When a Thought Leadership Program Is Right for Your Company
We’ve seen a tremendous amount of articles about the overwhelming rate of content production, the saturated information market that content gets dumped into, and the disillusionment with content marketing as a result. But here’s the thing: That’s actually good news.
After a few years of what can only be described as irrational content exuberance, we are finally headed in the right direction. The “more is better” mentality to content creation is giving way to a quality over quantity approach.
Embarking on any content marketing program should be a considered undertaking—the increased scrutiny just adds more fuel to the fire. That goes double for a thought leadership program. Why?
Production is difficult. Most organizations are capable of creating traditional product- and sales-oriented content for various stages of the journey or funnel. Thought leadership content, though, is in a separate class. It requires a deeper, and different, approach. It requires credible, well-reasoned, and occasionally provocative points of view on topics your audiences care—or should care—about.
Payoffs aren’t immediate. A thought leadership program has plenty of benefits, but they are not as immediate or tangible as, say, traditional demand generation programs. As important as sparking conversations, influencing critical audiences, and shaping perceptions may be in the long run, being a respected and visionary voice in your industry will take time to correlate to revenue.
Commitment is required. Even high-value thought leadership content often fails to get noticed without proper promotion. Patience and resources are required to realize ROI.
So why spend resources on a thought leadership initiative?
Audience demand. In business and life, change occurs at a staggering pace. Technological advances, shifts in corporate and consumer behaviors, digital transformation, business disruption—the list goes on and on and no industry remains untouched. Such upheaval and change sows uncertainty, but also a desire for answers. We crave big ideas and vision in uncertain times. Providing an eloquent and rational point of view about issues or topics of shared interest will win the attention of those looking for guidance and a way forward.
Valuable engagement. Thought leadership content, at its core, is about an exchange of value. One side offers information, inspiration, and guidance in exchange for attention. Savvy marketers appreciate that attention is a precious commodity. It’s a big reason why customer-obsessed organizations are committed to engaging their audience, and are using a thought leadership program to do so.
Positioning and the social web. Positioning is perception. A thought leadership program enables companies to carry on a conversation with their audience in a way that supports desired brand characteristics without the burden of trying to sell something. And this audience, given the role of the social web in amplifying perceptions, is a critical lever beyond the brand’s direct control. A thought leadership program may be the most effective and efficient positioning tool marketers have today.
Is the juice worth the squeeze?
Becoming a thought leader isn’t without challenges. It takes commitment. Yet many category leaders and challengers already understand the value of thought leadership programs and are investing accordingly. This has led to one of two scenarios.
- A company in your category is doing thought leadership well and has positioned itself in the minds of your audience.
- No company is doing it well, giving you an opportunity to do so at the expense of your competitors.
Given either of these scenarios, can forward-thinking companies afford not to commit to a program?
In part two of our thought leadership series, we’ll outline and examine the components that go into creating a successful and sustainable thought leadership program.