement.
  6. Jessica Fearnley is a Business Coach and Leader and you can learn the importance of decision-making from her.
  7. Jeremy Scrivens, the director of The Social Economy at Work, is focused on escalating employees’ strength for better productivity.
  8. Rya Stone is the CEO of ClickOnHR and she believes in the need of upskilling the hour.
  9. Andrew Saidy, the VP Talent Digitization at Schneider Electric, has strong views on how digital transformation is important in steer change in HR.
  10. Pranav Bhanage, the CEO of PETRONAS Lubricants (India), is talking about change management and how organizations can drive change and build value.
  11. Jacque Rushin is the COO of Rich Rush business Consulting and you can learn the importance of incorporating diverse perspectives.
  12. Kelly Kauffman, the Chief Human Capital Officer at Milwaukee Bucks, Inc. has experience in sports and diversity.
  13. Geetha Kannan, the CEO of Equity for Women and Technology, shares her opinions on women’s role in the tech world.
  14. Oscar Emetuei is the CEO of Billion House Consulting and you can learn how to monetize your passion from him.
  15. Sally Helsgen is the Premier Expert on Women’s Leadership and one of the best of the industry thought leaders.
  16. Michael Henry, the Founder of Speire Consulting, has a unique perspective on evolving technology.
  17. Ankita Poddar, the Senior HR Business Partner at Amazon Web Services, is experienced in HR and how it can function as an equalizer.
  18. Bulent Buyuksayar, is the Founder of SmartStarts Consultancy, and he is a thought leader in the HR industry.
  19. Enrique Acosta Gonzales, is the CEO at Triad Leadership Solutions and he believes that leadership coaching results in success.
  20. Alex Lazarus, the Managing Director at Lazarus & Maverick Limited, can show you about the power of vulnerability in leadership.

Can we send you our next blog article?

Only the top quality growth & marketing content. No spam.

FAQ

Can I be a thought leader by using press coverages?

Most probably no as people know press coverages are not organic. They will think that you paid for the coverage. It will be long process to create your own authority in your niche, but it will be well worth the effort.

Is it better to publish thought leadership content on my company blog or personal blog?

Both. A personal blog alongside great personal social media accounts would be the perfect combo for personal branding. However, company blog is also really important as it will affect customers perspective before buying your product. If they see you publish top-notch content in your niche, it will affect their decision positively.

Why is thought leadership marketing important?

Thought leadership marketing creates visibility and credibility for companies. Thought leaders are the key to building industry recognition for brands.

With thought leadership marketing, companies create a trustworthy outlook for potential buyers and attract customers willing to pay higher prices. They make more sales an have higher billing rates.

Young and talented people are also attracted to companies with respected and recognized ideas. So, when they see an opportunity to work with an organization that is a thought leader in its industry they are more inclined to take that job.