The Lifetime ROI of Thought Leadership

April 29, 2014

The rings on a tree trunk show a lifetime of growth. When implemented correctly, the ROI of thought leadership can also last a lifetime.

Sometimes, it’s not what you know — it’s who else knows that you know what you know. You know?

This is the basic principle behind a proven business concept called “thought leadership,” and it’s something every brand, company, and industry expert aspires to achieve. 

From scientists to politicians to entrepreneurs to engineers, thought leaders demonstrate authority and expertise in their given fields. In times of uncertainty, thought leaders are often the ones we turn to and ask, “What does this mean?” or “What do we do now?”

Thought leaders do not hide from the spotlight. They crave it — not only to get their own voices heard, but also to inform, inspire, and motivate others.

Who Are Thought Leaders? 

Often (but not always), industry veterans and thought leaders are individuals who are willing and able to fully immerse themselves in the industries they’re looking to serve. Not only do they understand everything about their own products and services, but they also have a solid understanding of their customers, competitors, and the market as a whole.

To gain credibility outside of their own organizations, effective thought leaders offer solutions and insights based on their experiences and understanding of the issues — not based on a single product or method. Certainly, the solutions they happen to favor might also align with products and services offered by their company. However, this connection is not a firm requirement. 

The Benefits of Being a Thought Leader 

When executed properly, becoming a thought leader in a specific industry or field can provide several benefits to both the individual and the organization. Specifically, thought leaders gain: 

  • Visibility. By creating and publishing content consistently, thought leaders always seem to be “out there,” gaining exposure to new and existing audiences. 
  • Influence. By gaining access to new audiences through thought leadership content, industry experts can build a platform of knowledge to frame specific issues from their unique point of view and influence others. 
  • Validation. Having a body of published work helps thought leaders build their reputations within their industries. twitter_blue Tweet this 
  • Access. Established thought leaders and industry experts can gain access to relationships, conversations, and events that otherwise wouldn’t be available.  

Critics Look Back — Leaders Look Ahead

Just as the name implies, thought leaders are constantly looking forward and challenging others in their industries to do the same. They are constantly learning and thinking about new solutions and techniques while trying to anticipate potential shifts in the market.  

The true value of industry thought leaders, though, is not their ability to acquire knowledge, but their willingness to share it. twitter_blue Tweet this Through publishing content on industry websites, participating in online forums, posting on their blog, or giving webinars, thought leaders are always at the forefront of news and trends and spreading what they know throughout their industry.

Short-Term Benefits, Long-Term Influence

While pursuing a thought leadership and content strategy can yield short-term business benefits, the true value often comes further down the road. Writing topical blog entries or intriguing content can help boost web traffic, provide new business leads, and create organic media opportunities, but consistent activity also generates its own positive momentum over time.

Once established, thought leaders don’t have to put as much effort into being heard. Instead of pursuing opportunities to speak, write, or provide commentary on a specific subject, these individuals become go-to resources for others.

Over time, establishing yourself as a thought leader will naturally and organically grow your influence and visibility. Not only that, but you will also have the satisfaction of knowing the dialogue you’ve created has helped push your industry forward.

Post by Ryan O'Connell

About Ryan O'Connell

I’m dedicated to growing brands and businesses. I’m an avid fan of startups, traveling the world, hockey, and sarcastic remarks.

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