When it comes to driving business growth, communications often play an essential role. From informative outreach to potential customers to ongoing insights to ensure current customers feel valued, communications can make the difference between a single project or purchase and the establishment of a long-term customer relationship.
While most organizations have a wealth of shareable information at their fingertips, few understand how best to communicate information to their clients and prospects in order to achieve the best results. Too many companies focus on quantity over quality – sharing too frequent, heavy handed sales pitches more likely to drive customers away than to get them to reach out for more information. Given the wealth of communications noise filling people’s email and physical mailboxes, companies need to find ways to stand out when it comes to engaging with their customers.
This is where thought leadership comes in. Thought leadership is a term that encompasses any thoughtful, compelling and insightful communications piece that is relevant to a specific industry, client or target base. Thought leadership can come in many forms – from a topical issues blog, webinar, or article in an industry magazine, to a white paper on emerging issues or a customer or industry survey. The most unique aspect of thought leadership is that it isn’t a straightforward sales pitch or product-focused brochure. It’s more of a way to engage clients and prospects on the issues and concerns keeping them up at night while showcasing your expertise and knowledge.
By becoming a trusted provider of information, insights or analysis, you can quickly become more relevant and valuable in the eyes of your clients and prospects. In turn, when they need a solution or assistance, your company will be top of mind.
In order to start a thought leadership program, consider the following three activities:
- Understand what matters most to your clients: No two companies are exactly the same – and neither are their objectives. Talk to your clients and prospects about the goals they want to achieve and the issues keeping them up at night – whether they want to manage risks more effectively, find ways to cut costs or increase revenues, expand globally, act more innovatively – or anything in between. By understanding the matters most relevant to your clients, you can develop thought leadership that speaks to those issues, giving them real insights that can help as they move ahead with their business agenda.
- Identify and engage subject matter experts (SMEs): Most organizations have a wealth of information at their fingertips – whether as a result of their day-to-day operations, through their people, or by engaging their stakeholders. Identify your available internal subject matter experts and work with them to gain additional insights into your clients’ overarching issues. Work with them to identify specific data that your organization has that could supplement their knowledge. At the same time, identify any external SMEs you might be able to engage on specific topics, such as representatives from professional associations, regulators, incubators, or different tiers of government. Don’t forget to consider engaging your leading clients on specific topics, as this can help them gain visibility.
- Develop an annual thought leadership strategy: While writing a single article or white paper might drive some attention to your organization, to be truly effective, thought leadership needs to be part of an overarching, ongoing communications strategy. Once you understand the current issues of your clients and the knowledge and expertise you can draw on to form the basis of any thought leadership pieces, work with your leadership team and SMEs to develop a strategy for creating and disseminating any materials you develop. This strategy should link directly to your business strategy in order to drive the most beneficial outcomes for both you and your clients.
When it comes to developing long-term relationships, developing a thought leadership strategy can go a long way towards helping your clients recognize you want to do more than attract their business – you want to see them succeed. In my next blog, I’ll outline how you can develop a sustainable thought leadership strategy for your organization.