Why Now Is the Time to Start Your Thought Leadership Strategy

August 1, 2014

Clocks are ticking for your thought leadership strategy to start. Building influence takes time.

Dragging your feet when implementing a new business strategy is understandable. You’re wagering time and resources without knowing the exact outcome.

But thought leadership isn’t one of those initiatives. 

Striving toward building credibility as an influential leader in your space isn’t a gamble because it provides an ever-growing cycle of return for your brand. It means establishing a powerful reputation of unparalleled expertise in your field. Don’t you want your audience to view your company as knowledgeable and trustworthy?

If you haven’t considered your thought leadership strategy yet, here’s why it should be your top priority: 

You Get the “First Mover” Advantage 

Similar to social media 10 years ago, the first movers reap the most benefits, and the same concept applies to thought leadership marketing. The intent is to become a trusted source for information so your audience views you, an author, as an authority figure and your company as a top contender in its industry.

Many companies have been slow to adopt a thought leadership strategy, but this lag won’t last long. Differentiating yourself from the pack will become a tougher feat as more companies flock toward thought leadership, so adopting this strategy now will secure your spot as an influencer. 

The Pool Will Soon Overflow 

Publications are flocking toward the contributor model, which means more opportunities for your competitors and more noise to compete with. Creating a platform on your site, such as a company blog, where your audience can follow and engage with your company is the most effective way to stand out from others.

But that doesn’t stop at blog content. I regularly contribute columns to Forbes, Inc., and LinkedIn, and readers can subscribe to receive my content. These are other examples of platforms people can use as their knowledge “watering holes.” If readers find one of my LinkedIn posts valuable to their business or industry, they can follow my posts and get notifications every time I publish something new. 

This compounds as you build more brand advocates, which is why getting a strategy in place now is so essential for attracting and retaining a following before your competitors do. 

4 Common Reasons People Push Off Thought Leadership

Now that you realize how implementing a thought leadership strategy can put you ahead, let’s go over some of the reasons marketers are dragging their feet:

1. “Our website isn’t finished.”

This is one excuse I will never understand. You’re pretty much saying you can’t showcase your expertise until your website is perfect. I’ve seen too many companies lose out on an opportunity because website development is holding them back.

Let me give you a hint: Your site is never going to be perfect. We’ve gone through three redesigns in three years, and we’ll probably change it again. Websites are constantly changing as new trends surface and industries evolve. Don’t hold off on getting your audience valuable, timely content because of a redesign. 

2. “We have more important priorities.”

What could possibly be more important than positioning your company as an industry leader and earning customers’ trust? Too many people focus on short-term gains with marketing and PR, so the pay-per-click or short-term PR blitzes take priority. But this is a costly mistake in the long term. Consider the reputation you want your company to have in the future and what it will take to get there. 

I remember asking myself the exact same thing with Influence & Co. You’re either in it for the long haul or you’ll eventually fade out. It’s that simple. If you are, then commit to leading your industry and do what it takes to get there. Short-term gains are great safety nets, but effective thought leadership through content marketing will secure your long-term position in an industry.

3. “We’re waiting to hire more people.”

I agree; it’s important to have a point of contact who can oversee content implementation, but waiting to hire an entire content team is a wasted opportunity considering all the available resources. 

Create a blueprint, and start executing. If you can do it internally, that’s fantastic. If not, hire a partner to help you get there. Don’t wait until you get the Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird dream team together because those all-star pairings don’t happen often.

4. “We don’t have the budget right now.”

This excuse can be valid, but many companies overlook the value in what they’re paying for. We recently had a fast-growing startup tell us it didn’t have the budget to move forward. It was puzzling, but we didn’t try to argue. Its leaders attempted content on their own but soon came back after realizing they were wasting time and needed to do it right. 

Our president, Kelsey Meyer, recently wrote a blog post about which department should contribute to a company’s thought leadership budget. If you (or your C-suite) think you should only pull funds from the marketing budget, read and print off that article because it will put content’s role in your entire company into perspective.

The Contributor Model Movement

It’s no secret that contributing content is rising in popularity. One clue was when LinkedIn opened its platform so all users could become contributors. If the largest professional network in the world is encouraging you to contribute, it’s likely a good idea.

Most of the managing editors I talk to these days have already moved their publications toward the contributor model. People used to hate Forbes for offering guest contributions before it was commonplace, but now many publications have adopted that model. It requires fewer internal resources while bringing in more traffic from reputable authors and — if done right — boosts engagement for the site. 

This creates a big opportunity for marketers and leaders. You now have the chance to shape the conversation around your company. Before, companies relied on journalists to get media attention and could only hope they were portrayed in a positive light. I’ve consistently had reporters misquote me, incorrectly describe our company, and perpetuate other misconceptions. But the rise of the contributor model puts control over company content in your hands.

Entrepreneurs and business leaders are all over the place. Luckily I had VPs and other staff members stressing the importance of “drinking our own Kool-Aid.” But I don’t mean dabbling in thought leadership marketing. We did that at the beginning, but it wasn’t until we fully embraced it that we established credibility and the leads came pouring in.

So I challenge you to look at what your company is doing right now. Are these efforts truly positioning your company for long-term growth and stability? 

Think about what your audience wants to hear and what it will take to gain their trust. Couple this knowledge with an effective thought leadership strategy, and you can start solidifying your company’s image as a trustworthy and reputable leader.

About John Hall

I have a passion for building the credibility of companies and individuals. I love what I do mostly because of the talented group on this page.

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