Thought leadership is a form of marketing, but it is so much more than that.

It’s one of the fastest growing marketing disciplines, yet it spans beyond the traditional techniques of the industry by taking cues from leaders outside the marketing bubble.

At its core, effective thought leadership weaves in a multi-disciplinary approach that impacts on the entire marketing spectrum during each phase of strategy, planning, creation and execution.

This leads to an inclusive marketing methodology that effectively integrates consumer behavior, an understanding of the most basic of human needs, along with powerful, timeless leadership strategies.

And it is in this bringing together of classical marketing techniques, and elevating the output by drawing upon psychology, consumer behavior, and leadership strategems, that makes thought leadership a high-yielding marketing discipline, that is fast becoming one of the key strategies for our time.

What makes a Successful Thought Leadership Strategist?

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using ‘Content here, content here’, making it look like readable English. Many desktop publishing packages and web page editors now use Lorem Ipsum as their default model text, and a search for ‘lorem ipsum’ will uncover many web sites still in their infancy. Various versions have evolved over the years, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose (injected humour and the like).

 

What makes a Successful Thought Leadership Strategist?

First, you need to be able to look at an opportunity objectively.

Walk a mile in the shoes of your audience (or the modern day equivalent, looking at their screen).

What’s on their mind? What is their next big goal? What worries them? What do they most want? Why do they want it? Where are they looking for it? And maybe the most important one, how are they feeling right now? 

Then think about how you can harness your depth of experience in a way that’s actually going to help them and make a difference to their world.

But it’s not just about throwing out “solutions” and “information”.

A content-fatigued audience is over that.

You need to be able to see a market need, take a step back, and ask yourself what fresh ideas you can bring to the table.

Being able to do this requires self-awareness of what you uniquely offer that can address a clear gap in a certain niche, deliver immense value, and then apply the know-how to strategise effectively to meet your audience where they are at.

Plus, you’ll need a plan for building affinity and connection in parallel to showcasing your expertise, because this is the conduit that is going to allow your insights to actually be received (rather than falling flat).

So while planning your output, you also need to build it around different facets of communication, not limiting yourself to the traditional marketing concepts, but instead expanding your strategies to include ideas from other disciplines.   A successful thought leader looks at opportunities synergistically – not just a keynote, or a white paper, podcast or an article.

An effective strategist looks at a message they can deliver and see all the small moving parts, carefully taking note of how they can make everything work together to produce multiple forms of content that is greater than the sum of its parts working together across all the applicable marketing channels.

It used to be that according to the Marketing Rule of 7, customers would need at least seven touchpoints with a brand before being ready to engage with them, and according to more recent research that number is now exponentially higher because of the way our brain now filters out unwanted content and only registers a third of what we see.

So you while you may have an earth-shattering piece of thought leadership content you may be busting to share, a true strategist will think of how to slice and dice those insights, infuse it with just the right amount of connection and relatability to pave the way for it to be received.

They will then think about how to strategically position it across a variety of channels to ensure it’s visiblity to the right audience, at the right time, to increase it’s overall effectiveness.

More Than Just Marketing

One of the most important tools you can add to your arsenal as a strategist is to have an understanding of human psychology and consumer behavior – you need to know how people function and connect at an emotional level.

A lack of understanding of human behavior is one of the key failings of traditional marketing.

Many marketing strategies have a “go for the jugular” approach in which they try to seal the deal with their audience from the first touchpoint.

This has led to viewer fatigue and a natural numbness to these aggressive marketing techniques.

Thought leadership differentiates itself from these strategies by understanding that in order to effectively influence your audience, you need to first build a relationship with them based on trust, expertise, and transparency.

Successful thought leaders and strategists tend to also have a strong entrepreneurial mindset enhanced by a firm grasp of leadership techniques.

They need to pioneer new ground not just in the concepts they are sharing but in the vehicles they are using to get that message in front of the right people, at the right time.

Right now there is no “playbook” – and even if there were, it’s being updated by the global community at a rate of change few businesses and marketers are prepared to keep up with.

Thought leaders are so called because they have a following, a group of people who willingly decide to consume their content and have their perspectives shaped by doing so.

And a thought leadership who is prepared to be entreprenuerial in their approach has a far greater chance of success in today’s climate, where what customers want is a moving target

True industry leaders tend to have an entrepreneurial mindset – it’s not just about “what they know” – they pepper this with the ability to think differently, see opportunities where others don’t, and thrive on a creative ability to solve problems.

Keep Doing

If you’re new to this, where do you begin?

Learning from other more established thought leaders is important, but it is vital to remember that you learn more from actually doing – as long as you’re not just “doing” for the sake of it, you’re actively

  • Doing
  • Reviewing
  • Analysing
  • Hypothesising
  • Testing
  • Optimising
  • Iterating

Probably in that order and every other which way as well.  

Learning is key to developing your way of thinking, but too many make the mistake of trying to become perfect before they start. If you don’t try to physically execute what you’ve learned, you won’t be of much use to yourself or anybody else.

While beginning to execute, it is very unlikely that the first things you create will hit the target. The branding may be off, the strategies ineffective, it may not resonate with your audience or it may simply not be what they are looking for from you.

The important part here is to stay active and analyse what parts of your strategy are working, why, and how you can do it even better.

It’s definitely more of a process than a destination.  

However if you keep building upon the positive aspects of your toil, while learning from the parts that fall short, eventually your content will evolve and begin to resonate with your audience.

Being prepared to experiment, adjust, learn, and evolve is a key trait of successful thought leaders. The most important part of growing is to put yourself out there and build, build, and build.

Commit to the process, because it will take time.

Build upon your successes, and learn from each occasion when your content doesn’t land.

See it not as failure, but as Thomas Edison so aptly said understanding another way that it “doesn’t work”

Done consistently enough, you will find that not only will you have developed a powerful thought leadership development muscle, because you have been publishing consistently, the systems you have built can will underpin your efforts.

You’ll also have have the ability to churn out content that actually resonates, that will grow your following and enhance your relationships with your consumers.

 

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If you are established in business, have a message to share, and you are ready to take your position as a trusted authority, but not sure how to start, grab my book Becoming a Respected Thought Leader: The Ultimate Guide for Experts, Entreprenuers and Business owners.

In it you’ll learn exactly what it takes to deliver high quality, thought-provoking, action-inspiring content that will position you as the go-to expert and keep your audience coming back to you for more!

 

About the Author


Nina Christian is passionate marketer and mentor to young marketers and entreprenuers around the globe. 

As a marketing and brand strategist, she helps businesses and brands attract their ideal audience by leveraging timeless marketing principles along with their own thought leadership and systematised content publishing to build awareness, authority and connection.

Her marketing agency Braveda, founded in 2000, is a boutique marketing agency (est. 2000) that specialises in building brands through thought leadership and content creation, and was named Best Marketing Agency at the 2018 Australian Marketing Excellence Awards and Nina was named 2018 Certified Practicing Marketer of the Year (Victoria).

She is a Fellow of the Australian Marketing Institute, and Chair of the AMI State Committee in VIC.

Nina is a regular speaker on the subjects of Marketing and Entreprenuership and believes there has never been a more exciting time to be a marketer.

Outside of work (which she loves!) Nina enjoys the outdoors, is an active CrossFitter, and after 3pm most days is off-duty having fun with her five young children and doing mum stuff.

Interested in some of the “behind the scenes” goings on?

Facebook: @ninachristianHQ Instagram: @NinaChristianHQ