Thought Leadership Strategy: How to Take Your Brand to the Next Level

Thought leadership should be an important aspect of your content marketing strategy. If it’s not, your big ideas are going to waste. There’s a common misconception that to be a thought leader, you must have years of experience or be a successful entrepreneur heading multiple companies. 

But this isn’t the case. In fact, anyone with original ideas and enough research can be a thought leader. Yes, that’s right, even you.

We’re going to explore what thought leadership marketing is, why it will benefit your company, and how to do it. And, of course, we’ll include some inspiring examples along the way. So sit back, relax, and prepare to up your content marketing game. 

Key takeaways

  • Research is crucial to back up unique insights and original ideas in high-quality content. 75% of U.S. adults believe data-backed content is more trustworthy than without. 
  • Maintaining a large presence within your industry is essential for your thought leadership strategy. This can include engaging on social media, planning speaking engagements, and being active on forums. 
  • For digital marketing, curating content and SEO is essential to build trust and credibility within your industry. Less than 10% of searchers advance to the second page of Google, so ranking on the first page is key for thought leaders.
  • 66% of marketers consider thought leadership a top priority for their marketing. This is because it can improve brand awareness and user experience, build trust, and help reach new audiences. 
  • Tim Ferriss, Simon Sinek, and Susan Cain are great examples of innovative and successful thought leaders to learn from and inform your strategy. 

What is thought leadership marketing?

To be a thought leader, you need to offer an original point of view. This is why they are often referred to as subject matter experts, or SMEs for us marketing folk. This may sound pretty technical or difficult to achieve. However, anyone can market themselves or a business as a thought leader. In fact, 66% of marketers consider thought leadership a top priority for their marketing.

Includes lock in loyalty, market with respect, fulfilment, don't be a commodity, be a liberator, and enhance SEO.

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Thought leadership marketing refers to the content being produced. Rather than churning out statistic compilations or jumping on the bandwagon of trending keywords, you’ll focus on quality content that is full of original ideas and unique insights. 

The best formats for this kind of content are:

  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Webinars
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Interviews

You’ll often see startups exercising thought leadership practices. This is because the majority begin as small groups of independent entrepreneurs with ideas starting from the ground up. It’s a great tactic to build a loyal following because people are likely to put trust in the brand more quickly.

Benefits of incorporating thought leadership into your marketing strategy

It’s probably becoming clear how thought leadership content can bring endless benefits to your company. Let’s take a look at some of the most important.

Improve brand awareness

With thought leadership comes media coverage. Whether that’s social media or journalistic. Both are valuable in building brand awareness. You want your company to be recognizable. And a surefire way of doing this is having an opinion. 

Through your thought leadership strategy, your brand will build mentions on websites, podcasts, social media, and more. This awareness will lead to your leads and conversions increasing. It should also make it easier to reach your target audiences. If you are increasing your social media presence and producing consistent content, then your target audience is more likely to find your brand. 

Additionally, with the increase in backlinks and mentions, you should also be able to reach new audiences. People are always keen to share thought leadership content, so it’s likely your output will get viewed by new customers. 

Giphy clip of Connell from the TV program 'Normal People' saying "yeah, i'm aware."

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Build trust 

Trust is super important in the customer journey. Without trust, people will not invest their money or time into your service or product. It’s hard to build and easy to lose. If you are speaking with authority on a subject, people will listen. 

With trust and good experience comes brand loyalty. Having returning customers that sing your praises can work wonders for your business. 

60% of buyers say thought leadership lends credibility to a brand they don't know.

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Build your personal brand

Having a strong and recognizable personal brand is important. How will anybody remember you if you’re a run-of-the-mill, sit-on-the-fence kind of business owner? Interest is generated when you push boundaries, encourage new ideas, and voice your own opinions. 

It’s riskier than following the trends, but the payoff is worth it. If you know what you’re talking about and you’ve done your research, then there isn’t much risk involved. 

Improve user experience

Ultimately, all of these benefits will improve your user experience. The more practice you have in creating thought leadership content, the more educated you’ll be in your industry. 

This has a knock-on effect of positively influencing your content marketing efforts, customer service, sales, and pretty much every aspect of a business. Your user experience will become smoother as you incorporate this strategy into the way your business runs. 

Essential practices to build your thought leadership campaign

If you’re just starting your thought leadership program, or you feel like your existing one could use a little sprucing, there are a few essential practices to follow. 

Carry out original research

Carrying out original research is key. It’s all well and good to have great ideas, but if they’re not backed up by facts and data, they’ll lose their value. And your audience will lose trust. In fact, a huge 75% of U.S. adults believe data-backed content is more trustworthy than without. 

It may seem counterproductive to use other people’s statistics and ideas within a thought leadership piece. However, it’s quite the opposite. As long as you are building on your original idea, then it’ll only improve its quality. 

Strong market research, leads to thought leadership content, which leads to the status of thought leader. Thought leader then leads to expert ideas and input, which feeds back into market research.

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Here are a few key tips to follow when using research:

  • Look at the date: Referencing outdated content invalidates your work. We know how quickly things change. So ensure you’re using the most up-to-date statistics and articles you can find. It may take a little extra searching, but it’ll be worth it. Bonus points if you find an article that’s constantly updated. 
  • Website credibility: The best kinds of companies to reference are other thought leaders. They’ll be well respected within your industry community, and the content is likely to be high quality and well-researched. It’s important to remember that you’re potentially sending your audience to any website you link to. So avoid spammy, ad-filled sites.

Presence and engagement on social media platforms

This is a super important one. You may be producing the most innovative and exciting pieces of content. But if no one sees them, then your time has been wasted. By building a presence on social media, you can share your content and discuss it with your followers. 

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A strong presence will also help build your persona as a thought leader. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Respond to comments: To be a thought leader, your brand must be human. This means responding to comments and conversations in real-time. By clarifying your company’s viewpoints, your opinions will feel more trustworthy and believable. 
  • Respond to DMs: If one of your followers has taken the time to private or direct message you, respect it. Take the time to respond, addressing the queries or points and stating your opinion. This will also help to build a good reputation. 
  • Offer your opinion on trending topics: As a thought leader, you want people to turn to you when a topic starts to trend. So be hot on following the latest news and events and quick to tweet your response or even create a piece of content based on the topic. This will help your brand remain relevant in a constantly changing environment.

Plan speaking engagements

Virtual and digital presence is all well and good. But if people don’t see who you really are, they’ll find it difficult to relate to your brand. This is why in-person speaking engagements are a great opportunity to demonstrate the originality and authority your company holds in the industry. 

Podcasts are a great medium to do just that. They are accessible, entertaining, and popular. There are thousands of podcasts out there, and hundreds for each industry. So, do your research first and find out which one would suit you best. Consider the demographics of the listeners, the popularity, and the interview style. 

Other opportunities, like giving talks at events, can really boost your credibility. It can be daunting to step out of digital marketing and into real events, but it’s completely worth it. If they are recorded for publication on YouTube, even better. Think how quickly TED Talks took off, and now the speakers are all examples of great thought leaders.

Giphy clip of Monica from Friends shouting "I'm engaged" on a balcony.

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Offer a unique perspective on forums

It’s not all about constantly creating content. A large element of thought leadership strategy is maintaining the status through communications and brand presence. Forums are a great medium for this. 

By joining forums focused on your industry expertise, you can keep on top of current conversations and trends while offering your unique insight. These communities are extremely valuable, as they are often populated by CEOs and business leaders. 

If you build a strong and consistent presence, they will recognize your brand as credible and trustworthy. This will hopefully result in an increase in backlinks (external websites linking to your content), which will increase your domain rating (a metric determining how likely a page is to rank in search engine results pages). It’ll also help build brand awareness so your company is recognized within your industry. 

Check out the following forums and see if they’re right for you:

  • LinkedIn
  • Quora
  • EntrepreneurFix
  • Startups.com
  • BizWarriors
  • Reddit
  • Medium
  • Retire at 21

Every day, millions of people around the world post, vote, and comment in communities organized around their interests.

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Curated content

Curating content can be just as effective as creating it if you also offer your opinion. By choosing the best articles to share and commenting on them, people will recognize you as an authority, someone who knows their sources and knows what’s important. 

You can also use content curation for learning in your business. There is always room for improvement, so if your team is constantly reading and sharing content within your industry, they will gain a deeper understanding of the business through different perspectives. This will help inform your thought leadership pieces. 

Call to actions are super important to add to curated content. They provide the opportunity for readers to click through to your website from other companies’ content. Without a call to action, you’re pretty much promoting other people’s work without any benefit. If your followers enjoy the content you shared, the CTA will remind them that your brand suggested it—indicating that you’re a thought leader. 

Boost your conversions by sharing curated content. Add a call-to-action to every link you share entirely on autopilot.

Luckily for you, Quuu can take care of the curating side of things for you. We will send you high-quality content related to your industry every day for you to curate. We can even automate it and share to your socials without you having to give it a second thought. Alongside this, you can customize personalized CTAs for every piece of content shared to drive traffic back to your site. Too good to be true? Try it out and see for yourself.

Optimize content for SEO 

When it comes to publishing thought leadership pieces digitally, you need to ensure it is optimized. This means focusing on SEO (search engine optimization) to make sure:

  • Your domain rating increases: This is a metric that predicts how likely your website is to show up on SERPs (search engine results pages). The higher your domain rating, the more likely your content is to show up on the first page of Google if the keyword is searched for. Less than 10% of people click through to the second page of Google, so you want to aim for the highest domain rating possible.
  • You attract consistent traffic: Without visitors to your website, your thought leadership pieces will go to waste. In order to achieve thought leader status within your industry, your company needs to be visible. Ranking in organic searches is the best way to do that, which is why SEO is essential. 

You’ll be able to tell if your SEO efforts are successful by monitoring metrics like organic traffic, referring domains, and keyword rankings. Here are a few top tips to improve:

  • Keep your content updated and relevant, so you maintain your credibility. 
  • Make sure your site is mobile-friendly so it is accessible to more users.
  • Add internal links to content to keep people on your website for longer.
  • Work on a good backlink strategy. The more referring domains, the more domain authority. 
  • Improve website loading speed to ensure the user experience is positive.
  • Add alt text to visuals in content to make it accessible for search engines and those using screen readers.

Includes update existing content, optimize images, decrease load times, use internal linking, improve local SEO and make sure your site is mobile friendly.

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Examples of thought leadership

Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is a classic and well-known example of a thought leader. His podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, is often ranked #1 in the business genre on Apple. He focuses on routines and top tips to make people’s lives easier. 

He is considered a thought leader because he throws himself into new hobbies, new habits, and new environments in order to learn about them and form his own opinion. This is ultimately why he’s been so successful. He applies this tactic to entrepreneurship, writing, investing, recording, and more. 

Magazine front cover depicting Tim Ferriss as a super human, saying he has a 4 hour plan to make you stronger, faster, and smarter.

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Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is an author and inspirational speaker. He has published books, created podcasts, videos, and just about any type of content you can think of. Sinek now offers classes and coaching to share his optimistic outlook on life. 

He is described as a “visionary thinker”, meaning the ideas he shares with the world are about how to create positive changes in society. This is why he is a successful thought leader. His opinions and solutions are original and innovative, making him a well-known figure in the industry. Check out his famous “Start with Why” TED Talk to see for yourself.

"There is an entire section in the bookshop called self help, but there is no section called help others. We are helping to build the help others industry_ and it starts with optimism."

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Susan Cain

Susan Cain came to fame through her representation of people who identified as introverts. Through scientific research and personal experience, she shed light on what many people were feeling and thinking but were unable to verbalize. 

For this reason, her TED Talks have garnered a lot of attention and praise. She has also released books exploring the topic further, establishing her status as a thought leader.

Conclusion

If you are not incorporating a thought leadership strategy into your marketing efforts, you could be missing out on the credibility your company deserves. Tapping into new audiences, building a name for yourself, and earning authority in your industry will all be invaluable to your company. 

Thought leadership content might take a little longer to create. However, it’s worth the effort. You’ll notice an increase in conversions, website traffic, and followers. So, what are you waiting for? If you follow our essential practices to build your strategy, you should get there in no time. 

Have you tried thought leadership before? Was it successful? If not, compare your strategy to our top tips and see what’s missing.