March 25, 2023

expressed opinion entrepreneur Contributors are their own.

Your thought leadership may not be on target.

New research shows that almost three quarters of buyers At least half of the thought leadership they consume is worthless. However, in the same research sample, nearly half purchased from an unknown company because of its thought leadership.

This difference raises huge questions and risks about the difference between mediocrity and great thought leadership. In my experience, the answer boils down to five characteristics. Here’s what they mean and how to use them to improve results.

Related: How to Harness the Power of Thought Leadership Marketing

1. Teach, not sell

Think about who you trust. Does that person want to see your life improve for nothing in return? Or, does the individual need to be compensated before investing in your growth?

The most trusted brands educate their audiences without expecting immediate profits. They play the role of professors rather than salesmen. While sales reps offer value in exchange for monetary benefits, teachers only ask for participation and application.

Often, the former sees better results than the latter.In B2B, customers spend the same six months change suppliers during their buying process and approximately every five yearsa patient and methodical approach proves to be more effective than a short-term focus.

That’s not to say your content shouldn’t sell – it should. But it’s a matter of time. Potential clients seek thought leadership to learn. This happens early in their buying journey (aka “top of the funnel”), when they may not be fully aware of their problem or the solutions available to them.

Educate your audience:

1. Meet your client at point A. To do this, use the voice of customer data, internal learning, and external research to build buyer personas for your audience. This role should include attributes important to your business and define at least:

  1. pain
  2. desire
  3. motivating factor
  4. failed solution
  5. belief
  6. decision barriers

2. Provide content that takes them from point A to point B. Once you have defined your buyer personas, you will know who your potential customers are and where they stand. You can then develop the thought leadership of meeting them at point A and transfer them to point B.

Point A might be making you aware of their problem – or it might be introducing a solution.

Related: Buyer Personas: What They Are, Why They Matter and How to Best Build One

2. Take a stand

Do you trust people who have nothing and are hesitant to take a side on an issue? Or someone with consistent, clear and uncompromising views?

Trust requires consistency and reliability. By reliability, I mean knowing that someone believed (and will continue to believe) something. By building your belief system, communicating it to your prospects, and committing to action, you can give your customers a foothold to trust you.

If their views align with yours, they will. If not, they move on.

Taking a stand creates a binary decision that is very valuable to your business. You stop wasting your time with prospects who stay because they don’t fully understand you. Instead, you focus your scarce resources—time, talent, and capital—on those prospects who buy into your philosophy, the ones most likely to close and renew.

Take a stand:

  1. provocative. Your business exists to challenge the status quo. Accept the role. Point out the dangers of inertia and why alternative solutions are insufficient.
  2. flesh out your logic. Clearly communicate not only what you believe, but also why you believe it. Provide your potential clients with the complete context relevant to your position.
  3. rely on your research. Support the claim to demonstrate the credibility of your views and expertise.

Related: 11 Ways to Build Thought Leadership with Your Personal Brand

3. Support your claims

Experts do not comment.The views they make are based on Research, data and proven experience. As a result, they gain trust and confidence through authority.

total 80% of B2B prospects Brands are required to validate their thought leadership with the support of a trusted third party. Given the amount of content they generate each day, it’s no surprise that they feel that way. Trust requires not just your words, but the voices of many.

Back up your content with research:

  1. Cite your source. Where appropriate, link to your independent research. You can also mention your source explicitly, but only to well-known organizations (eg “A Gartner study found…”).
  2. Change your research type and source. Include independent research and empirical evidence, such as customer case studies or internal data. Also, rely on multiple sources, not just one complete content asset.
  3. make it stand out. For numerical data, make it easier for readers to discover and digest. Use callouts to highlight data points and substantive statements.

4. Storytelling

The story appeals to emotion, which is the biggest motivator.

Storytelling also captures full attention of the audienceallow them to consider new perspectives and help them understand complex information.

But unlike a Hollywood movie, your story should position your prospect as the hero and yourself as the guide helping them on their journey. Doing so will make you a trusted advisor, personify your business, and make it transparent and relevant – all useful conditions for fostering trust.

Harness the power of stories:

  1. Create a transformation journey. Use customer case studies and anecdotes to give potential customers insight into the journey they can expect before, during, and after adopting your solution.
  2. Incorporate the founder’s story. Introduce your business’ reason for being and its heroic quest to be the partner best equipped to help your prospects reach their desired state.
  3. predict the future. Inspire excitement by fully embracing your solution to describe the potential of your prospects and the larger industry.

Related: The Value of Building Thought Leadership

5. Stay ahead

Potential clients want to buy from forward-looking organizations that are not satisfied with their current success. Complacency is a sign of a shrinking business, and it’s unlikely to remain a good partner over the average five-year duration of a B2B vendor contract we mentioned earlier.

As technology becomes more ingrained in our lives and changes at a faster rate, businesses must push aggressively to stay ahead. That means staying abreast of the latest industry findings and constantly adapting to signals that require a change of perspective.

Stay ahead:

  1. Participate in social listening. What have you heard from potential clients about their transformation journey? What did you learn from your competitors, what did they say, what did they do, and how did they interact with your prospects?
  2. Keep an eye on reliable third parties. Update support for your views with recent research from independent parties. Avoid citing old findings that call your industry awareness and engagement into question.

Putting “Leaders” in Thought Leadership

By leveraging these five characteristics of effective thought leadership, you can create the conditions that differentiate yourself from your competitors.

You can attract the attention of skeptical prospects, earn their trust and confidence, and win.

But only if you see thought leadership through the eyes of readers and what they really value: necessary transformation, as efficient and effective as possible — so help them. Infuse your content with these five traits and see the difference it makes.

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