As B2B brands and corporations continue to struggle to create differentiation and preference in a world of overcrowded under-performing brands, thought-leadership branding strategies have become a viable opportunity. We define “thought leadership” as a brand and communication strategy that positions your brand as a leading authority on a specific industry/category/subject. The intent of the strategy is to provide the audience with information and insights to make informed decisions thus earning the reputation as a trusted brand.
The challenge is that many corporations often do not clearly understand what it takes to successfully pull it off. Having recently conceptualized and successfully implemented several of these strategies for brands like American Airlines Cargo, Qualnomics, Nihon Kohden and for our own agency’s Branding Business site, we thought it was a good idea to share our thoughts on what it takes to build out a successful thought-leadership program.
Is thought-leadership positioning right for your brand?
First of all, you need to determine if a thought-leadership position is the right position for your company to pursue. It’s a big decision that ultimately drives your entire voice and marketing execution budget. Here’s a few reasons why you might want to explore this strategy.
- You’re the industry leader/expert, but your brand is currently not recognized as such.
- Your margins are eroding and your brand needs to establish a higher value proposition.
- You truly have a different point of view/business model or messaging platform that can/will change how customers think about your brand category.
- You’ve moved from a brand product sale to a consultative brand model.
Do you have the intellectual capacity to pull it off?
The desire to become a thought leader and the true capital behind it needs to be addressed. It’s not a short-term strategy you can turn on and off. It requires a serious commitment that can produce incredible gains, but you need to have an internal champion or champions of the cause to drive performance. And you need to have the internal, intellectual capital to fuel the ongoing guidance and communication. You don’t start a thought-leadership strategy with an outsource mindset. Look into the organization and determine if you have the goods to fuel the idea. Then think about how to build out a team for support and growth.
Are you willing to build out a new structure?
So often, we see marketers dive into thought leadership as if it were an advertising campaign and try and pull it off with internal resources. This is a recipe for disaster. If you decide on this strategy — you must carefully develop a well thought out structure to deliver fresh, relevant content on a consistent basis. Let’s face it, this model requires a different mindset and capabilities set. You need to have a publisher’s mindset and a social media backbone. I could base an entire post on the structural considerations, but bottom line, you need to rethink your approach, people and budget to fund such an endeavor.
So, if you’re thinking about a thought-leadership strategy, consider the strategy, content and structure to help you determine if it’s right and achievable for your brand. Tremendous gains are possible with this approach, but you have to know what you’re getting yourself into. Lastly, if you decide to move forward, here are a few tips to ensure success:
5 THOUGHT-LEADERSHIP STRATEGY SUCCESS TIPS
- Focus on specializing on one subject matter. The narrower the focus, the stronger the appeal. Create a memorable title.
- Lead the industry by providing insights, data, educational content, training components and more.
- Create a distinctive voice. Specifically develop a verbal style guide to maintain consistency.
- Only publish unique or original points of view. Be authentic and brave with the messaging. Cover topics your competitors don’t.
- Shorter is better and video is huge. Make the design appealing.
- Integrate your search engine marketing strategy, keywords, PPC strategy, social and PR efforts to optimize performance.
Take a look at the award-winning thought-leadership brand strategy we worked on for American Airlines Cargo. And if you are considering a thought-leadership brand strategy and need some support, connect with RiechesBaird.
Learn more about the author of this post, Ray Baird.