Gone are the days when marketing meant putting out some advertisements and hiring a copywriter to rave about how great your brand is. In a technology-saturated age where consumers are more skeptical than ever of self-promotion, traditional advertising strategies just don’t work anymore.
That’s why many entrepreneurs are interested in the new value of thought leadership. If you’ve been privy to trends in marketing over the past few years, you’ve almost certainly heard the term being thrown around at least a few times. But thought leadership is more than just the latest marketing fad -- it's more of a philosophy that's probably here to stay. In essence, thought leadership is about providing genuine value to your customers without even a hint of self-promotion -- showing them that you’re the no. 1 expert in your field -- somebody who is 100 percent worthy of their trust.
The idea is that people are more willing to invest in you if they are confident that you really know your stuff. ut positioning yourself as a thought leader isn’t easy -- and if the terminology is new to you, it can be hard to know where to start.
Thought leadership expert Danielle Sabrina offers five dos and don’ts for those who want to implement thought leadership into their marketing plan:
1. Show, don’t tell.
The point of thought leadership is to demonstrate your expertise, not simply talk about it. Your trophy cabinet may be impressive, but it’s important to show how you’ve earned your accolades.
If you’re an expert in Facebook advertising, don’t just talk about how much you know. Write an in-depth article (or two or three) tackling specific issues in the world of Facebook ads. Not only will be people be more interested in reading an article that could help them, but you’ll earn their trust by showing the proof of the pudding.
2. Provide, don’t promote.
From spam emails to pyramid schemes to Nigerian princes who always seem to have millions of dollars to offer you, people are more skeptical than ever of online advertising. No matter how much you try to disguise an advertisement, don’t underestimate the general public’s ability to sniff out promotion from miles away.
That’s why you should focus on being a genuine resource for potential customers. Your emails, social media channels and blog posts should constitute a gold mine of useful, actionable content for anyone interested in your field. This will encourage people to revisit your site, check out your other material and sign up for your email list.
3. Depth, not breadth.
Dig deep. Being a thought leader doesn’t mean knowing everything about every aspect of your field. It’s about being the go-to person in your particular niche, which can be very narrow.
A single detailed, statistics-backed blog post will take you much farther than 10 vague, general ones. Instead of mass-producing articles to provide a constant stream of content, shift your focus and energy to creating thorough, comprehensive content that deals with a specific problem. This will drive traffic to your site and differentiate you from the thousands of similar sites on the internet.
4. Analyze, don’t assume.
You might think you know what people want to know about, but the truth might surprise you. Often times, we get so caught up in our fields that we lose sight of what our clients -- rather than our peers -- want to know. Pay attention to your customers. Take note of what they’re asking on your social channels, and respond to their questions. Interview them to see what’s working for them and what they’d like to see more of.
In addition to showing that you value your customers, this can give you ideas for your next blog post, social media post or product.
5. Open a dialogue, not a monologue.
As Sabrina says, “The idea is not to interrupt the conversation, but become part of it.” After all, you’re not the only participant in your field. Engage with your peers, and don’t be afraid to share their content if it could be of use to your customer base.
Being connected in your field can open up opportunities for collaboration and help you reach a broader audience. Further, it provides additional proof that you’re current and up-to-date about the status quo in your area of expertise. Think of the people whose opinions you trust. Did they gain this trust by trumpeting their skills, continually telling you how great and talented they are? Probably not. It’s much more likely that they earned your trust by repeatedly showing their expertise, sharing their knowledge and providing valuable information to you and others.
That’s the big concept behind thought leadership marketing. In the words of Sabrina, "Thought leadership marketing is not just about selling your product or service. It's also not about telling the world your company is the best. It's about sharing value and being a resource.”
When done correctly, thought leadership marketing builds rapport with your customer base without coming off as fake and self-promotional; it allows you to present yourself as a true expert that people trust.
And in the end, earning trust means earning business. Simply showing off your skills isn’t enough anymore. Today, consumers demand proof, and thought leadership is an excellent way to provide it.