Why thought leadership should form part of your marketing strategy and how to do it

11th March 2021

Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the magazine Strategy & Business, is credited with coining the term ‘thought leader’, which he defined as:

“A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate. They have distinctively original ideas, unique points of view and new insights.”

So, why should we make thought leadership part of our marketing strategy, and why is it good for business?

Benefits of thought leadership

In our last Insights piece, we talked about the importance of social proof in buying decisions. We explained that social proof provides comfort and reassurance to buyers, and thought leadership works to deliver exactly the same emotional responses. It achieves this by creating positive attributes for your brand:

  • Credible
  • Trustworthy
  • Intelligent
  • Knowledgeable

These attributes are clearly attractive to buyers, as they provide that all important comfort and reassurance. Consequently, thought leadership has been shown to translate into:

  • Increased lead generation
  • Shorter sales cycle
  • Growth in revenue
  • Improved customer retention and loyalty

This ‘value’ is explored in the article “7 Surprising Stats About the Underappreciated Power of Thought Leadership“, which focuses on the results of a LinkedIn and Edelman survey which reviews how thought leadership is regarded both by ‘sellers’ and ‘buyers’. It reveals some fascinating statistics including, for example:

“Thought leadership can lead directly to sales. Almost 60% of business decision makers said that thought leadership directly led to their awarding of business to an organization. Just 26% of sellers believe that thought leadership can lead directly to closed-won deals.”

Where to start?

So, if you are now convinced that thought leadership should form part of your marketing strategy, then where do you start? The general recommendation is that the first step should be to define your objectives, which may be:

  • Improve brand awareness
  • Help generate new leads
  • Increase sales revenue
  • Align your organisation with an emerging topic

Choosing the topic

If we go back to Joel Kurtzman’s definition, he talks of a thought leader demonstrating a deep understanding of the business, customer needs and the broader marketplace. I’d suggest that these are excellent guiding principles to bear in mind when selecting a topic.

To help with the process, it is also worth brainstorming the following questions:

  • Who is our intended audience?
  • What specific challenges does that audience face?
  • Which of these challenges is having the most impact?
  • How knowledgeable are we in these challenges?
  • Do we have a unique point of view?
  • Do we have any new insights?

Finally, it is also worth considering whether you want to focus on a mainstream issue or something more niche, that could provide you with an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Writing the piece

At a basic level, the thought leadership piece should be well-written and follow a logical flow. If you don’t have good copywriting skills, then engage someone who can translate your ideas into a compelling written piece.

Clearly, any work created under the heading ‘thought leadership’ also needs to hits the mark in terms of offering deep, thought-provoking insight that delivers real value to its intended audience. It’s important that you work to educate and engage that audience, that you make them think and create those positive associations with you and your brand.

Maximising thought leadership content

First and foremost, it’s key that you gain visibility for your thought leadership on those channels and platforms that resonate most with your target audience. Although these pieces lend themselves very well as press/ advertorial-type material, there are a wide range of other marketing possibilities:

  • Conference speaker slots
  • Online webinars or in-person seminars
  • E-newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Brochures

Monitoring success

Finally, as with any marketing activity, think about which metrics you’ll use to assess the success of your thought leadership.  These may include:

  • Traffic to your website
  • Backlinks to your website
  • Increase in social media followers
  • Media mentions
  • Speaker requests
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data; e.g., new leads, sales closure time etc

What next?

If you’d like to learn more about how thought leadership may help your business, then please contact me for an informal chat on 07941 916985 or email [email protected]

Alternatively, you may want to review our other Insights pieces or take a look at how we help start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs achieve their potential.


About George Devane, Devane Consulting

Freelance Business Development and Marketing Consultant

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