Thought Leadership cannot merely stay as an abstract badge-of-honor for your brand. In order for it to be truly beneficial, it must eventually be converted into market leadership and the revenue that follows.
Providing your audience with high quality, thought-provoking, action-inspiring content is one of the best things you can do to build your company’s brand and reputation. Despite this, thought leadership is very undervalued by sellers compared to buyers according to an Edelman study which surveyed business decision makers in a B2B context. (2019 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study)
This study showed that up to 61% of respondents were willing to pay a premium to work with an organisation (or person) based on their thought leadership, but only 14% of sellers believed that thought leadership could help them charge higher rates than their competitors.
One possible reason is that not all organisations know how to effectively convert their thought leadership into market leadership, or even how to accurately measure their progress in terms of revenue. And therein lies the problem.
It is difficult to place a value on something you cannot measure. Being a thought leader in your niche will not count for much unless you find ways to measure, track and ultimately monetise your content and leverage the reciprocity you are creating with your consumers.
The Secret is There is No Secret
As thought leadership quickly becomes entrenched in the marketers tool kit as an emerging marketing discipline (according to Forrester) companies of every size are looking at how they can make it work for them.
And the challenge is as much to the large organisations as it is to the small business and soloprenuer. But with challenge comes opportunity. In many respects, it's an even playing field and an opportunity for you to carve out your own niche and credibility as you apply expertise and deep market insights along with healthy doses of consistency and patience.
There is no real secret to producing powerful thought leadership, it is a mastery of fundamental marketing concepts which you are most likely familiar with. In its simplest form, thought leadership has to be “good”. And by this I mean, delivers tangible value to the reader, and ideally transformation at some level.
It’s important not to underestimate the value of quality in the current market environment. Doing so can be detrimental not just to your brand but to your business. The same Edelman study showed that there is a perceived lack of quality thought leadership in the marketplace, with only 18% of content being rated as excellent or very good by decision makers.
It was also established that if your content is average or below-par, then you run the risk of losing sections of your following. This study also showed that 58% of buyers were willing to award business based on thought leadership, but on the flip side, a whole 29% also responded that they would not work with a company with poor thought leadership. Clearly, thought leadership is a powerful tool that must be wielded appropriately if you want to use it to grow your business.
The Edelman study created a Flywheel diagram to help their audience understand what it takes to create good thought leadership that can be converted into market leadership. They break their method up into 6 parts, namely: capitalise on white space, be relevant, set a vision, build trust, be concise, and finally measure progress.
Capitalising on white space means that you need to find where your brand can fit in and lead conversations.
To be relevant, you need to stay close to your audience and perceive their needs. Once you are obviously perceptive to their needs, trust begins to build naturally.
Setting a vision helps you capture your present consumers by allowing them a glimpse of what’s in store for them in the future.
Being concise is self-explanatory as most readers prefer their content to be in bite-sized format.
And measuring progress, is absolutely imperative so you can track your success how your message is resonating and engaging with your audience, and if you're a marketer or running a business, show that your thought leadership is actually bringing in revenue to the company.
Listening to your audience, building trust, and tracking your progress should be nothing new to a marketer. These are fundamental tools that marketers must master not just to produce thought leadership, but also as a foundation to apply across every part of their marketing strategy and operations.
As with many things in life, dominating in an area is all about mastery of the fundamentals, and the best marketers execute these to perfection.
Thought leadership that is all glitz and glamour, but not founded upon time-tested marketing truths is weak, and you will never be able to effectively leverage this into market leadership.
However, If you build your thought leadership on strong fundamentals, your content will eventually rise above the clutter and your audience will begin to trust you more and more, making them more receptive to your messages.
Once this happens, you can leverage their goodwill and eventually monetize your content, completing the conversion of your thought leadership to market leadership and the revenue that follows.
Nina Christian is passionate marketer and mentor to marketers and entreprenuers around the globe.
Her marketing agency Braveda, founded in 2000, is a boutique marketing agency that specialises in building brands through thought leadership and content creation.
Braveda was named Best Marketing Agency at the 2018 Australian Marketing Excellence Awards and Nina was named 2018 Certified Practicing Marketer of the Year (Victoria) and National Finalist for both categories in 2019.
Nina believes believes every marketer deserves the chance to build a career that inspires and is helping young marketers become the marketers the world wants and needs through Launch Your Marketing Career.
She is also an entrepreneur with several start-ups under her belt, including a successful exit in 2008 of a pioneering ecommerce brand she co-founded in 2001.
In 2017 she co-founded EntreprenHer - a School of Entrepreneurship for Girls, inspiring and equipping young women and emerging entrepreneurs and leaders.
She is a Fellow of the Australian Marketing Institute, and Chair of the AMI State Committee in VIC.
Nina is a regular speaker on the subjects of Marketing and Entreprenuership and believes there has never been a more exciting time to be a marketer.
Outside of work (which she loves!) Nina enjoys the outdoors, is an active CrossFitter, and after 3pm most days is off-duty having fun with her five young children and doing mum stuff.
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