The single biggest barrier to business growth is a single syllable, 5 letter word:
You've probably faced it before yourself...
Getting enough trust from social media users to listen to your message.
Building enough trust from prospects for them to part with their hard earned cash and buy your product or service.
Earning enough trust from VCs and Angels to justify investing in you.
According PWC, to 87% of executives think customers highly trust them.
The same study showed that only 30% do.
This creates a 57 point 'Trust Gap' between companies and customers.
So, how do you close that gap?
Well, here’s how you don’t solve it:
You don’t solve it with more company-branded communication.
Once a lack of trust appears, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, if the communication is coming from the entity that isn’t trusted, it simply adds to the dis-trust.
The only way to close the gap is to change the messenger.
Enter: Thought Leadership.
Positioning leaders within the business - the founder, CEO or senior team - as go-to industry experts is the most effective way to bridge trust gap and develop meaningful connections with key stakeholders.
In this guide, we'll break down exactly why thought leadership is essential for growing your business in 2023 and provide you with an outline for incorporating thought leadership in your marketing strategy.
Here's what we'll cover:
- What Thought Leadership Is
- The Benefits of Thought Leadership
- How To Become a Thought Leader
- Thought Leadership Strategy
- Thought Leadership Misconceptions
- Best Examples of Thought Leaders
What Is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership is the process of becoming the go-to industry specialist for potential customers and clients by sharing valuable content, original thinking, and new ideas at scale.
Thought leaders, therefore, are trusted sources of information and guidance in their respective industries.
By becoming a thought leader in your industry, you increase the number of people that know like and trust you. Undeniably, having more people know who you are, like you and trust you, makes growing your business easier.
Let's dive into these benefits a little more...
Benefits of Thought Leadership
There are numerous benefits of thought leadership. The engaged audience and reputation you build when you become a thought leader are powerful assets you can leverage to grow your business.
Here are some specific examples of how it can help:
- Building trust with potential clients
- Nurturing prospects through the sales process
- Increasing conversion rate
- Charging higher prices for your work
- Landing investment
- Attracting top talent
- Building brand awareness
- Landing PR features
- Contributor and speaking opportunities
- Future proofing your career
- Landing advisory roles
- Making an impact
- Supporting company brand perception
The list could go on.
And it's not just speculation, the data backs it up.
Thought Leadership Stats
- Executives globally attribute up to up to 43% of company market value to their CEO's reputation
- People are willing to pay up to 13.57x more for those they consider to be elite experts, compared to the average person
- Leads obtained through employees’ social media convert 7x more frequently than other leads.
- 77% of consumers are more likely to buy when the CEO of the business uses social media.
- 65% of buyers say thought leadership significantly changed their perception of a company for the better.
When you look at these stats, it's no wonder two thirds of marketers consider thought leadership a “top priority” for their organisation.
Only 26% consider their current thought leadership strategies to be “very successful” though.
Let's try and change that by looking at how to become a thought leader...
How To Become A Thought Leader
By now, you're probably convinced engaging in thought leadership is going to progress your career and grow your business. But how do you actually go about becoming one?
Here are some of the key things you'll need to do:
Define What You Want To Be Known For
The first step in any successful thought leadership campaign is to build a strategy around an end goal.
When it comes to being a thought leader, you need to ensure the insights and information you are sharing are relevant to your target audience and creating the right reputation for you.
This is called 'Positioning'
Ask yourself, 'If I could become the go-to person for anything in the world, what would it be?'
This guides everything else you do.
You might find it helpful to also consider:
- What you want to be known for
- What your audience need to see from you to trust you
- What you need to show to position yourself in a certain light
- Which areas you consider yourself to have expert knowledge in
- Where you have particularly strong opinions or unique perspective
It's important that you stand for something here.
The best thought leaders all share contrarian or non-obvious solutions to common problems. They are forward thinking, headstrong in their beliefs and not afraid to get off the fence.
When it comes to producing effective thought leadership content that generates loyal followers and real customers, being clear on what you stand for is vital.
Understand What Makes You Different
Thought leadership, by definition, requires original thinking and ideas.
You can't achieve industry leading status by simply regurgitating what other industry experts have already said.
You need to have a key point of difference.
Why you, out of the 8 billion-odd people on Earth?
What particular topic do you have world leading expertise in?
Why would someone listen to you talk about the same topic over someone else?
Originality is an important component of thought leadership strategy - all true thought leaders have it.
Choose Your Channel
The single best way to build thought leadership is to publish high quality content for your audience consistently.
But there are so many ways to do this...
- Writing Blogs
- Writing Guest Posts
- Speaking Engagements
The list goes on.
It's important to pick the right channels to build on - the ones where your target audiences are actually spending time.
You should also lean into your strengths in the beginning.
Are you particularly good in front of camera? Start with video content!
Are you a better writer? Perhaps writing blogs and LinkedIn content would be better.
Once you're comfortable on your first channel, you should explore others and start sharing valuable information in multiple formats.
If you run a business, we highly recommend starting with LinkedIn in 2023. It's always been the most used and the most successful platform across our 100+ clients. It's a great place to connect with other industry leaders, promote your business and distribute thought leadership material.
Optimise Your Social Profiles
Once you've selected your channels, it's important to optimise your social profiles. Your social pages are the new business cards - except they also act as a landing page, a sales page, a pitch deck and a website all in one - so it's pretty important you get them nailed.
They're a great place to demonstrate why you're a thought leader and give people a reason to follow you.
Make sure you have a high quality headshot, a clear, specific value proposition explaining what you do and links to important web pages and content.
You might like to check out this guide on how to optimise your LinkedIn profile.
ps. Please don't be that person that writes your bio in third person. Stick to first person.
If you want to build thought leadership, content marketing is a must.
You need to being sharing a steady stream of valuable insights across your chosen channels.
Content is the engine of your personal brand - it's how you demonstrate thought leadership.
By sharing valuable resources, your own perspective on the latest trends in your industry, and personal insights, you become seen as a reliable source of information.
This is the single easiest and most effective way to build a loyal following of potential and existing customers, talent, investors and other industry influencers.
Content creation is a powerful tool for building thought leadership and growing a loyal audience, but only if you're sharing completely unique, highly valuable insights.
Low quality content will damage your personal brand profile, so make sure you're adding real value when executing your thought leadership content strategy.
Quite simply, you need to put high quality thought leadership content in front of as many of your target audience as possible.
Leverage Other People's Audiences
Publishing thought leadership content on your own channels will help you build the foundations of an industry leading personal brand.
But if you want to be in the top 1% of industry experts, grow a larger audience and develop elite thought leadership status, leveraging other people's audiences is essential.
Other people in your industry have already built audiences in the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions on their own websites, podcasts and YouTube channels, for example.
By appearing on their podcast or writing a blog post for their website, for example, you can place your own thought leadership content in front of your target audience at scale.
This will not only scale your audience, but also help you build credibility - something all thought leaders have buckets of.
How? If you feature on podcasts, blogs or in the media, you are seen as 'worth being featured'.
As you start to build a trail of thought leadership across social media, your own channels, and other people's channels, you create a bank of assets for nurturing your audience into clients or customers.
One of the Godfather's of thought leadership, Daniel Priestley, claims your audience must be able to consume 7 hours of content across 4 channels and 11 touchpoints before they consider buying from you.
He's used this approach to build 7 multi-million pound businesses using his personal brand.
Leverage Testimonials, Results and Case Studies
Testimonials, results and case studies help you answer the unsaid question on all decision makers' minds before they engage, follow or buy from you:
'Why should I trust you?'
To build meaningful thought leadership, you need people trust your word, and social proof is the single best way to do this.
What other people say about you is far more convincing than anything you can say about yourself.
So ask yourself...
What case studies can your draw on from your career?
Have you achieved any amazing results recently?
Who can you ask for a testimonial?
Analyse all true thought leaders and you'll notice they have testimonials or case studies in abundance.
Truth is, becoming a thought leader doesn't happen overnight.
Sure, you should start seeing traction within the first few months, and your business will definitely benefit from your thought leadership campaign in the short term.
But if you want to become the go-to thought leader in your industry, you must commit this exercise day after day for a number of years.
Truth is, 'reputation requires repetition'.
If you're constantly changing tack, or giving up completely, your target audience will lose interest, your brand profile will weaken and you'll never become an industry leader.
Thought Leadership Misconceptions
By now you're probably convinced of the power thought leadership has, and have a comprehensive thought leadership strategy that you execute, but perhaps there are a few niggling questions in the back of your mind.
Let's address those misconceptions here!
Thought Leadership is Reserved for Authors and Public Speakers
Yes, authors and public speakers absolutely need to be thought leaders and writing books or speaking on stage contributes to that.
But it's not reserved just for them.
The modern CEOs are thought leaders.
Now more than ever, consumers want to hear from the experts behind successful businesses, and those business leaders that are taking the thought leadership opportunity early are seeing incredible results.
Heck, many of our CEO clients become thought leaders so that they can become guest speakers or authors in the future.
I'm Going To Spend All My Time Writing White Papers and Reports
Chuck those white papers in the bin you won't need them in 2023.
Consumers of today are trained to consume content in short, digestible chunks. They have been trained by 6 second videos and 280 character Tweets.
Your thought leadership output must be little and often if you want to make an impact in 2023, presenting great ideas in easy to digest forms.
Whilst you need to ensure such content has depth, is intriguing and positions you in the right way, it also needs to be formatted for the consumer of today.
That's often the biggest challenge when it comes to thought leadership content, which is why a lot of our clients come to us for support in the first place!
I Don't Need To Be A Thought Leader
No... you don't...
You'll get by fine just as you have done for the last 5 years. You'll tick along, do okay, and be a standard player within your space.
Look, if you want to stay where you are and have a good business or career, fine.
But if you really want to progress, become a world leader, dominate market share, be oversubscribed with customers and future-proof your career, having 10x more people know who you are, like you and trust you will most certainly help - that's hard to deny.
Thought leadership is for the ambitious.
The ones that want to make an impact.
Even if you don't care about being remembered yourself, you still have a responsibility to your business. This isn't an ego play. It's a comprehensive content marketing strategy.
Our Work Will Do The Talking
Your work will most certainly not do the talking.
We speak to business leaders every day and often find those who are doing the best work aren't recognised for it.
There is too much noise. Too many competitors now.
Whilst word of mouth might have worked 5 years ago, social noise is now drowning out conversations about your work.
You must do the talking for it, every day.
(And you should never feel ashamed of that!)
I Have To Be An Extrovert
I'm writing this, to you, right now, as a massive introvert.
Truthfully, we all have our own unfair advantages.
Whilst extraverts might be well suited to speaking on stage, or might make more of a networking event, introverts often funnel mental energy into reflecting on original thoughts and ideas that make for great content.
Just because you are the loudest voice in the room, doesn't mean you don't have valuable insight to share.
And sure, thought leadership requires you to push your comfort zone on occasion, but that's no reason to hold yourself back.
Examples of Thought Leadership
Let's take a look at some top CEO thought leaders so we can see the thought leadership strategy we've discussed in practice.
Many consider Daniel Priestley the 'Godfather' of thought leadership, and rightly so. He practices what he preaches.
Daniel has built up a large following over the years with 4 best selling books, countless speaking engagements and a consistent stream of insightful content across social media tailored around helping business owners become oversubscribed with customers by becoming 'Key People of Influence'.
It's not just the audience though, it's the reputation he's built with it. He's built 7 multi-million pound businesses in the process.
Codie Sanchez has built a name for herself sharing contrarian investment and business advice for those who want to diversify their income sources.
Her contrarian angle has helped her stand out and amass a huge following across social media in the last 5 years.
Engaging in thought leadership has helped her build a business portfolio of over $50 million.
Jay Shetty shot to fame with the rise of YouTube in the early 2010s. Sharing insights into self-realisation in digestible 5 minute videos, he became one of the most sought-after coaches in the world.
He has since created a career and business solely from his personal brand.
Amanda Nguyen, Time's Woman Of The Year, is the founder of Rise, a coalition of sexual assault survivors and allies working to codify civil rights.
She has built thought leadership content off the back of her own personal experience, leveraging the power of social media to build an audience and spread a message.
Amanda is a perfect example of using thought leadership for good, using her platform to pass 60 laws for more than 100 million survivors
Andrew Huberman is a great example of modern thought leadership. Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford university, it's fair to say Andrew knows his stuff when it comes to neuroscience.
He cleverly began breaking complex neuroscience down into understandable lessons for the increasingly health-conscious society of today.
He has become the go-to for all things neuroscience, with his podcast racking up 3 million subscribers.
Hopefully these thought leaders inspire you to take action on what you have learnt in this article.
Thought leadership is one of the most effective ways to bridge the Trust Gap in 2023. By sharing engaging and insightful content on a consistent basis, the modern CEO can become a thought leader and reap rewards unavailable to every day business owners.
Thought leadership is a powerful content marketing strategy you can use to build awareness, win more clients, grow your business and future-proof your career.
If you'd like support developing and executing a thought leadership strategy yourself, we may be able to use our experience from turning 100+ founders and CEOs into thought leaders to help.
Why don't we spend 20 minutes exploring the possibilities by scheduling a chat below?