The concept of thought leadership has grown in popularity in recent years. However, it can be tricky to define and measure which can make it difficult for businesses to understand the impact it can make. But when done well, t delivers an impressive return on investment.
What makes a thought leader?
Thought leadership isn’t a novel concept. Every industry has its thought leaders. These are the individuals and businesses seen as problem-solvers, experts, innovators, and visionaries in the industry.
Thought leaders are often individuals who have a deep and authoritative understanding of their business, products and services, and the industry as a whole. They gain credibility by offering solutions and unique insights based on their experience. They address challenges in the industry and play an active role in anticipating potential shifts in the market.
The primary purpose of thought leadership is to start and add to relevant conversations in the industry, not sell products or services. Thought leadership content can take the form of research reports, videos, thought pieces, essays, webinars and presentations.
Understanding the impact of thought leadership content
Thought leadership content is a long-term marketing strategy. This means it can take several months for your business to start seeing returns. When done right, thought leadership efforts build strong positive momentum for your business by developing:
1. A larger audience
Consistent and quality thought leadership across platforms can make your business highly visible and create business opportunities. This means that prospects and clients think of your business when they’re looking for solutions to their problems. According to research by Edelman and LinkedIn, 55% of business decision-makers used thought leadership as a way to vet organisations they’re considering working with. More than half (58%) of the interviewed decision-makers said that thought leadership directly led them to award business to an organisation.
The research also showed that thought leadership drove growth with existing clients. About 55% of interviewed decision-makers increased the amount of business done with an organisation, while 60% bought a product or service they were not previously considering.
2. A greater influence
Alongside growing your audience, authentic thought leadership content can also help you win the admiration of peers and competitors in your industry. Addressing controversial or recurring challenges in the industry can position you as an expert that leads the larger conversations and decisions in the industry. A whopping 92% of business decision-makers interviewed by Edelman said that thought leadership content has improved their respect for an organisation.
3. A wider network
Once established, thought leaders gain access to networks that were previously not open to them. Instead of having to pursue media opportunities and visibility, they organically become the authority on specific subjects and are invited to share their insights. This can take the form of speaking at events, providing commentary on important conversations in the industry, and new business relationships. Nearly half of the C-suite executives interviewed by Edelman and LinkedIn said that they shared their contact information after reading thought leadership content.
Thought leadership is more powerful than you think
Even marketers and salespeople can sometimes underestimate the value of thought leadership. According to the B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, only 49% of thought leadership content creators and marketers felt that thought leadership impacts consumer trust. On the buying side, however, a much larger share of business decision-makers (87%) reported that thought leadership increased their trust in a business.
According to interviews conducted by Coleman Parkes, almost all decision-makers (99%) said thought leadership was critical when assessing the suitability of new advisors in the legal and finance industries.
This is where thought leadership plays an important role. Effective thought leadership builds consumer trust and reduces risk from the buying process. In today’s information age, your prospects and clients are bombarded with information and choices. They seek to reduce complexity and find reliable solutions and are becoming less likely to be influenced by marketing. By establishing your business as an authentic expert, thought leadership efforts help consumers to overcome their fears and doubts and confidently make buying decisions.
Consumers want quality thought leadership
The demand for relevant and authoritative thought leadership is growing. Consider these findings from the B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study :
- About 58% of decision-makers reported spending an hour or more a week reading thought leadership.
- Additionally, 61% of decision-makers were willing to pay a premium to work with an organisation that has articulated a clear vision versus one that does not publish thought leadership.
- However, respondents also felt that high-quality thought leadership was rare. Only 18% of thought leadership pieces received high marks from decision-makers.
- A majority of decision-makers said they gain valuable insights from thought leadership only half of the time, and they are disappointed by the lack of high-quality thought leadership.
But it’s easy to get thought leadership wrong
While thought leadership creates significant business value, it rarely gets measured. Consequently, businesses tend to focus on short-term tactics that bring quick results and neglect long-term strategies like thought leadership. This often means that thought leadership content ends up being low quality, generic or inauthentic. This can actively turn your audience away, as shown by research from Coleman Parkes.
Creating high-quality and authentic thought leadership content can be time-consuming. It requires collaboration with subject matter experts and honesty. This is why several businesses come to us. Our processes are designed to minimise your investment and maximise your benefit. With an investment of an hour a month, we can create effective thought leadership content that helps you meet your objectives. If you’d like to know more about how we can help you create tailored thought leadership strategy and content, get in touch. We’d be happy to help.
Rakhee graduated from the University of Melbourne with Honours and began her career practising taxation law. While working for blue chip companies like ANZ, Foster’s and General Motors she developed a flair for writing. She’s been featured in The Australian, Forbes and BBC publications, and enjoys creating content that leverages her knowledge of the law and business. Her expertise includes taxation, migration, financial services, corporate and employment law.
Rakhee is based in Melbourne. You can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on +61 409 418 297.