Why Is Thought Leadership Important To A Business?
Why is thought leadership important?
Thought leadership is a way for individuals and brands to cut through a noisy media landscape by using their own expertise and insights to connect with target audiences. If you’re looking to build authority, establish client trust, attract and retain talent, or generate revenue, thought leadership can pay rich dividends on all counts.
Simply put, thought leadership is content that demonstrates your expertise in a given field and positions you as a future-focused leader at the forefront of major issues and opportunities. This can range from insightful social media posts, blogs and newsletters to articles and whitepapers, podcasts and books, and even speaking engagements and media appearances. Whatever the format or channel of distribution, it is content that showcases your strategic acumen, big-picture thinking and leadership skill.
Thought leadership benefits are well documented, with 9 out 10 executives reporting in a recent Harris Poll that they find it “critical” to building authority. Ninety-three percent of those business leaders said they believe thought leadership is more important now when compared to just a few years ago because it’s harder to get noticed as more business has gone virtual.
In today’s business world, a thought leadership strategy has become as essential as business cards were to previous generations. And there’s an added upside: there’s little chance your thought leadership content will be forgotten in the pocket of a blazer or accidentally thrown in the trash.
The importance of being a thought leader
Thought leaders are reliable, esteemed, and authoritative sources of information who offer practical solutions to address the needs of stakeholders. They are forward thinkers with one eye on the horizon and the other firmly affixed on the problems and opportunities of today.
These exemplary leaders have always been with us (think Warren Buffet or Ariana Huffington), but today’s thought leaders are much more strategic about deliberately cultivating their executive presence in important public forums and leveraging that reputation to advance strategic objectives. Some company leaders, founders and entrepreneurs engage in thought leadership to deliberately manage an already highly visible public profile. Others may do so to elevate their public image.
A robust and relevant thought leadership presence reassures clients and customers of the intangible benefits of your working relationship. Here are six ways an expert thought leadership program could take your business to the next level.
Building trust through thought leadership
Thought leadership is an excellent way to build trust and credibility, especially for B2B and professional service providers looking to differentiate themselves in fields where quality and expertise can sometimes be difficult to define.
Based on insights from nearly 3,500 C-suite executives and decision-makers, the 2022 LinkedIn-Edelman B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report suggests that thought leadership is one of the most effective tools for organizations to demonstrate their value to customers during tough times.
A robust and engaging thought leadership profile builds trust by showcasing your expertise. Ninety percent of the decision-makers in the Edelman-LinkedIn survey said referrals from people they know and respect would effectively earn their attention and purchase consideration, giving thought leadership a real ROI in sales and retention.
Standing out in a crowded field
If you want to stand out in a crowded field of competitors, a thought leadership program can make all the difference.
In today’s media-saturated environment, leaders (and those who aspire to leadership) are expected to have some kind of public presence. It’s worth the time and effort to ensure yours is strategic, positive and impactful. Just ask Kanye West, the rapper and businessman whose dramatic plunge from the stratosphere was largely precipitated by his chaotic statements.
In contrast, deliberately cultivated thought leadership can help you demonstrate your unique perspectives and approaches, helping you differentiate from competitors – in a good way. (Sorry, Ye.)
Increasing brand visibility
Thought leadership programs can also increase your brand visibility, bringing it to the attention of potential customers and new audiences. Well-crafted thought leadership has a depth and impact that is difficult to achieve in other marketing channels, and since it’s not directly focused on sales or promotion, it builds your brand reputation as one that gives back and willingly shares knowledge and expertise.
For example, just consider the popularity of Ray Dalio’s Instagram, where he shares life and business lessons with one million followers without asking for anything in return. Or Amazon Web Services’ “next-gen” stats and analysis that help NFL fans understand the intricacies of plays in a football game.The reputational effects of this form of thought leadership are significant, even on a dramatically smaller scale.
Driving business growth
Strategic thought leadership is a steady and reliable complement to existing sales and marketing efforts that can lead to real business growth.
Source: Harris Poll
Eighty-four percent of the executives in that Harris poll said a prospect’s thought leadership presence had at least some influence on their decision when selecting a partner or vendor. An active, relevant and insightful thought leadership profile positions you at the head of the pack, and helps connect you with new potential partners, customers and clients who are aligned with your perspectives.
Provocative and relevant thought leadership leads to vibrant and informed discussions about important issues and new knowledge and opportunities.
Renowned VC Marc Andreessen is famous for his Twitter threads, which garner input from a diverse cross-section of the Silicon Valley elite. His prolific discourses set the table for branching online discussions of tech trends, innovation, startups, culture, and even politics. We see this regularly with our clients. As their thoughts resonate throughout their respective industries, peers, stakeholders, and even competitors are eager to contribute their two cents. The results are energetic and compelling discussions or debates that yield new and actionable insights – and fodder for future meaty discussions.
Attracting and retaining top talent
Finally, a thought leadership presence is quickly becoming table stakes when bolstering a leadership brand, and attracting and retaining top talent, particularly among younger generations. More than half the respondents in the most recent Brunswick report on Connected Leadership said they’d prefer to work for a CEO who communicates through digital and social media. In that same survey, 88% of respondents said direct and transparent communications from leadership directly impacted their decisions about whether to stay with an employer.
A deliberate, sustained and strategic thought leadership program pays rich dividends, whether your primary goal is building client relationships, driving sales, building brand authority, attracting and retaining top talent, or simply giving back to the business community by sharing your wisdom and wisdom expertise.