What is Thought Leadership?



We’ve all heard the directives and seen buzzwords across the internet demanding a shift towards thought leadership. From marketing minds to sales executives and everyone in between, there has increasingly been a push to create new forms of content, new structures of a narrative, and more importantly new styles of copy that transcend traditional marketing faux pas to convey legitimate value-added streams of information.


Where in the past sales language and hard sales dominated the punchlines, readers now seek new perspectives devoid of a pitch or a convoluted attempt to bring your solution to the front of the line.

In an age of near-universal access to data and shared knowledge, users are demanding a reason to trust your ideas, and more often than not it comes through via value-added thought leadership and sales-free editorials which captivate the mind and spare a direct link to your profit chain.


Marketing Copy vs Value-Added Material


I’ve written it a million times and I’m sure you have to. One paragraph introduction, another short one presenting a complex problem, and bang… half a page about how my solution will butter your bread, clean the floors and do your taxes all with the push of a button.


What’s missing in this often overused skeleton is a reason for the audience to continue reading, anything compelling or shareable and most damning, a hard pitch that sends everyone running in the opposite direction.


In theory, you were attempting to solve a clear market need with your (all-in-one, or high-value) solution, when in practice your pitch went on deaf ears. Why have you missed the mark and leave your readers scrolling through their feeds before they got to your first poorly worded mixed metaphor?


While in the past this form of marketing copy may have resonated with a potentially receptive audience, today’s highly skeptical, value now prospect has little time or interest in hearing you solve all their woes. Rather, readership is increasingly conditional on the pure value-added quality it brings, removed from any attempted sales pitch or need for data grabs and aggressive sales approaches.


If you intend to start a conversation, listen to market needs or create shareable content it must transform from a world of boring sales jargon into legitimate and thought-provoking perspectives on pressing issues and structural imbalances in your field of expertise.


What is Thought leadership?


Forbes defines a thought leader as “an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in it being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.”


Note that the focus is on the expertise of the writer or organization rather than the direct value of the product they are associated with. Rather than project a solution and its ability to resolve or determine an outcome thought leadership seeks to position its source as an expert and industry leader worthy of taking a second look at their broader digital footprint.


The biggest differences between traditional sales copywriting and modern thought leadership are

  • Focus on ideas vs products

  • Avoidance of hard sales language

  • Broad awareness of the ecosystem and the interconnectedness of the domain


Putting thoughts into action


It has been said that Rome wasn't built in a day, and in practice shifting your content creation philosophy is no different. While it might seem like a significant task to change your marketing output from a sales-heavy approach to one more focused on thought leadership, the process pays significant dividends. Simply put, thought leadership consciously realigns your marketing strategy with how buyers are engaging content.

By doubling down on thought leadership, and using it as a prime tenant of your marking output, readers can view your expertise, look deeper into market needs and turn to you as a trusted advisor to guide them through the trials and tribulations of the POC process.

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