Customers, particularly those in the business-to-business (B2B) space seeking premium services, are increasingly demanding education and advice as part of the sales experience. They see through the bright and shiny marketing speak. They want proof.
Real thought leadership is that proof. And when it's done right, it's proof that monetizes: Thought leadership content helps convert your customers into brand loyalists and your product into a purposeful platform. It challenges. It differentiates. It starts relationships and enhances existing ones. And it drives sales with high-value customers.
Yet identifying the right thought leadership perspective—individually or for your enterprise—requires a framework. For most leaders and organizations, that perspective must be both newsworthy and scalable for the future. It must be specific without being alienating. Thought leadership must be bold without being outrageous. And it must be individually authentic and also representative of the brand.
In our work developing, launching, and managing thought leadership campaigns, we've established a framework for identifying powerful thought leaders and their perspectives. Take these four steps from that framework to find your organization's story and share it in ways that foster engagement with the audiences that matter most.
1. Start with the leaders
Although most marketing efforts start with the customer (especially as customer experience grows as an overall strategic priority), thought leadership starts with the leader. Trying to create a thought leadership platform around what you believe your customer wants—rather than what the leader believes—misses the core point of authenticity and will ultimately fall flat with customers.
Identify the leaders in your organization who are already active on social media, and explore how their perspectives could be supported and amplified by the brand. Thought leaders can come from all functions and levels of an organization: Howard Schultz may be the paramount thought leader for Starbucks, but the company's blog features articles from "coffee masters," baristas, and director- and VP-level employees.
The more publicly recognized the thought leader, and the more credentials he or she has, the bigger the resulting media coverage. But there can be great value in using lower-profile thought leaders to reach micro-communities or to take a position on fringe topics.