When you need someone to come and unclog your blocked toilet, who do you think of? A plumber, right?
Imagine you have a whole page of listings of “Plumbers”. You’ll then go through and maybe pick the cheapest, or the fastest, or the one with the highest rating.
But if we backtrack to the moment you’re horridly watching as the flush rises up and almost out of the toilet, there’s a key part “thought leadership” will play in this scenario.
Instead of accepting that you need to look through pages for any local plumber that can come out, the plumber with the thought leadership infused in their brand will already be on your mind.
You’ll remember their “5 minute unclogging trick” and have their contact details on standby, because of the effort they put into promoting their expertise and credibility.
This is the power of adding thought leadership to your brand. Far beyond plumbing and unclogging toilets, thought leadership is a sure-fire way to create a stronger connection with the RIGHT audience for you.
Thought leadership is you sharing your original insights, ideas and stories which build towards your brand becoming an industry leader.Ruqayyah, The Brandz Bee
Unlike content marketing, it’s less about the immediate results and more about a long term establishment of your brand in the marketplace.
Thought leadership vs content marketing
→ Thought leadership doesn’t care about keywords, call-to-actions or hashtags. Its purpose is to share your unique insights and spark conversations.
→ Content marketing is all about leading prospective clients into your sales funnel. Its purpose is to give value and ultimately lead to a sale.
For example, let’s bring it back to my old baby shoe business.
Content marketing would look like me posting product photos, announcing new collections and asking my followers which colour shoe is their favourite.
Thought leadership would look like me talking through behind-the-scenes, sharing the ethics that are an important part of my manufacturing process or speaking on the conception story of my brand.
You could easily see how the two may overlap, especially if you are someone who is already marketing on social media. That’s because thought leadership SHOULD be part of your content marketing strategy. It transforms your brand from “just another plumber” into “THAT plumber”.
Top 3 benefits of thought leadership
More brand awareness 📣
When you’re not “just another (insert business type here)”, people pay more attention. Thought leadership brings an interesting element to your content and marketing activities, which naturally gets shared more and leads to more referrals for business.
A better fit clientele 💕
With thought leadership, you weave out the “meh” clients and call in the “YES!” ones. This is because you are making your point of view absolutely clear, which builds a stronger connection between your brand and your audience.
More media feature potential 📰
Media is all about the stories. The more interesting your story, the higher the chance of being invited on. By infusing thought leadership into your brand, you’ll put your business on the radar and make it more of a no-brainer to include you in potential collaborations, partnerships and alliances.
But there’s one thing that works alongside it..
There’s a secret ingredient to super effective thought leadership..
And that is..
A brand voice!
Thought leadership is the idea you share but your voice is the way you deliver it.
Similar to product vs brand, your voice should be tied to the personality you have defined for your brand, to support your overall positioning.
Another example? Ok.
A truly great example of a brand with a very distinct brand voice is Innocent smoothies. They could have showed up as an exclusive, gourmet type brand because of their commitment to high quality ingredients. Or a typical “natural food” health brand. Instead – they’re cheeky and youthful.
It’s juice, but it’s not just juice.
3 steps to getting started
📝 Know your point of view
Your story, message, mission and vision are all elements of your brand strategy that, once you are clear on them, will make it easy to understand your brand’s unique point of view. Thought leadership is about sharing this point of view everywhere your voice will be heard.
An activity I take my brand strategy clients through during our initial workshop is, “What are we up against?”. This question will help you to define what your brand stands against in its mission to positively impact the world. Knowing exactly what you’re not helps you to be convicted in what you ARE.
📝 Analyse yourself
Or your business. Your thought leadership will be based on insights you pick up from your own experiences and practice of whatever it is you do. It doesn’t rely on research or following someone else’s more recognised framework to validate it. Thought leadership is all about you.
📝 Get ok with being controversial
Having a unique point of view comes with misunderstanding, disagreements and sometimes even hate (sadly no matter how innocent your POV is, too!). This means that sharing a new way of doing something or a new approach to a solution that’s already out there may come across as controversial to people in your audience. I used to allow this to stop me from sharing my real point-of-view because I feared the backlash, but if you follow step 1 and become really clear in your WHY, it makes the journey to confidence as a thought leader, easier.
Thought leadership turns your brand from “just another” into “THAT” brand (comment your industry below). It’s all about seeing the value in your experiences, insights and point-of-view and sharing it with the world to build your tribe and educate those who need it.
That’s how thought leadership turns a good business into a leading brand.