The term ‘Thought Leadership’ is either inspired or inane, depending on your view of changing business terms of reference. I like it – but only when it is applied practically, particularly in Marketing.
With decreasing boundaries and blurred lines of service, it’s easy for your voice to get lost, particularly in the smaller B2B sector. Whilst it’s important to stand out don’t be tempted to use gizmos and gimmicks but instead, to update that most important and old fashioned of things called ‘the customer relationship’ – but with a modern twist.
Winning business is no longer about what widgets/service you sell and at what price; it’s about adding value. Giving your customer something of value that they couldn’t get elsewhere. The trick is deciding what that something should be and the temptation is to make it daft giveaways like biros and pads. STOP!!
What most customers really want, is confidence. Confidence in the future and how they can help shape it for their desired market. Which is where someone who wants to add value comes in.
Successful business-to-business brands like McKinsey, Deloitte and Michael Page have long recognised that genuine thought leadership must challenge received wisdom and throw new light on pressing issues affecting clients, prospects and policymakers. But be warned; it’s neither easy nor comfortable to execute well.
Thought leadership is simply the most effective way for marketers to drive commercial success through the power of insight and ideas.
It starts with challenging organisations (including your own) to do these 5 things:
- SET UP A THOUGHT LEADERSHIP TEAM / STEERING GROUP TO LOOK AT WHERE YOU ARE NOW, WHERE YOU WANT TO BE AND HOW YOU PLAN ON GETTING THERE.
- CONSIDER YOUR ORGANISATION’S BROAD AREAS OF EXPERTISE AND ACCESSIBLE DATA SOURCES AND MAKE SURE THEY’RE TREATED LIKE THE GOLDEN EGG THEY ARE.
- STAY UP TO SPEED WITH INDUSTRY NEWS AND PREVAILING TRENDS – LOOK FOR WHITE SPACE YOU COULD FILL. IN A BUSY MARKETPLACE, SOMETHING DIFFERENT WILL ALWAYS STAND OUT.
- CONSIDER THE 9 KEY ELEMENTS OF GOOD THOUGHT LEADERSHIP BEFORE EMBARKING ON YOUR PROGRAMME *
- DETERMINE COST PER LEAD FROM BUSINESS AS USUAL AND SET ROI TARGETS TO BEAT THAT
So what are the 9 key steps of great thought leadership? Funny you should ask *;
- Be authentic – before offering advice on any subject, be sure you can – and do – practice what you preach.
- Although the ultimate aim of all business activity is to protect or improve the bottom line, Thought Leadership is about understanding the status quo and exploring new avenues of commercial opportunity and being open to ALL possibilities at the start.
- Effective Leaders challenge, explore and test their business from a fresh perspective on a daily basis. From the outside in, top to bottom, current to future.
- In conversation with…all the key stakeholders; whether existing or potential customers, staff, directors, man on the street. Many Boards I’ve worked with have been stunned to discover I’ve done a mystery test on them even before they’ve even hired me but I believe a first-hand experience is a vital and imperative way to find out what’s going on.
- By focussing on emerging and important trends rather than past glories or failures, you can demonstrate that you are adding value to clients and prospects.
- Evidence. If you want to win hearts and minds, having – and understanding - the facts behind the status quo is absolutely essential and is absolutely critical to any thought Leadership marketing approach.
- Be opinionated. It may sound counterintuitive but it is the difference between collating facts & figures and successfully developing a plan. Fight for what you believe in, but always be respectful of an opposing argument.
- Having made my living out of bringing passion and sparkle to a wide range of events from AGM’s to Sales Conferences, I am always aware of how important good storytelling can be. It distinguishes a dusty old white paper from an effective sales and marketing tool.
- Action. Talk is cheap but considered and tracked action is what actually makes a difference. Talking about going on a diet is a good start, but actually refusing to buy or eat all the fattening stuff is what makes the difference.