Friday, November 9, 2012

Thought Leadership as a Core Marketing Platform

Thought leadership is an excellent business tactic. Thought leaders are often people or organizations that are innovative and share these ideas through publications, presentations, and social media. They are considered an authority on a specialized topic area, either by possessing great expertise or having become the leader in a segment.

The textbook definition of a “Thought Leader” is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.

In lamens terms, we’re talking about “brilliance.” What’s essential to understand is that brilliance doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it’s a total waste of time to debate whether it’s authentic or not. Brilliance is a function of acclaim, created where others bestow the accolades.

The concept of building thought leadership as a platform for marketing is strange because so many companies use thought leadership as a complement. “Here’s why we think we’re experts, so we wrote about it.” Shifting the mindset to using thought leadership as a foundation means that you’re developing expertise at the core of your business: through your products, service, technology, and more.

Thought leadership is should be intentional, not an afterthought. In school, you learn marketing should be integrated throughout the business. How you ship something is a marketing opportunity. How customer service answers the phone is a marketing opportunity. Where you source your goods is a marketing opportunity. The reality of business is that we hardly ever think of marketing in such a holistic manner.

Understandably, businesses don’t always have perfect examples like the one above where there’s a chance at holistic marketing. In fact, the role of CMO is still considered fairly new in industry, so many decisions are made without marketing consideration. If thought leadership is supposed to be a platform for a firm’s brand and position in the marketplace, companies must start thinking about the holistic approach.

To make thought leadership a platform for marketing, here are Creative Innovations’ tips to get started:

• Revisit the company brand: Is your brand saying everything you want? Is it clear? Has it changed over time?

• Do an audit: Look at your assets, everything from website to packaging, and see what you have. Catalog what you’ve been producing and start categorizing the messages.

• Begin to calibrate: Did someone push out an infographic cause it might be cool? Has your twitter account been closed down for days? Do your luxury products get delivered in dented boxes? Assess how far off from your desired brand your assets currently are.

• Develop thought leadership everywhere: Make your big ideas central to the business, not just messages to share quarterly.

Thought leadership encourages you to take a position on something, and so it’s an opportunity to implement that through the business. Be the authority, don’t just tell us.