Establishing your company as a thought leader provides benefits beyond what a marketing or advertising program can deliver on its own. As a thought leader, your company will gain credibility in the market and become a trusted advisor and partner. Potential customers will gravitate toward your products and services. Journalists will seek you out for quotes. Analysts will call you for your expert opinion. Industry Web sites will link to you.

While it’s a compelling list of benefits, what exactly does it mean to be a thought leader? And how does your company gain a thought leadership position?

Granted, thought leadership is a buzzword. But like many buzzwords, there is relevance behind it. Thought leadership means having a reputation in the market as a company with unique, innovative, and important ideas about your industry, the forces shaping it, the challenges facing it, and the future awaiting it. Any size company can become a thought leader; you don’t need to be big.

While thought leadership is not a strategic objective on its own, it supports and fulfills other objectives such as lead generation, growth of market share, or increase of share price—or all of these simultaneously.

Thought leadership starts with a point of view

To build your company’s reputation as a thought leader, ensure that you have a specific point of view. You can’t simply parrot what others are saying about your industry and market; there’s nothing special or worth paying attention to in that.

Therefore, your first task is to understand your point of view by answering questions such as:

  • What’s your company’s position on how the industry is changing? What new challenges will customers face?
  • How is technological innovation shaping your industry? What innovations do you see coming?
  • What’s your company’s approach to helping the marketplace understand and overcome challenges? What differentiates your company’s position from others?

The thing about having a point of view is that it’s yours. Your view may not be unassailable—in fact, it can’t be, otherwise you’re saying the same thing as everyone else. You need an edge, but not an “out there” edge. Your point of view must be respected and you must back it up.

Offer value, spread the word
Once your company establishes its point of view, you should articulate it by developing valuable, educational content. This is where your library of articles, white papers, Webcasts, podcasts, blogs, and videos take over to demonstrate your expertise and experience.

As far as spreading the word, put your marketing acumen to work. It’s important to use the right media to reach your audience. In the industrial sector, that means concentrating a lot of your efforts online.

Start by identifying and getting to know the important editors, blogs, e-newsletters, and Web sites in your industry. Offer to provide articles and other content. Seek out industry events that may offer speaking opportunities and pitch a compelling idea for a presentation. Make your executives available for media interviews. Sponsor industry events. If you haven’t considered e-events, put them on your list as they are growing in popularity with the industrial audience.

Finally, stick with it and track your progress. Positioning your company as a thought leader requires a long term commitment. It takes time for the word to spread and your reputation to grow. Discover what type of content your audience finds most relevant by tracking downloads and views, and then use this data to help guide future content creation and media choices.

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