What is Thought Leadership and How Does it Help Your Marketing?

Trust is fundamental in online sales. Is your brand trustworthy?

Many brands ask themselves this question and often come to the realization that they don’t know, or worse… they are losing sales and ultimately even losing the ability to have an audience that hears them.

This is where demonstrating thought leadership and a strong knowledge of the industry you work in can significantly improve the value of your brand and build relationships that convert into meaningful change to your bottom line while generating demand.

Of course, this is always easier said than done when it comes to digital marketing. So, what are the fundamental strategies and tactics you’ll want to deploy when building your personal branding in pursuit of improving your business?

How to Become a Thought Leader

Let’s take a look:

Be Transparent & Demonstrate a Face Behind the Brand

While branding is essential to build your online business, it’s easy to hide behind the logo. Position a face (Or faces) behind the brand and showcase the masterminds behind the scenes.

After all, your organization is a living, breathing entity. Why not take some credit and showcase your skillsets and your team’s skillsets as well?

Here are 4 ways you can be more transparent on your website:

  • Create an employee page to showcase your team and their skillsets
  • Build personal authorships in your blog – (No more “Published by Admin”)
  • Invite employees to share their valuable knowledge in your blog and demonstrate multiple viewpoints in your blog.
  • Update your professional social media profiles to reflect your skills and experience

Send the Right Message – Education is the nectar of trust

Online businesses often get stuck in the rut of, “Sell! Sell! Sell!” when writing content. It’s easy to forget about the emotional connection that is made when someone decides when or where to buy something.

This all boils down to getting tunnel vision in focusing solely on promotional content and forgetting about the journey your potential buyer is going through before they decide to become your customer.

Consumers these days value a genuine business that can tap into their emotional side of decision making. The consumers spend time educating themselves on the nature of the problem… and in these situations, they trust professional experts, not brands.

Think about it this way. Do you trust medical information websites because of the brand, or because of the cited PHDs that provided the information?

To this same affect, demonstrating thought leadership and knowledge in your own industry can serve to provide valuable insights to your potential buyers, bringing them closer to building trust in your brand and ultimately winning their business. It’s not easy to do, but here are 5 Blogging Tips for Beginners to get you started in addition to some added takeaways to bolster your thought leadership skills.

Here are 3 things you can do to ensure you’re sending the right message in your thought leadership content:

  • Provide helpful and knowledgeable information that supports your audience in self-educating themselves on the nature of the problem your product or service solves. NOT the product or service itself.
  • Answer common pain points & objections in the content you develop
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of change in the industry in the content you develop – What has changed, what do you predict happening in the coming years in the industries you serve?

Understand The Needs Of Your Target Audience Intimately

This all sounds fine and good, but what about sales-heavy industries like e-commerce with a variety of products? – Being a thought leader also means being an expert in intimately knowing the needs of your potential buyers. An industry thought leader understands the needs of the target audience and connects with them on a personal level when the audience is educated enough on the product or service.

Consumers get easily turned off by overly-pushy sales tactics, especially in very sales-heavy industries. This is true since many buyers prefer a self-serve model of service or they want to self-educate themselves prior to making their own decisions on what to buy during their buyer journey. The caveat is understanding how the audience is making that decision and where that journey is taking place.

Brands often exclusively focus on the solution and not the problem which ultimately translates to, “Buy! Buy! Buy!” in the final message received.

Here’s a great example of sending the wrong and the right message with something as simple as selling socks.

“We are selling a fantastic variety of Socks at 30% off this week!”

“Overcome laundry day woes and replenish your sock drawer with our 30% off blowout sale this week while supplies last!”

In the later example, we are able to evoke an emotional response that is relatable on a personal level since everyone can relate to losing socks or trying to match socks on laundry day. We emphasize this by expressing some urgency in the availability of the offer.

Here are 3 things you can do to help understand the needs of the audience. Grab a pen and paper, let’s get started!:

  • Think about situations that the buyer could get in that would constitute the use of your product or service. – Lean on demographics sales data, common inquiries, and past interactions with customers to help guide this.
  • Think about common goals, pain points, or areas of opportunity that your buyer can solve with the use of your product or service. – What are they not thinking about that they should know?
  • Match your buyer situations with goals, pain points, and areas of opportunity. Write all these ideas down in your brainstorming session

Through this practice, you can position thought leadership content that solves the needs of the audience because you understand what makes them tick. Most importantly, you can identify opportunities to educate them on a problem they potentially didn’t even know they had.

Expert opinions that build lasting relationships begin with, “Did you know?”…

Amplify the Message – Tying it all together

With this new knowledge of how you can leverage thought leadership to improve your digital marketing, it’s time to get the word out!

Here are some of my recommended steps along with resources to help you get started in your journey to become a stronger thought leader in your industry:

  • Write thought leadership content on your blog – The Right and Wrong Way To Write Useful Thought Leadership Content
  • Reach out to media publications in your industry and offer expert opinions in the form of content contributions – What is Digital PR?
  • Write thought leadership articles on LinkedIn and Facebook and leverage your personal connections – Begin Publishing on LinkedIn
  • Use HARO to subscribe to mailing lists that alert you of media outlets in search of expert industry opinions. – How to Get Exposure and Links Using HARO
  • Build up your personal branding by demonstrating your success in the tactics above. Link media mentions and pages where you’ve been published on your website and professional social media profiles.

At the end of the day, being a thought leader means being an expert on all fronts and showcasing this helpfully and humbly. This applies to your products and services, but most importantly in knowing who you are speaking to and the industry that you serve.

Write for the audience, not the author and you’ll effectively leverage thought leadership to accelerate the marketing efforts of your business. Build trust, demonstrate authority, and embrace educational content to build lifetime brand advocates that value YOU.

Picture of Todd Mumford

Todd Mumford