Thought Leadership - two words that have been picking up steam as many marketers are now using these words to describe content creation. I'm sure you're wondering, "what exactly does thought leadership mean? And how does someone actually lead with their thoughts?"
Let's get into it!
If you've ever done a Google search for an online course or searched YouTube for expert advice on a subject, you may have found yourself looking for thought leadership without even realizing it. Just as it sounds, thought leadership is an expert speaking on a subject that they know very, very well. Thought leaders are often bloggers, mentors, coaches, bosses, friends, nerds, and teachers. Anyone who has truly studied a specific subject or mastered their craft is typically known as an expert, also known as a "thought leader" to someone else. The best thought leaders love to share advice and give away tips and tricks because they love to help others find success and avoid the most common mistakes. Thought leaders separate themselves from the rookies because they typically can speak to the common mistakes made from experience.
Put simply, a thought leader is really a glorified guide on leading others through a particular subject.
In regards to marketing, thought leadership is a content strategy of producing material that projects yourself or your brand as an expert guide - someone worth hiring for advice, council, coaching, or consulting services. In the mind of a consumer, they want to purchase products or seek advice from professionals who actually know what the heck they are talking about... not the next door neighbor who heard second hand advice from a friend. Think of a thought leader as someone who has both the knowledge AND expertise to be able to give you wise advice on a particular subject. For marketing purposes, a thought leadership strategy would be building a content calendar of blogs, SEO, videos, podcasts, social media posts, and more all around the subject matter you want others to see you as an expert in.
Here's an easy example...
If you own a service based business, let's say a luxury car detailing business, you'd want to construct a schedule of content that reflected that you are THE expert when it comes to cleaning really nice cars. You might show a video of yourself cleaning the car and sharing details about how you or your team gets in the cracks and hard to reach places. You might want to post regular pictures on social media of the luxury cars you're cleaning as proof that you can handle these high end vehicles... let's be honest, if someone sees a picture of you cleaning a $500,000 Ferrari, they'd probably be much more comfortable bringing their $100,000 Lexus. You may also want to write a few articles and explain the difference between your detail services and procedures compared to the crappy car wash down the street. Or perhaps, you could write a blog about how keeping your car detailed regularly helps to preserve the value of the car and put more money in someone's pocket when they get ready to sell or trade in. You may also want to get a few testimonials from happy clients with nice cars who have loved your services. OR, maybe you host a podcast about luxury cars, host guests who really love the details in cars, and then every once in a while interject your expert advice on how to take car of these high end vehicles.
The main idea of thought leadership is very simple... give away bite sized expert advice on a consistent basis so that others will see that you are credible and trustworthy. If you are generous, credible, and worth listening to, you will be the first person that others think of when they need help in your area of expertise. Thought leadership is a lot like sowing seeds in the ground... you may not get rewarded or reap a harvest right away, but overtime, as you are consistent, others will come to you when they need your help. Thought leadership is truly a form of marketing strategy... but let's be direct, IT IS NOT A FAST STRATEGY. It's a long term play. It's a strategy that pays off generously over time. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Thought leadership works best if your intention is selfless... sharing helpful information with others to help guide them and avoid hardship. IF this is your goal, your tone will be believable, and others will not only want to follow you but pay you for your services.