Matthew GibbonsLead Data & Tech Writer
- June 27, 2022
- 11 minute read
- Matthew is a marketing expert focusing on the SEO & martech spaces. He has written over 500 marketing guides and video scripts for the WebFX YouTube channel. When he’s not striving to put out some fresh blog posts and articles, he’s usually fueling his Tolkien obsession or working on miscellaneous creative projects.
Have you ever heard of thought leadership? It’s a term most have heard at least once, though not everyone is familiar with what it means.
Essentially, thought leadership is where a person or business gains notoriety by establishing themselves as an expert — perhaps even the expert — in their industry.
Thought leaders educate people on their area of expertise and propose new ideas. As you might guess, being a thought leader gives you strong influence in your industry. For that reason, it’s an incredibly effective marketing tactic.
So, what does it take to make your business an industry thought leader? We’ve got the answers! On this page, we’ll cover important information like:
- What is thought leadership marketing?
- Benefits of thought leadership marketing
- What does it take to be a thought leader?
- How to develop your thought leadership marketing strategy
- Tips for creating thought leadership content
Our long list of services helps you grow every aspect of your business with marketing strategies that are proven to increase bottom-line metrics like revenue and conversions. In the past 5 years, we’ve managed more than 12.9 MILLION transactions across our client base.
Time to Level Up Your Sales
Our long list of services helps you grow every aspect of your business with marketing strategies that are proven to increase bottom-line metrics like revenue and conversions.
In the past 5 years, we’ve managed more than 12.9 MILLION transactions across our client base.
What is thought leadership marketing?
Thought leadership marketing is a strategy that involves creating content with the goal of becoming a well-known, influential expert in your field. A well-run thought leadership marketing strategy builds brand awareness and helps accomplish marketing goals such as increasing leads and sales.
As a thought leader, you create content that helps you increase your business’s credibility and build trust in your expertise. By creating this high-quality content, you’re recognized as an expert and become a critical source for people to get information about topics in your industry.
3 benefits of thought leadership marketing
Thought leadership is a great way for your business to grow online. Here are three benefits of making thought leadership part of your marketing:
- You build trust in your business: Trust is critical for earning sales. Investing in thought leadership helps you create content that builds yourself as an authority in your field, which helps you build trust with your audience.
- You help your brand gain exposure: Creating unique and original content through thought leadership helps you increase your brand exposure. When more people discover your brand, it helps you earn more qualified leads that turn into sales.
- You create new opportunities for your business: Becoming a thought leader enables you to create new opportunities for your business. Creating your business as an industry authority enables you to create new partnerships and business opportunities to help your company grow.
What does it take to be a thought leader?
Becoming a thought leader isn’t something you can do overnight. You must cultivate a set of specific qualities in yourself and your business to become an industry thought leader.
Here are four traits that need to be present in your thought leadership marketing:
1. Specific expertise
The first thing you need to succeed at thought leadership is expertise. That is, you need to be specialized in something.
Don’t try to present yourself as an expert in everything — that won’t work. Stay focused on your industry and creating thought leadership content that fits within your area of expertise.
If your industry covers a wide range of topics, stick to your company’s specific niche. For example, if you’re in the manufacturing industry and create plastics, you’d focus specifically on creating content around plastic manufacturing.
2. Original ideas
It’s not enough to know the same things that everyone else in the industry knows. To be a thought leader, you need to present yourself as unique.
When you write content, your ideas should be fresh and original.
For many thought leaders, their originality manifests in the form of being controversial, where they espouse ideas that disagree with popular opinions. You don’t have to be controversial to be original, though. The point is that your ideas look at things from a new perspective.
3. High visibility
The third trait necessary for thought leader marketing is visibility. You need to have access to a large audience, and you need everyone in that audience to be aware that you’re present.
Consider what would happen if you attempted thought leadership without any public visibility. You wouldn’t gain the traction and notoriety that comes with thought leadership. You need to take the time to promote yourself and get your content in front of people.
Only when you have an engaged audience can you generate successful results from thought leadership marketing.
4. Useful content
The fourth and final thing you need to have to be a thought leader is useful content.
Content — especially written content — is a thought leader’s bread and butter. To be a thought leader, you need your content to be genuinely useful to your audience.
Don’t write article after article of useless fluff that doesn’t offer any insight or helpful information. Instead, ask yourself what people want to know, or what changes could improve your industry.
When people read your content and come away saying, “This was really helpful!”, you know you’re on the right track.
4 steps to develop your thought leadership marketing strategy
If you want to become a thought leader in your industry, follow these four easy steps to get started!
1. Understand who you’re targeting
Before you start creating thought leadership content, you need to understand who you want to reach with your content. You must consider your target audience, so you can create effective content that resonates with your readers.
When you create your content, you want to have a specific focus of who you want to reach. If you target too broadly, you’ll have trouble reaching the right people. Think about their demographics, their position at their company, what industry they work in, and more.
Knowing who you want to reach with your content will help you create content that moves you towards becoming a thought leader.
2. Establish your area of expertise
If you want to create effective thought leadership content, the next step is to choose your area of expertise. As we established earlier, you need to choose an area of expertise to focus on for your thought leadership.
You can focus on your industry in a broad sense if it’s already narrowed down, like if you work in organic farming. But if your industry is more expansive, like biomedical engineering, you might focus on a specific niche within your industry, like orthopedic implants.
Finding your area of expertise is critical for becoming a thought leader. It will help you continually build trust that you’re an expert in that field.
3. Determine what kind of content you want to create
Before you start diving into creating thought leadership content, you need to have a plan of the type of content you want to create.
First, think about what content formats you want to use. There are multiple formats available, including:
You can use multiple types of content to establish yourself as a thought leader.
You’ll also want to determine what you want to focus on with your content. What do you want to write about, and how will you take a unique angle? These are questions to consider before you create your content.
4. Determine how to get your content discovered
If you want to have success with thought leadership marketing, you must get your content discovered. Content visibility is a key component of thought leadership marketing –– it’s what helps you build yourself up as a thought leader.
You want to think about where you can share your content to increase your visibility. In addition to channels like social media and email, you can try getting your content published on blogs and websites your target audience already visits.
For example, if you’re in the tech industry and know your audience spends time on TechCrunch, you may try to guest post your content on their website to increase visibility.
When you have a plan for how to make your content visible, you’ll have an easier time become a thought leader in your industry.
6 tips for creating thought leadership content
Now that you know the basic building blocks of a thought leader, it’s time to start creating content to get your name out there. Here are six tips on how to develop effective thought leadership content!
1. Create content your audience wants to see
To do thought leadership marketing correctly, you need to create content your audience wants to see. When you know who you’re targeting, you can create content that resonates with your audience.
What information might get them more interested in your company? If you’re mainly targeting your potential customers, look at your customer data to determine what your audience looks like. From there, you can begin crafting content that appeals to those people.
2. Prioritize your SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a vital partner strategy to content marketing and thought leadership. Writing content is just the start — you have to get your content ranking in Google where people can find it.
If you want people to find your thought leadership content, start by integrating keywords into your content. Conduct keyword research to see what terms people search when looking for information about your topic. Then integrate those keywords into your content.
Additionally, focus on earning backlinks from other industry leaders and optimizing your web design to deliver a positive experience for readers. Completing these tasks will help your content rank better in search results.
3. Avoid being too salesy
Content marketing can accomplish many goals, from educating users about how something works to persuading them to buy. But when it comes to thought leadership, you’ll want to stick to creating informational content.
Thought leadership involves presenting yourself as a trusted authority within your industry. To do that, you need to focus on promoting new ideas and teaching readers how your industry works, not on trying to sell them something.
Yes, your thought leadership is ultimately a marketing tool, but it shouldn’t be an overt one. Save the sales pitch for your paid ads and keep your thought leadership content information-based.
4. Take an original angle
One of the key components of successful thought leadership content is originality. If you continually regurgitate what others are saying, you won’t stand out as a thought leader. Thought leaders are original and find ways to take a new perspective on a topic.
Take Jay Shetty for example. Jay Shetty is a thought leader in the mental health space. He takes his experiences from being a monk for three years and uses those teachings to apply to real-life situations.
While there were (and are) dozens of thought leaders in the mental health industry, Jay Shetty took a unique approach to how he addressed mental health issues. This unique angle and perspective enabled him to become the thought leader he is today.
You’ll want to take a similar approach when trying to become a thought leader. Think about how you can provide a unique perspective on a topic in your industry. Even something as simple as adding personal experience can help you content provide a different perspective!
5. Look out for speaking opportunities
Your thought leadership doesn’t have to remain limited to writing.
Speaking engagements are an excellent way to give your reputability a boost, letting you address a live audience about topics in your industry. Whenever you can speak in front of your peers, it might not be a bad idea to take it. For example, you could attend a conference that allows you to speak on an industry topic.
Conferences and webinars are a great place to build your thought leadership, as the people attending these events are most interested in what you offer. It’s also a great opportunity for you to network with other thought leaders and build connections.
6. Interact with your audience
A final thought leader marketing tip is to interact with your audience as much as possible. It’s hard to maintain a reputation as an industry thought leader if you’re completely disconnected from your audience.
Social media is an excellent tool for this. You can share your content through a social media page, engage in industry conversations, and answer comments or questions from your audience.
Hear from HydroWorx, who saw a 236% increase in organic sessions with WebFX services.
WebFX is a partner businesses trust.
Hear from HydroWorx, who saw a 236% increase in organic sessions with WebFX services.
Boost your thought leadership marketing to new heights with WebFX
If you’re ready to kick your thought leader marketing into gear, WebFX would love to help you optimize it!
With over 25 years of digital marketing experience, we know how to help you craft compelling content and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Matthew is a marketing expert focusing on the SEO & martech spaces. He has written over 500 marketing guides and video scripts for the WebFX YouTube channel. When he’s not striving to put out some fresh blog posts and articles, he’s usually fueling his Tolkien obsession or working on miscellaneous creative projects.
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