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Thought Leadership: Worth the Challenge to Achieve It

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Thought leadership is worth it – but it’s hard to achieve, explains Aden Andruswriting in Disrupting Advertising.  He explains that thought leadership is much more than simply social shares or backlinks.  “True thought leadership”, he details, “makes people want to work with you and [it] has a huge impact on your bottom line.” “People respond best”, he explains, “when you create real value for them.”

In the case of his own efforts to generate a thought leadership position for his client company – excellent content produced significantly higher organic traffic and 32 times more organic lead volume – over a two-year period of committed thought leadership efforts.

He explains, however, that “any good blog editor knows that more organic ‘leads’ is not the same thing as more organic sales.”  Two years after his thought leadership efforts began, he noted, his company generated 64 times more revenue

“So, does thought leadership generate meaningful business results?”, he asks. “Absolutely. In fact, if you do it right, becoming a thought leader in your industry is one of the most effective ways to build your business.”

Practical Advice on How to Achieve Thought Leadership Status

Julie Schwartz writes in ITSMA blog that “marketing can’t do thought leadership alone… if it does, the output will be promotion, not thought leadership.” Marketing, she explains, “must get the buy-in, support, and commitment of executives and subject matter experts to become part of the idea-generating and dissemination process.”  She further notes that the success of any thought leadership effort “requires a deep commitment not just from marketing but from the entire company”.

Schwartz details 4 key elements for any organization to successfully achieve thought leadership status:

  1. Thought leadership efforts must connect deeply with target audiences need and goals
  2. Fact-based research is essential to establishing a more credible thought leadership
  3. Organizations must develop engines for idea development as well as dissemination (often, but not exclusively, social media based). “McKinsey and Bain have had these [initiatives] for decades, [and] more mainstream B2B companies are now making the same kind of thought leadership marketing transformation”, she noted.
  4. Concrete metrics used to judge success are required, and they are: Reputation Relationships and Revenue.

Further Considerations if You’re Contemplating Thought Leadership 

Julie Schwartz and Aden Andrus explain with precision the reasons why thought leadership works to increase revenue and can be achieved via specific steps taken by an organization (not only marketing).  They both also cite the need to measure the effort as against revenue.  I’d note that when considering who might be appointed to undertake responsibility for the editorial process of such an effort – consider appointing someone who understands the intersection of business development and content marketing.  Too, that this person has deep experience in researching and writing thought leadership publications.  And finally, that this person also understands fully the mechanisms by which inbound marketing and content production fit in the mix between outbound sales and business development.

Thought leadership, as is explained above – is not easy to achieve.  It takes time, patience, and the work of both marketing professionals, writers and subject matter experts.  Working together, however, these professionals can help an organization achieve substantial revenue growth.  Which begs the question:  If you’re not focused on building a thought leadership effort – shouldn’t you be considering it?

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