How to Develop Your Thought Leadership Platform

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If you’re in business or just starting out, you have probably heard of “thought leadership,” a popular business buzzword. Thought leadership goes hand-in-hand with an organization’s content marketing strategy. It’s about producing high-quality content — blog posts, SlideShare presentations, whitepapers, e-books, video content, and more — that provides expertise that clients can actually use, and can’t get anywhere else.

According to the 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, 58% of decision-makers in B2B organizations were led to a business directly because of a thought leadership platform, and 61% of C-suite executives agreed they would pay more to work with an organization with a sound, clear thought leadership presence. 

Many businesses are experiencing a “slow period” during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it makes sense to use this time to develop or revamp your thought leadership strategy. A well-executed strategy can boost your credibility and help you build connections with future leads. However, it’s easy for thought leadership strategies to go awry, especially in the current climate.

If your content doesn’t provide value or isn’t relevant to your audience’s current needs and experiences, you could end up doing more harm than good. Poor thought leadership can read as tone-deaf or self-serving, which can ultimately slow business relationships and turn away leads.

Here’s what you need to know about establishing yourself as a thought leader in the modern business world.

How to develop your thought leadership strategy

1. Find out what your clients want to know.

Thought leadership is about being seen in your area of business, but it’s also about being part of your area of business. In alignment with your organization’s content marketing strategy, you should already know where your target audience is spending their time.

Being part of conversations happening around you will help your organization remain visible and known, and also let you see what your potential clients are talking about. What are they asking for, and what resources are already being shared with them? Do you have feedback from your customers with data about their specific needs?

Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group, puts it best: Your thought leadership should be the solution to what keeps your clients awake at night.

2. Build a stable of subject matter experts. 

Once you understand what your clients want to know, you need to find someone who can actually answer their questions. If that isn’t you or anyone in your business, you will need to seek out an expert. Develop focused interview questions that can get to the heart of your clients’ concerns/problems. 

However, finding a cooperating subject matter expert and working through interview material can take time, so you need to make sure you’re also demonstrating your expertise in other ways. Many successful thought leadership platforms include guest posts and conversations with other organizations. Take advantage of your strengths, and find ways to continuously improve your weaknesses. 

3. Create engaging, meaningful content.

According to the Edelman-LinkedIn survey, business decision-makers find only 18% of thought leadership content to be of high quality. Content producers need to find a balance between educating and entertaining, making something clients will actually want to refer to (and keep referring to) to help them make decisions and solve problems. They’re looking for facts supporting statements, quotes from people whose opinions are relevant to the subject matter, anecdotes of relatable situations, and applications that have a place in their everyday personal or professional lives. 

The format matters, too. In today’s constantly-connected world, most content is consumed through phones — meaning the best, most-viewed content is bite-sized and mobile-friendly.

4. Share content on multiple platforms — when it matters.  

Just as a good content marketing plan strives to reach clients through different platforms and media types, a good thought leadership strategy spans multiple channels and addresses client needs at appropriate times. 

For example, the current COVID-19 pandemic has shifted many organization’s daily operations to a remote work model. Businesses whose services support remote work teams, like Trello, are establishing themselves as helpful experts to turn to after an abrupt disruption to the status quo. Businesses are turning to new products and services that have helped them adjust to a “new normal.”

5. Pay attention to trends and stay current.    

All leadership is most effective when it is consistent with current trends and information. A presentation about creating community through mobile app development from 2015 isn’t applicable for 2020 clients, and this is true for most organizations’ content. A strong thought leadership strategy requires you to learn and evolve. It’s being who your clients need you to be as the world changes. 

Are you ready to develop your business’s thought leadership strategy? A trusted content marketing team can help you plan, execute and promote your thought leadership plan. Contact us to learn how Lightning Media Partners can help you develop your voice and get your brand noticed.

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