October 17th, 2016
Every business should have the goal of establishing themselves as a credible member of their industry. This is, essentially, thought leadership: the idea your company is the go-to expert for your product or service and industry. Too often, however, businesses and marketers either don’t understand thought leadership or are too intimidated by the milestones set by others. After all, how can you compare the reliability of your small technology company with the success of Apple or Google? Though thought leadership is an elusive concept, most businesses can find their niche and become thought leaders in their industry, even if they aren’t top innovators.
Thought leadership is often confused with “reinventing the wheel,” meaning that a company must be changing their industry in drastic ways in order to be considered a leader within it. This type of thinking leads to marketers and business leaders setting unreasonably high expectations for their business, leading many to think that they can’t contribute as a thought leader unless they are coming up with new products and innovations in their industry.
Instead, businesses should bring expectations down to earth and focus on how they can improve their reputations and participate in conversations happening in their industry. This doesn’t mean changing business forever, but instead working to become a reputable source that customers and other interested parties can turn to for guidance. Business of all sizes can work toward this goal. A local coffee shop, for example, can produce content related to their roasting processes and stories on the origins of their beans to establish their authority within the community. Is the shop turning the coffee industry upside down? Of course not, but its customers, and hopefully other area shops, will value the knowledge its website and employees provide.
For example, while we are innovating in many ways at Main Path Marketing, we are not changing our industry drastically. Instead, we focus on our niche; providing high-quality digital marketing services for small and medium sized businesses. This is why our thought leadership efforts have focused on providing actionable insights for SMBs about our industry, and providing them with guidance and leadership in our corner of the industry.
Investing in thought leadership doesn’t necessarily mean spending money. Instead, it means redirecting your existing resources into building relationships and establishing the reputation and standing of your business. This means refocusing your content marketing efforts and changing your relationship goals with customers. Specifically, investing in thought leadership can include the following (depending on the goals you identify for your business):
Brenner warns against the common “differentiation trap” that many businesses fall into. This is the belief that readers will only value your content if you offer a different perspective on every topic. On the contrary, customers are more likely looking for answers to their questions and problems. Similarly, thought leadership doesn’t necessarily have to relate back to your products or services. If your coffee shop discovers that customers want to learn how to properly use home brewing equipment like french presses, you shouldn’t overlook this topic out of fear that it would take customers away. Nuances such as these are part of what makes understanding thought leadership so difficult, but with proper focus, you can find a way to share your knowledge and build your authority. If customers are coming to you for advice and guidance, then thought leadership is something worth investing in.
Author Bio: Amber Whiteside is the Media Relations Manager at Main Path Marketing. Amber grew up using Myspace and Xanga, which soon led to her passion for following social media trends and a love affair with writing. Amber went on to receive a BA in journalism with an emphasis in public relations from California State University, Chico. If she is not at home playing with her black cat Robb, she is typically out at a local music venue enjoying the sounds of one of her favorite indie bands.
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