Thought leader is a term first coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine, Strategy & Business and used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had business ideas, which merited attention. It has since evolved into describing someone who is supposed to have progressive and innovative ideas. (Source: WikiPedia).
If you are doing any form of industrial content marketing, you know that thought leadership is now a catchphrase. Everyone wants it but how do you create it? Just pumping out content that is nothing more than thinly disguised product promotions won’t cut it.
A Google search of thought leadership will yield over 185 million hits. In short, there isn’t a dearth of information on this topic.
I found an article on forbes.com that was written by Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael), Vice President of SAP Global Marketing and the Managing Editor for the SAP Business Innovation site. He defined thought leadership succinctly and gets to the heart of it in my opinion.
“Thought Leadership is simply about becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.”
There are two key takeaways in that definition. First, identify the challenges and issues your customers/readers are dealing with and second, make the time to answer those questions. This is very different from churning out blog posts and articles about product benefits and features.
You may be asking yourself, “Why not?” After all, your ultimate goal of thought leadership and content marketing is to boost your industrial sales. The answer to that question is best explained by this graphic posted by the Content Marketing Institute.
Most small to mid-sized manufacturers feel challenged to say something new because they normally operate in mature industries and are not the usual drivers of new destructive technologies. What can you do to create thought leadership?
Besides following Michael’s advice, here are a few of my suggestions.
- Take a contrarian stand on an industry issue and be ready to back it up with sound reasons.
- Write about your unique perspective about an industry problem or issue.
- Participate in industry conferences and symposiums. Use in-person events to communicate your thought leadership ideas to your target audience. This is a powerful way to build credibility for both your off and online presence.
- Make a bold prediction about the future of your industry. The flip side of that is being brave enough to admit when you are wrong. Comes with the territory if you want to be a prognosticator.
Those are my thoughts. Now it’s your turn, how do you create thought leadership for your industrial company?