Why thought leadership matters… and how to build it

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You’ve done your research and got your technology and business plan/finance together. You know you have a unique solution that will make a positive difference to the industries you are focused on. How do you get people in those industries to listen to you?

Early-stage businesses, particularly those dealing with advanced early-stage technology sometimes complain that while they have recognized and created a solution, the people who might benefit from that solution may not even have identified the challenge.

The limits to conventional marketing mean that if you can’t explain the fundamental challenges effectively, you still won’t win sales.

That’s why it’s important to find a way to reach your potential audience with ideas, and that’s the principle behind thought leadership.

“It is far more important to identify an engaging idea that delivers a workable solution to a common business problem for your clients,” writes branding consultant, John Hayes.

So how do you do that?

Think about what the needs of the people you want to reach. What kind of information do they consume? How can you explain your offering in terms they can relate to? While you may be an expert technologist, the people you want to reach probably aren’t. They might work in agriculture, retail, mining, logistics or fleet management rather than cloud storage or industrial IoT or software development.

In each case, they want to hear about credible solutions that can make their businesses more productive, more efficient or easier to run. They want information that will help them gain a competitive edge. And they don’t want to learn how to speak in your language, they want you to speak to them in their own.

What sort of content should you create?

You need to think about who you are trying to reach with your ideas and identify what it is they most need. If you are trying to sell a connected agriculture solution you may want to write case studies about your product in use in the real world, white papers, or implementation guides.

You may want to commission and publish original research, or create infographics, opinion pieces – whatever fits your business and your target market.

While it’s clear that you want to sell them products and services, building the link to your prospects – that crucial mind share – is critical. You need to articulate the vision that drove you to create the solution in the first place and explain how it matches current and future needs.

A good thought leader doesn’t compromise by including blatant sales messages in their thought-leadership content. You won’t build the connection by constantly attempting to evangelize your product, but your product will be evangelized if you manage to consistently provide the kind of information your target customers can use.

Speak in language that will be widely understood – avoid jargon and distil complex ideas and technologies into simple forms. You will find most people engaging with your content will be grateful if you can provide them with resources they can use to gain more complex understanding of what you discuss.

The aim is to get people to visit your content, understand your ideas and how they can help them in their lives, and then be able to find out more. By providing both the ideas and the research to back them up, you become a trusted source. What’s critical is to simplify without dumbing down and to always assume your audience will want to find out more information about what you are discussing. Your audience may not be technologists, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart, so respect them by offering up useful insights and intelligence.

Reaching people

There are so many ways by which you can begin to establish thought leadership, including executive blogging, white papers, video, podcast, keynotes and byline articles. When you’ve figured out your idea, you need to push it out across all those channels. As long as the subject is relevant to your target market, you can use and repurpose your thought leadership content so long as it makes sense.

You do need to ensure all your different content remains fresh and up-to-date – there will always be new people searching for the thought leadership wisdom you provide, so you want the content you do have available to be fresh when they find it.

Focus and more

With such a broad base of potential hooks, it makes sense to focus your initial efforts on the key ways in which your industry communicates. Try to contact key influencers in your industry, guest blogging and making shareable content available via social media.

You need to grab both inbound and outbound traffic, and want to convert key influencers into followers on social media or email list subscribers. What will you talk about once you have these lists?

In our experience, it’s important to keep them engaged with even more information they can use, as that is how to keep your hard-won audience interested once you do decide to use your lists to announce new products or services.

Manufacturing such consent makes the difference between a message that’s never opened, or one that key people within your target sector are eager to read. Because they know you provide them with information they can use they will not only read your message, but be more willing to give your newly-announced product or service a try.

That’s the value of thought leadership. It gives your business an edge.

Find out about thought leadership services from Futurity Media, which we offer as a key part of our content marketing portfolio.

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