What the heck is thought leadership?

Tim Hill - November 19, 2015

Thought leadership has become a corporate buzzword. Everyone wants to be a thought leader, or has heard their boss say that it’s important to be viewed “as a thought leader in the space.” But what exactly is thought leadership? And why are we hearing about it so often?

Let’s define what it means to be a thought leader. To qualify for this illustrious title, an individual or organization must establish themselves as a foremost authority in a particular area of expertise. A thought leader is an individual or organization that attracts their target audience’s attention with their ability to educate and inform.  Thought leaders are masters of generating high impact content that their audience wants to read and consume; thereby driving awareness and trust in their own brand.



What is the point of being a thought leader?

Marketers who aspire to be thought leaders have the ultimate objective of generating leads to drive more sales. Thought leadership content is best leveraged in top-of-the-funnel awareness activities, where an organization is attempting to connect with their target audience. This inbound approach is designed to attract prospective buyers during their education phase. Once that target audience is ready to address their challenges in the particular field, the obvious choice is to work with the company they trust as deeply in that space. Easy, right?

So how are B2B marketing organizations doing this?

Marketo, an established leader in the marketing automation space, has made their blog a true resource for marketers offering insight and guidance on key areas, such as demand generation, new business development, and improving lead quality. The educational content on their blog and website is widely consumed by their prospective audience and customer base, and establishes Marketo as an effective solution to marketer’s problems. Their audience visits the site regularly, based on Marketo’s proven ability to help their customers innovate and adapt to new strategies. Once these prospects are sufficiently along the buyer’s journey, they often buy from the organization that has been educating them.

Cryptzone, an emerging  security vendor with an eye on displacing established players, leverages primary market research, to build credibility. Adding external evidence to validate industry challenges and trends helps fuel both their top-of-the-funnel content machine and product development. They have used market research to showcase findings on corporate security policies, create white papers, and drive awareness through the press.

Market leaders, like Cisco, dedicate comprehensive resources towards macro industry trends, such as the “Internet of Everything.”  The research on these trends pay dividends in terms of making their site a go-to place to stay up to date on key industry topics, thereby gaining the mindshare of their target audience.

We hear about thought leadership so often because establishing yourself or your organization as a thought leader can be the one of the best ways to execute true inbound marketing – and often directly tied to lead generation, improved nurturing, and – downstream – higher win rates. By providing valuable information and educational content, an organization can proactively build credibility and trust, not only within their industry, customers, and prospects, but their employees too.

Tim Hill

Tim Hill is a Senior Customer Advocate at TechValidate.

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