What is a Thought Leader?

What is a thought leader? 

Take a look at the following names. 

Oprah…Lord Alan Sugar…Kylie Jenner – what do they all have in common?

Besides being highly respected and successful leaders in business, these individuals are also known and valued as thought-leaders – or experts – within their industry. 

Image: Experts within their industry

And what does this expertise lead to? Lots of trusting customers who are eager to follow and engage with their brands. 

As a brand, being an expert in your field is essential if you want to have success online. You need to be recognisable, admired and trusted if you’re ever to build your reputation enough to make long-term growth. And this means being a thought leader.

What is Thought Leadership?

Thought leadership is a strategy used by marketers to build authority for themselves or the leaders in their company. Through content marketing, thought leaders create and promote relevant and helpful information.

They are active within their online community, helping to raise awareness of who they are. And, they offer up help to those looking for it. 

Image: What is thought leadership?

The goal of thought leadership is to grow your credibility to the point where you are recognised as an expert. This ensures people turn to you as a source of knowledge whenever they have a query related to your field. 

It may start with someone discovering a link to your content on a forum page. Especially if that content is particularly helpful. As later down the line, when they are  seeking a product or service that you provide, they’ll consider you first.

This is because they value your specialist knowledge. As such, this means they view your brand as the best to purchase from.

Being a market leader can take your brand to great heights. You’ll increase awareness among your target audience, generate more leads, improve your credibility and increase your online engagement rates.

The Importance of Content for Thought Leadership

We live in an age where consumers’ primary shopping habits take place via search engines like Google. That’s why it pays to understand the way people search. And this is especially important, if you want to become a thought leader. 

Over the past five to ten years, reports have found that people’s browsing habits have changed. Today, over half of shoppers say that they always research before they make a purchase. This is to ensure that they’re making the best possible choice. 

Image: Shoppers do their research

In other words, websites that offer objective and helpful information to searchers are the ones who predominantly influence purchasing decisions.

Even better if you’re the one delivering that value, and you offer a product or service that searchers are looking for. Seeing as it’s far more likely that they’ll purchase from you and not your competitor. 

The strategy used to do this is coined content marketing. It’s a great way to build your authority within your industry and forge strong connections with your intended audience. 

How to Become a Thought Leader: 5 Top Tips

Once you’ve got to grips with the value of becoming a thought leader, the next step is content creation. You’ll need to create content that will help you to become one. 

However, becoming a thought leader isn’t easy. In fact, it takes a lot of time and commitment to dedicate yourself to growing yourself as a brand. Take a look at these top 5 tips on how to make sure you’re doing it right.

1. Solidify yourself as an expert

To be known as a thought leader, you really need to know your stuff.

This doesn’t just mean knowing the foundations of your industry inside out. But, you need to have your finger hot on the pulse and up-to-date new developments within your field of knowledge. 

Image: solidify yourself as an expert

Make sure you’re following other expert blogs, newsletters and subscribe to relevant research journals. That way you’re always at the forefront of any new developments. 

Being an expert also means being able to convey your knowledge with clarity and confidence. In other words, you need to exuberate all the great traits of a leader. 

Your social media is an effective opportunity to share your knowledge and build your expertise. By actively engaging with your community, commenting on industry news and posting thought-provoking opinions, you’ll ensure your brand’s voice is heard in relevant industry trends. 

Consider utilising platforms such as LinkedIn which are designed for professionals. They will allow you to share thought leadership content, without needing to promote your brand’s content. It can help to authentically build you (or your CEO) an identity from behind the brand. This is vital for allowing consumers to put their trust into you.

2. Share your content across platforms

Image: share content across all platforms

Many marketers trying to create thought leadership often only post on their blogs. But to dominate the market as an industry leader, you need to be active across a multitude of platforms. Extending your reach will help as many people as possible to discover who you are. 

Content comes in many forms, so take advantage of these different styles to raise your profile. Make sure you’re:

  •  Active on a number of social media sites
  •  Posting regularly on other websites
  •  Joining podcasts and online panel talks when the opportunity arises

Mixing up your media will help you target a larger group of online users. While offering a combination content types (e.g. video vs. written) will help you to cater to a range of audiences. People like to consume content in multiple ways.

Ultimately, if you want to be a thought leader, you need to be everywhere that your audience is. Trying to expose yourself and your brand as much as possible will be the key to your success.

3. Keep an eye on your competitors

In today’s saturated market, everyone wants to stand out from the crowd. And many seek to become thought leaders. 

So, it’s a wise idea to keep an eye on your competitors to see what they’re doing. Are they posting regularly? What type of content are they sharing? Are they using different mediums?

Image: Keep an eye on your competitors

Running a detailed competition analysis can give you some great inspiration. By knowing who they’re targeting and what content they’re offering, your competitors can actually help you. Competitor analysis helps to identify gaps within your own strategy and can provide new content ideas.

It will also allow you to see what gaps exist within your competitors’ content strategy. This means you can start to target those weaknesses. These small and easy wins are crucial to helping you slowly gain traction as an authority. Over time, they’ll strengthen your position and help you grow into a market leader.

4. Create content with value

It sounds like an obvious tip if you want to become a thought leader. But so many brands create content that doesn’t really offer value. Especially the value needed to build those strong customer connections. 

Image: create lots of valuable content

Creating valuable content means considering what your customers are trying to achieve when they land on your website. Then aligning your content around their goals. Rather than using it as another sales-messaging platform. 

In other words, everything you create should put the customer’s needs first.

This means carrying out extensive research. Take time to refine who your audience is and understand the intentions behind their searches. Then, focus on tailoring every piece of content around their needs and wants. 

The more value you can create for your customers around your subject area, the more trustworthy and respected you become. As such, more people will buy from you and believe you to be the go-to authority in your industry.

5. Be authentic

For your content to really connect with people, you need to be authentic. And, you need to be consistent in everything you do and say. 

For too long, audiences have been pummelled with strong marketing messages and deceiving sales pitches. So, it’s hardly surprising that today, ad-exhausted audiences want to consume content that is honest and open. They don’t want to be knowingly pushed towards a sale. 

In fact, 90% of today’s consumers say that authenticity is important to them. Especially in terms of deciding which brands they like and support. 

As a thought leader (and the face of your brand), it’s vital that everything you share is authentic. Deception will lead to searchers becoming frustrated and disengaging with your brand. And this could do more harm than good to your reputation. 

Image: Don’t deceive your audience

You might be thinking; how am I meant to deliver authentic content to my readers? Especially when, behind the screen I’m creating content which I hope has a positive influence on my business goals? 

Well, it’s all about balance. 

Consumers aren’t fools. They probably know that a piece of content was created with a business goal in mind. 

You can still align your content with your goals, whilst being authentic with yourself and your brand by:

  •  Believing in everything you share – don’t push a particular opinion or angle unless you genuinely believe it. Consumers will see straight through you
  •  Creating a personality – humans aren’t 2D objects. We are deep, emotional beings with personalities and traits. Embody this within your content and your consumers will learn to love you
  •  Making content which is relevant to your brand and seems like a logical extension of the topic you are expert on – again, if the content doesn’t fit with you as a brand, consumers will look straight through you 
  •  Being transparent – don’t ever lie or dodge the truth. If you ever write something that’s factually incorrect or strikes a nerve, apologise. Consumers value transparency and admire those who admit their mistakes. As opposed to those who straight up deny them (don’t believe me? Look at politicians as a prime example) 

Ultimately, you know what it means to be authentic in the content you create. 

As long as you’re true to yourself and believe that you’re putting valuable material out there, you’ll start to build your credibility as a market leader.

Remember, Being a Thought Leader Isn’t a Given

Being the very best within your industry isn’t a right or a given for anyone. And lots of marketers often find themselves frustrated after creating a bank of content which doesn’t have the desired effect. 

A thought leader is like an Olympic athlete. You have to live and breathe your industry to ensure you’re the best. You need to continually train, learn and develop to be the one people turn to as their website of choice. 

Image: Thought leader is like an Olympic athlete

With more and more companies turning to content marketing as a way to increase their website’s visibility and drive high-converting traffic to it, it’s becoming harder than ever to cut through the noise and make your way to the top. 

The only way to do so is to constantly pump out quality and engaging content daily. If you want to remain relevant in your audiences’ minds, be there every single day providing help and value. 

Focus your efforts in this way, and you’ll start to think like a real market leader. 

Summary

Many marketers and company leaders look to thought leadership as a way to stand out against their competitors. To be recognised as the go-to resource for consumers looking for questions in their area of expertise.

Using content marketing as the platform with which to share their authority can be hugely rewarding.

By sharing your expertise with searchers who are genuinely looking for help and guidance, you can forge valuable connections. This creates a bond with prospective customers who will then return to you in the future. They’ll decide to make a purchase with you – because you helped them. 

As rewarding as it sounds, marketers must be wary of the difficulties they may face on the path to thought leadership. 

Everyone is using content marketing to try and become the market leader within their industry. That means there’s a whole lot of competition out there. Full of people looking to shout louder than you. Or deliver as much value as possible to their audiences. 

That isn’t to say you should give up at all. In fact, if you can keep your content unique, high quality and genuinely helpful, you’ll reach the top eventually.

Working With A Marketing Consultant to Become a Thought Leader

As we’ve established throughout this article, becoming a market leader isn’t easy. It’s not about creating a blog post once a week and sharing it on your LinkedIn profile. 

Behind every great market leader is an even better content strategy. One which not only taps into your audience’s wants and needs, but is also properly optimised to rank highly on search engines.

Content marketing is a hugely time-consuming investment for brands. The creation and promotion of quality content requires a lot of research and effort. This is something which many brands – or company leaders – don’t have time to do on their own. 

Often, they’ll turn to a marketing consultant such as myself, who can work with them to create a robust strategy. One that can help them to become a market leader and a hub of expertise.

My team and I have worked with hundreds of brands and marketers for over a decade, to devise and implement content marketing strategies. So we know exactly what it takes to get your brand noticed. Whether you’re looking for more consumers, want to appear higher on search results, or want to build a credible online reputation – we can help. 

From advising on the best strategy for your brand to the full creation and delivery of that strategy, we can tailor our services to best suit your business goals. 

If you’d like to learn more about the types of services we offer, feel free to get in contact. I’d be more than happy to have an obligation-free chat about how we can work together.


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