"Thought Leadership" has been a bit of a buzz word (I guess words in this case) in the marketing world for a few years now. What does it mean though?
I like to look at it as "Show Don't Tell," where you position yourself as the expert in your area of focus by providing helpful resources to your customer base at little to no cost to them without overly self-promoting your business. This is the information age, and it is more important than ever to really prove yourself. So, show people why you should be the trusted resources for their [fill in the blank] needs instead of telling everyone to use you or buy from you. The self-promotional efforts can sometimes become white noise if that is all you are putting out there.
How do you show and not tell? Below are some great ways to help develop yourself as a thought leader.
Know your audience's interests, pain points, lifestyle, communication style, etc.
Develop a niche area of expertise
Share what you know through:
Sharing other helpful resources (articles, infographics, etc.)
Of course you can pepper in some self-serving content here and there and even create calls to action within these resources (ex: "for more information, contact..."), but the purpose should be about establishing your expertise and developing trust.
Some may argue that thought leadership is giving away your trade secrets or advice for free. Well, you are to an extent, but not in the way that someone can completely go it alone. If you are a CPA and you write a blog post about the top five tax law changes affecting small businesses, that does not mean they are now fully equipped to navigate the tax system on their own. However, you have now shown them that you are current and knowledgeable about the latest tax laws and know what these changes mean for small businesses on a deeper level. You are also now a convenient resource to turn to in order to stay compliant.
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