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What is thought leadership?

What Is Thought Leadership?

There are many definitions of thought leadership; here’s my take:

Thought leaders are created, not assigned, i.e., you must genuinely be an expert in your field. Content marketing is how a thought leader (individual or organisation) gets their thinking out into the world. Blogs, social media, speaking, podcasts etc., are the channels by which content is shared.

When it comes to using thought leadership to market a business, there are shades of grey. But in my book, no matter the objective, context, or distribution method, it all begins with the business objectives and original thought, opinion, or insight you want to share with your target customers.

A well-executed thought leadership programme brings benefits beyond basic marketing metrics:

  • Helps develop customer trust and confidence by demonstrating sector expertise.
  • Supports the entire sales cycle from discovery to purchase.
  • Enables an organisation to break into new verticals or customer segments.
  • Contributes to customer retention by exposing the complete product or service offering.
  • Disseminates knowledge internally and aligns teams to a common purpose. 

Thought leadership, SEO and AI

For the last two decades (give or take), traditional SEO has been an investment worth making. Organisations that successfully deployed SEO as a distribution method ranked well and drove volumes of traffic to their website.

But the game has changed. Content written by generative AI is flooding SERPs. Businesses without the AI capability and resources to churn out volumes of content are going to find it hard to compete.

But I ask you, does this really matter to your organisation? Is traffic the one metric that’s most relevant to your business? I’d hazard a guess that leads and sales are way more important.

In the early 2000s, I began working for a design agency that saw an opportunity to lead a change in how businesses thought about product and service design. Foolproof doubled down on thought leadership and created a programme that leveraged the team’s expertise to create content.

As their marketing manager, I worked with my colleagues to extract opinion and original thought that positioned the company as an experience design thought leader.

The content marketing industry is circling back to thought leadership, long-term brand building and developing customer relationships. AI of course plays a role and SEO isn’t dead, but it’s even more competitive.

What does this mean for B2B content strategy?

If traffic is less important to you than attracting people in a buying mindset, it matters less whether Google decides to rank content written by humans or computers. The opportunity lies in content that solves your customers’ pain points or presents a unique point of view.

Thought leadership and original content inform the whole sales cycle, from attracting potential prospects to purchasing decisions and customer retention. The main benefits of this approach are building trust, competitor differentiation and brand awareness.

Getting started with thought leadership – questions to ask

  • What is our unique view of the world, our sector, or specific themes?
  • What are our ‘earned secrets’?
  • Which themes do our customers care about that we should have a point of view on?
  • What pain points are our customers experiencing that our product/service solves?
  • Who within our organisation is qualified/experienced to talk about these things?

Contact me to discuss your thought leadership content marketing requirements.

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