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4 Practical Tips for Being a Better Thought Leader

Unfortunately thought leadership is not as easily quantifiable as other demand generation metrics like revenue, sales, or leads. But here's how to get a handle on it.
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As a marketer, thought leadership is one of the most valuable assets your brand -- or you -- can attain.

Prospects conduct a great deal of research leading up to the purchase. This means marketing professionals must help educate prospects in the early stages of the buying cycle; doing this well can help frame their buying process and establish your brand as a trusted advisor that understands their problems and knows how to solve them. Therefore, it’s more vital than ever for your organization to be viewed as an industry leader and trusted resource for all key stakeholders: customers, media, analysts, investors and everyone in between.

Unfortunately thought leadership is not as easily quantifiable as other demand generation metrics like revenue, sales, or leads. And investing in reputation building may not produce the same short-term, immediate effects of efforts such email marketing campaigns.

But cultivating thought leadership can have a significant long-term payoff, as in time it elevates your brand at scale.

What are the qualities that define thought leaders?

Thought leaders:

·     Develop relationships with customers, prospects and others by engaging them in non-sales, industry-relevant conversations.

·     Become the go-to source for research, insight and interpretation of the latest news and trends.

·     Gain trust among prospective customers so that when the time finally comes to purchase, customers turn to the thought leader organization.

Try incorporating some of these ideas in your marketing efforts to build your organization’s reputation:

1. Provide original research. Conduct a poll on your website, send out a survey to customers or perform a more in-depth study with the help of a third party. Whatever type of research you conduct, this information can be especially useful for media and industry analysts. And the more often your research is picked up by these sources, the more likely prospects will view you as a trusted source.

2. Use your company blog to provide insight. Every company is now a media company. And your most flexible and ultimately valuable publishing tool is a blog. For your blog to succeed at positioning your brand as a thought leader, you need to go beyond simply reporting and reacting. Include insightful commentary and analysis on industry trends, and start threads of original ideas. This will position you as a leader as opposed to a follower.

3. Be a solution for specific problems. If your finger is on the pulse of your industry, you’ll understand clearly what the pain points are for prospects. Taking the time to articulate solutions to timely problems will position you as a trusted source. When you are able to solve specific problems that people in your industry are actively seeking solutions for, you’ll be positioned well ahead of competitors.

4. Join the speaking circuit. From keynote speeches to panel discussions to breakout sessions, opportunities abound to provide insight for potential customers at industry events. Research the types of conferences, meetings and conventions that you prospects are likely to attend, and develop relationships with event organizers.

If you still aren’t sold on the value of cultivating thought leadership, consider the indirect result of these measures. Done well, reputation-building efforts can:

·     Provide you with additional quality inbound links to your website

·     Increase higher-quality referral traffic

·     Elevate your brand to become referential

Plus, the more optimized content you produce in the form of whitepapers, blog posts and webinars, the higher your search rankings. What’s not to like about that?

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Aug 22, 2013

JON MILLER | Columnist

Jon Miller leads strategy and execution for Marketo. Before co-founding Marketo, Miller was vice president of product marketing at Epiphany and held positions at Exchange Partners and Gemini Consulting. Miller holds a bachelor?s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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