Are You a Thought Leader? Ask Yourself These Questions

Thought leadership marketing actively positions you or your organization as an authority, a resource, and a trusted advisor on issues of importance to your audience. This positioning is accomplished using a variety of media, including books, newsletters, blogs, e-mail, events…. It allows you to earn their trust and build credibility and recognition differentiating yourself as one who clearly understands their business.

Ask yourself these questions to help determine the “thought leadership quotient” of your organization. Score 1 – 5, with 1 being “agree the least” and 5 “agree the most”.

1.  People use the term “expert” when describing you or your firm.

Thought leaders are considered experts and trusted advisors within their industry and in their community. How do people describe you and your firm? Have you established and published your unique point of view to help establish you preeminence?

2.  You have a “conversational marketing” attitude rather than a “sales first” attitude.

You are earning trust with your intellectual capital and you see the purpose of your organization as being a useful and helpful advisor to your customers. Thought leaders participate in conversational marketing 

3.  Your marketing materials say more about your clients work than yours.

For an executive to even consider reading a thought leadership tweet, blog post, whitepaper or any other form of content, they need to recognize it instantly as saying something about their work and the challenges that they face. Thought leadership is NOT talking about

4.  You strive to know your clients’ industries as well as they do.

Industry knowledge and vision are hallmarks of great thought leaders. Your job is to help shape the discussion within an industry that you serve. Thought leadership requires both a deep understanding and the long-view perspective on challenges that your clients and prospects face now and will face in the future.

5.  You are publishing, not perishing.

This is one absolute must in thought leadership. You must be publishing. Some firms that excel as thought leaders publish hundreds of blog posts per year and actively participate in their client’s industry dialogue on a regular basis.

6.  You are considered “honest, trustworthy and selfless”.

We’ve entered the era of Marketing 3.0 where customers no longer buy just on product benefits or relationships. They’re looking for greater personal fulfillment from brands and are migrating their business to brands that exhibit characteristics like "honest and trustworthy" and "acts in the customer’s best interests."

7.  You are considered in the top 3 picks for your products/services by your target audience.

Thought leaders are almost always considered as one of the top three suppliers or solution providers to your target markets.  As Jack Welch said “When you’re number four or five in a market, when number one sneezes, you get pneumonia. When you’re number one, you control your destiny.”

8.  You command higher prices and fees for your products or work.

Profit margin is a good indicator of thought leader status. Thought leaders in any industry command a price premium based on the credibility and preeminence they’ve established in the market. You also find clients reaching decisions with far less negotiation.

9.  You impact the decision even if you don’t get the business.

While there is a commercial necessity for all businesses who seek to achieve thought leader status, the share of voice and influence that thought leaders cast over entire industries should influence a prospect’s ultimate purchase decision (and may continue to influence well after the decision is made). There are myriad long-term benefits to thought leadership preeminence even if you score a “loss” today.

10.  Your compelling point of view creates coherency out of marketplace chaos.

Perhaps the most critical difference between a thinker and a thought leader is the compelling, public point of view espoused by the thought leader. You should be considered a source of precision and clarity for clients.

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