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Let’s be honest about thought leadership

Posted by
17 June 2013

The term ‘thought leadership’ is used by marketing teams on a daily basis as they strive to cut through the noise in the industry. The challenge is to present your company as forward thinking, innovative and the first-choice supplier.

But creating genuine thought leadership requires a lot of internal investment, and let’s face it, there’s only so much that you can say about some products. Fortunately, it’s not the only way to build successful lead generation campaigns.

What is thought leadership?

The distinction between thought leadership and other collateral is an important one to make. At Gloo, we differentiate it as follows: thought leadership should be based on some real research and requires a significant time and budget investment. Internal subject matter experts, not your marketing agency or even your internal marcoms team, should drive it. It should show impartial blue-sky thinking on a given issue or trend — thinking that separates you from your competitors, not just repeating the consensus “big data is good”, “data theft is bad”, “Sherlock is better than Elementary”.

Too often, collateral that is described as thought leadership may just be a repackaging of material that is already in the public domain, or contains a lot of product information, which means it falls short of being impartial (see our post about white papers for more on this). So what can you do?

The alternatives

It’s important to realise that thought leadership content is not the be all and end all of content marketing. Yes, if you have the right combination of internal resources, subject matter experts and access to unique research, it’s a great thing to produce. But be honest with yourself and your audience — if your content is not truly breaking new ground, then don’t pretend it’s something that it isn’t.

Here are just a few examples of other asset types that can deliver strong download performance:

  • The ‘how-to’ guide — an always-popular format that demonstrates your company’s knowledge of the industry and offers value to the reader. You can pitch your guide as an entry-level educational piece, or a more advanced source of information that will help people in their day-to-day jobs.
  • The infographic — the subject of some of our recent blog posts. Infographics can take many forms and, when executed well, are a highly engaging source of information that is easily sharable. They can really help get your name out there and drive hits.
  • Blog posts and articles — a great way to maintain regular engagement with your audience at a low cost and demonstrate your understanding of the market. These are great at increasing your search engine position, too.
  • Brochures — visual, engaging and easy to absorb. A brochure may not have the cachet of, say, a video or an interactive tool, but a good one is a great starting point for a reader to engage with your products and brand.

We’re only scratching the surface here. Of course there are a host of other activities that will support your marketing funnel: webcasts, events, newsletters and more — all delivered via a variety of communication channels including social media, email campaigns and targeted advertising.

Don’t be tempted to think that thought leadership is the only way to achieve results. Your audience will see through something that doesn’t really add value — and you don’t want to be seen as a company that promises more than they deliver.