Your company likely has lofty goals related to generating leads, increasing revenue, and growing market share. These are essential and challenging goals regardless of the state of the industrial economy, and one of the best ways to support these goals is to establish your company as an industry thought leader.
Thought leadership means having a reputation in the market as a company with unique, innovative, and important ideas about your industry. It means you can understand and articulate the forces shaping your industry, the challenges facing it, and the future awaiting it. The good news is that any sized company can become a thought leader; you don’t need to be big.
If your company is a thought leader, the entire market — including customers and potential customers — will look upon you as experts. Everyone wants to work with experts. Customers will gravitate toward your products and services because your leadership and expertise in the industry helps reduce their fear of making the wrong purchase decision. In addition, media and industry analysts will seek out your company for interviews and quotes, helping to raise your company’s visibility even further.
Positioning your company as a thought leader generally involves three broad steps: establishing a point of view, developing content, and spreading the word.
Point of View
Establishing a point of view consists of taking a unique and relevant position within your industry. Maybe your company has progressive beliefs about your industry that other companies do not. Or perhaps you predict that your industry is changing in specific ways. Or maybe you understand new challenges customers will face and how to solve them, or you see new technical innovations on the horizon.
Each of these areas can be the foundation for a thought leadership point of view. The important aspects of your point of view are that it must be relevant to your audience, offer a new way of thinking or a new solution to an emerging problem, and be defensible in terms of having supporting evidence to validate your position.
Don’t think of point of view as being a grandiose vision; rather, a point of view should be practical and realistic. You should be able to talk about ideas and strategies that are achievable and can be implemented.
Once you have established your thought leadership point of view, you should develop content to help you articulate your position to your audience. The key here is to create relevant educational content and stay away from sales-oriented or promotional content that hawks your company, products, and services. The market is looking for — and will respect — genuine objectivity when it comes to industry experts.
A few core pieces can provide the basis for a multitude of useful, educational material. For example, the key messages from a white paper or executive brief can be re-purposed and re-used into webcasts, bylined articles, blog posts, videos, and more. Once you create content, your goal is to make it freely available and get it into as many people’s hands as possible. You could add a thought leadership section to your web site.
Spreading the Word
Put marketing acumen to work to spread the word on your thought leadership position. Use the same media channels your audience is using, which in the industrial sector means concentrating most of your efforts online because the vast majority of the industrial audience has migrated online to discover work-related information.
An essential strategy in spreading the word is getting to know the important editors, bloggers, and e-newsletter and web site publishers in your industry. You can offer to provide articles, guest posts, and other content. You can make your company’s executives available for media interviews or try to get them speaking engagements at industry events.
You should consider sponsoring online events, which are growing in popularity and are a highly-respected venue where your audience seeks educational information and networking opportunities. You can also host your own executive seminars, roundtables, and panel discussions — both online or at in-person events.
A final note of advice: establishing your company as a thought leader takes time. You can’t become a recognized industry expert overnight, but it will be time and resources well invested when you begin to see the dividends of increased market attention for your company.
Ready to get started? Read GlobalSpec’s white paper: “How to Become an Industry Thought Leader in the Online Era.”