The term “thought leadership” is tossed around a lot in the marketing sphere. It’s one of those elusive ideas marketers strive to achieve, but very few actually do.
Over one million people had the words "thought leader" in their LinkedIn profile in 2020, according to a SurveyMonkey report. Then, the pandemic upended our lives and created a bigger flood of thought leaders because everyone had, well, thoughts.
But thought leadership isn’t just about having strong opinions and speed-posting on LinkedIn. In fact, 71% of B2B leaders don’t find value in a lot of the thought leadership content they consume.
But thought leadership doesn’t have to be an obscure concept, it should be properly organized inside an actionable thought leadership strategy plan.
You can ponder the meaning of thought leadership until forever. Instead, I suggest you start working on various practices that are sure to build your thought leadership.
Let’s see how this is done, with examples you can start kickstart today.
What is a thought leadership strategy?
A thought leadership strategy involves sharing valuable insights and ideas that help drive industry conversations and shape public opinion. It is a way for an individual or business to build authority in the field and engage with its target audience through content marketing.
Thought leaders educate, inform, and even entertain prospective buyers through blogs, social media posts, podcasts, and books. Often, they participate in media interviews, case studies, and industry events to influence the opinions and decisions of their peers.
In a nutshell, thought leadership is a marketing strategy to show your expertise in a certain subject, and develop an audience of people interested in what you have to say. You become a go-to authority on a topic through speaking engagements, writing articles, or hosting events.
Be careful though — there’s a thin line between self-promotion and truly helpful thought leadership. So how do you strike the fine balance?
What is the benefit of thought leadership for businesses
A “thoughtful” thought leadership strategy can increase visibility and credibility for your brand, create opportunities to collaborate with other leaders in your field, and position you as an influencer in the industry. These combined benefits have a high dollar value and bring in real moolah. Want proof? More than half of B2B decision-makers say thought leadership influenced their purchase decisions.
1. Conduct Original Research
For professionals without any prior public branding, conducting original research on a topic relevant to your product or field is a great way to build an initial thought leadership piece.
You can read about the ways to plan out research projects that are intended to explore new insights, trends, or challenges within your industry. By conducting surveys, analyzing data, or publishing research papers, you can easily see an impact on your audience, contributing to your thought leadership efforts.
How AI can help with original research
AI can help you explore possible directions for conducting research. It can also help you find prior studies that have been done in a similar field. If you plan to run a survey, AI can help you formulate the study questions, as seen in the example below.
2. Offer Practical Advice and Tips
Thought leadership doesn’t have to be sophisticated and opinionated ideas.
If you are an expert in NFTs, a simple sharing of practical tips and tricks can help establish your thought leadership strategy.
Share practical advice, tips, and actionable strategies that your audience can implement in their own work. This demonstrates your expertise and helps others achieve tangible results, further establishing your thought leadership.
How AI can help with offering advice
We covered writing a blog post using AI in the past. Use this guide to build a unique thought leadership tutorial in a much faster way than was previously possible without AI.
3. Provide Thoughtful Commentary
Linas Beliunas is a great example of a thought leader who relies on continuous commentary on AI related news, trends, and developments.
Offering thoughtful commentary and analysis on relevant topics through blog posts, social media, or industry publications is a great way to piggyback on trending topics and growth hacking your thought leadership reach. Sharing your perspective on current issues can help you gain visibility and recognition, and it’s also a great way to stay up to date with your relevant subject matter.
4. Engage in Thought Leadership Communities
Participate in online thought leadership communities, forums, or groups where professionals discuss industry-specific topics.
In the screenshot above, you can see an example of a B2B marketing community called “Exit Five”. Joining Exit Five would enable you to build thought leadership by sharing your ideas, learning from the experiences of other members, and networking with potential partners and customers.
5. Offer Educational Resources
Develop educational resources such as online courses, webinars, workshops, or tutorials. Sharing your knowledge and expertise through structured learning opportunities establishes you as an authority and provides value to your audience.
How AI can help
We’ve previously written about using AI to build your YouTube script. There are several AI tools you can utilize for this purpose, and they are mentioned in that article.
6. Leverage Speaking Opportunities
Actively seek speaking opportunities at conferences, industry events, or webinars. Deliver engaging presentations, share valuable insights, and demonstrate your expertise through public speaking engagements.
How AI can help with speaking opportunities
Creating an engaging presentation is much easier with the help of AI. If you utilize a tool like Canva for the design and Wordtune for the writing, the whole process becomes much easier.
7. Cultivate a Strong Personal Brand
Invest in building a strong personal brand that reflects your expertise and values. Develop a professional website, maintain a consistent and authentic social media presence, and curate your online image to showcase your thought leadership.
How AI can help
AI can really help when it comes to creating content for social media. Use it to build posts on Linkedin, Twitter threads or other thought leadership social content.
8. Foster Relationships with Influencers
Connect and collaborate with influencers and respected individuals in your industry. Engage with their content, contribute to their discussions, and build relationships over time. Their endorsement or association can help amplify your thought leadership efforts.
How AI can help with continuous learning
Use AI to craft a cold outreach email or message to a known influencer, and slowly build your connection with that person.
9. Continue to learn and grow as a thought leader
Stay committed to continuous learning and professional development. Attend conferences, workshops, and training programs to stay updated with the latest industry trends, insights, and innovations. Demonstrating a growth mindset reinforces your position as a thought leader.
How AI can help with continuous learning
We don't have time to read long and complex articles. Using an AI summarization tool, you can summarize any article and make it easier to read by sacrificing depth and sophistication.
10. Publish inspiring personal stories
Consider sharing your experiences, successes, and challenges to create a strong emotional connection with your audience and increase engagement. Showcase your journey to success and what you have learned along the way. This will help to establish yourself as an expert in your field and also inspire others.
How AI can help with inspiring personal stories
AI can help you formulate your story in a much more flowing way. If you want to learn more about this process, check out our guide to writing flow.
11. Come up with uncommon opinions
Are you an outspoken person who likes to voice your opinions? Then maybe you should consider adding uncommon opinion pieces to your thought leadership strategy.
This type of content enables you to share your unique perspective on current topics and challenge conventional wisdom. It also serves as an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to think critically and outside of the box, which can be beneficial when you’re looking to make a name for yourself in the industry.
How AI can help with uncommon opinions
Use Wordtune’s Counterargument feature to elaborate on the opposite to the common view.
12. Run an industry analysis
Orbit Media has consistently created a blogging industry analysis for over 9 years.
An industry analysis serves to build thought leadership content by providing insight into the current trends and developments in the industry, enabling you to identify potential opportunities and threats to your business, and helping to identify potential areas of growth and innovation.
How AI can help with creating a new category
As mentioned above, you can use AI to think of survey questions or other data analysis points which you can later embed into your industry analysis.
13. Create a new category
Christopher Lockhead is a well known entrepreneur, marketer and podcaster who has written and spoken about the power of category creation.
Creating a new category allows you to stand out from the competition and establish yourself as an innovator in the field. It also gives you an opportunity to shape the narrative and create an entirely new product or service that can capture the attention of potential customers.
In terms of thought leadership, creating a new category allows you to be ahead of the curve and create content that others copy and quote.
How AI can help with creating a new category
AI serves best to users with a clear strategy and direction. This is something we’ve emphasized numerous times, and it’s especially true when we are talking about category creation. If you formulate a new category, you can brainstorm with AI to think of follow up ideas that correspond with that initial direction and world view.
How can organizations establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry?
While there is no clear path to establish someone as a thought leader, the steps mentioned above, if done persistently and over time, can certainly place you among the thought leaders of your industry and field. I’ve personally used several of these steps to build my own personal brand as a thought leader in the content field.
Before you formulate your thought leadership strategy, I suggest you evaluate your current stance as a thought leader in your field. Then, periodically add measures to see if something has changed. The metric could be anything from number of invitations to conferences, number of leads and even number of followers on social media.
How can thought leadership content be used to drive sales and revenue?
If you build a thought leadership strategy that is based on at least some of the points mentioned above, you will gradually grow your trust and authority among your target audience. From their, you will naturally increase sales and revenue, because those audience members will be much more willing to pay you to offer them a solution than other less qualified businesses.
It’s like going to the best doctor in town. It’s clear that the doctor’s reputation contributes to her ability to get patients in the door. The same goes for thought leadership and its ability to impact sales and revenue.
This article was co-written with Wordtune. Wordtune didn’t write the whole piece. Instead, it contributed ideas, suggested rephrasing alternatives, maintained consistency in tone, and of course - made the process much more fun for the writer.