What is thought leadership?
The aim of thought leadership is to display your expertise, and position yourself as an authority in your field. Thought leadership is, amongst others, generated by creating and publishing original content that is valuable for your clients and prospects. Generating leads, increasing your brand’s visibility and building client relationships can all be achieved through thought leadership.
Align to the buyers' journey
align.me considers thought leadership as a tactic that can be used to progress buyers from one stage of their journey to another. So, before building content, you’ll have to decide where in the buyers' journey this can be an effective tactic. If you’re trying to position yourself in the product category, your content will look a lot different than when you’re convincing a prospect that you offer a solution to their problem. Adjust your content accordingly, and decide what you want your reader to think after they’ve finished reading your whitepaper or blog.
Building a content grid
It's been said time and time again that the importance of content is paramount! One of align.me’s philosophies is that rhythm is essential for every type of campaign. Developing a content grid can help you build rhythm for the content that you deliver. A content grid functions as a framework for all your messages, and helps identify different topics and sub-topics.
Key to the content grid is that it needs to be built around a specific problem. We recommend one of two approaches. Focus on the complete process from problem to solution (root cause, trigger, problem, consequences, solutions and outcome) or focus on just one of these elements. Each piece of content that you create will have a different subject, but is always centred around the same problem. If, for example, you are a provider of conference phones, your content could focus on the most common problems that occur with conferences phones. Although each piece of content will address a different type of problem, the series of articles is focused on problems with conference phones.
You’ve identified where in the buyer’s journey the content will be valuable, and built a message grid. It’s now time to create the content that will position you as a thought leader in your industry. There are endless sources that you could tap into, but the most valuable resources are within the company. Identify a thought leader from within your company that could make a strong contribution to your selected problem. Include them in the process of building content, and use their input. Make sure to select someone that has certain credibility, and nominate this person to be the sender of your message. In the example of conferences phones it would make sense to include the Head of R&D, and sign all content on his or her behalf.
You may establish your content, however that is irrelevant if the keywords don't match what your potential customers are looking for! Talk to the owners, sales reps and customer service reps to find out what potential customers are actually searching when looking for your products or services. Develop a list of "low-hanging fruit" keywords. These keywords are high volumes and will improve your search ranking.
Creating content is one thing, but in the end it needs to be valuable to your readers. But what makes content valuable? The key is that it benefits the reader, and that you address the reader’s problems, and offer solutions. Deliver content that is relevant for their specific stage in the buyer’s journey. More importantly is that you personally address your readers, and don’t address a group of buyers or people. Instead of ‘A problem that companies run into…’ write ‘A problem that you might run into…’
The value of your title
The content may be great, but your title is likely to be the first point of contact. It can be the difference between clicking through and closing the window! Titles that include things like "How to..." and "The 5 best ways..." tend to do better.
Edit, edit, edit!
Enhance the enjoyability of content by making it easy to read. Utilise headings, spaces and paragraphs. A coherent post will ensure that your customers are attentive and take the desired action. Make it visually appealing through the use of images, visuals and formatting. Ensure that your grammar is correct. Attention spans are short, so make sure you can keep theirs.
Types of media
There are different types of media that you can wrap your message in (i.e. blog posts, case studies, white papers, vlogs etc.). Regardless of the type of medium you select, your content grid needs to be suitable for every type, and a source of content for different types of media.
Whether you decide to write a blog, host a webinar or start an email campaign, the key is that you deliver content that is valuable for your buyer, and addresses problems that are specific for that stage in the buyers' journey. If you choose to write a blog, be sure to include images to make it more enticing for the reader. Here is a great website for some free icons you could use on your blog.
Six Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader
Dorie Clark from the Harvard Business Review outlines six factors that can help any business establish themselves as a thought leader.
1. Create a Robust Online Presence – Blogs are a great way of asserting your knowledge. However, more often than not blogs are neglected, meaning valuable knowledge and time has gone to waste. The key to an effected online presence is not only creating and maintaining unique content, but also establishing a network around your content. Make friends both online and offline with whom you can share, create, and evolve your knowledge, and foster a thought leader status.
2. Flaunt High-Quality Affiliations – Have you got well-known connections? Leverage them in any way you can. Whether this is in the form of an Ivy League education or quotes from industry celebrities - use it! People will react to such pronounced forms of credibility, which will help establish you as a thought leader.
3. Give Public Speeches - Be seen everywhere. Take any opportunity to communicate your point of view and enhance your visibility among your audience. Recognition is the pathway to thought leadership.
4. Appear on TV – Make appoint to build relationships with TV producers – you can often follow them on Twitter and strike up a conversation. If breaking news hits, send producers an email offering to appear and list the main points you will make.
5. Win Some Awards – Don’t shy away from nominating yourself. Identify the awards that matter in your industry, monitor the deadlines, and make it happen. Once you are a recognised thought leader in your industry, everyone will want to give you awards because your name becomes a draw-card for events.
6. Publish a Book – This can be the hardest piece of the puzzle due to the fact that many publishers are less willing to take a chance on authors without a sufficient platform – so make sure to establish one through the previous methods. If you are able to obtain a book deal you are already in an extremely advantageous position. This is no more definitive proof of thought leadership than authoring a good book on your chosen subject. The five previous steps will become infinitely easier once you are a published author.