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Thought Leadership 101

The point of thought leadership is to express a point of view in the context of market conditions. Most companies focus on their products, functions and features. A real opportunity exists for companies that can paint a vision of the key issues, challenges, needs and requirements that truly concern customers. In doing so companies become an invaluable resource to the media and potential customers.

Future-focused companies that provide meaningful insight and guidance to support buying decisions (vs. just marketing fluff) are often rewarded with more press coverage, better lead generation results, and a shortened sales cycle. To succeed, companies need to directly focus on industry relevant issues and approach the marketplace strategically by building communications platforms that establish credibility and position the company and its stakeholders as subject matter experts.

We’ve boiled down some basics for thought leadership success:

  • Take the 40,000-foot view. Look beyond your technology-focused issues and geeky acronyms. Identify hot trends and determine how your company and products relate to the most current events. Companies should expand their network of contacts and company messaging to embrace the bigger picture. Innovative campaigns like rapid response media programs can provide a systematic approach to introducing your company to key industry influencers who will help bridge the perception gap.
  • Be an evangelist. Select one or several company spokespersons that can be both seen and heard as the voice of your industry. Scrap the tradeshow budget in favor of a limited presence at key venues. Although speaking opportunities can be difficult to secure, event coordinators will bend the rules to accommodate a cool customer case study. Of course you can host your own speaker’s webcast series, but the key is to invest in a good list of prospects to invite to your events. Today’s social media forums like blogs and online communities offer a great vehicle for company evangelism, but avoid preaching. Don’t just follow the herd mentality – taking a controversial position will increase your chances of being heard.
  • Involve customers and partners. Realize that your customers and partners might be very interested in claiming a thought leadership position in new markets as well. Use this to your advantage – instead of asking them to endorse your products, invite them to participate in an industry forum that addresses hot market issues (Thought Leadership webinar example). And for your next product launch tour, offer “select” customers the opportunity to meet with analysts and press to discuss key industry issues and position their company as a visionary – you’ll be much more successful getting them on board and be rewarded with more press coverage had you gone it alone.

The Bottomline: To escape today’s marketing black holes, adopt a thought leadership strategy that elevates both principal and firm above the fray.