Recently I ran a poll on one of the social networking sites on whether thought leadership or positioning should be a function of marketing or strategy or both. The result showed that while an equal number chose either marketing or strategy, an overwhelming majority chose both.
So the question is why thought leadership is so critical to both marketing and strategy?
Whenever an organization or individual advocates an innovative thought, solution or approach towards important and sometimes complex situations, they are demonstrating thought leadership. Due to the enormous influence of the media especially social media, companies today can influence and target specific audience, industries and locations with their message. The crux lies in being able to create interesting, compelling thought leadership that can influence agendas and create new standards in the market.
While a reputation for extensive domain knowledge and credibility may produce sales leads, restricting thought leadership to a lead generation tool will not tap into its full potential. Thought leadership was never meant to be a sales function. Rather, it is a way to demonstrate knowledge of industry or business issues and provide solutions in order to build a relationship with potential clients beyond just product information. Thought leadership became a way to build trust and interest among customers by engaging with them, articulating their issues and proving that the organization can go beyond the solution specifications and help resolve business needs.
However, thought leadership is more than just providing information. It focuses on educating people on the new trends in the industry, problems they may face and how to address those problems. Instead of simply selling a solution, thought leadership helps people understand what they really require. By engaging and stimulating a dialogue with prospective clients, an organization can build credibility and form relationships thereby establishing itself as an expert in the field.
While there are many benefits to thought leadership, it is the strategy team that relies on insightful, provocative and compelling ideas to remain at the forefront of business thought. The full potential of thought leadership is leveraged by producing well-researched articles on the right topics and positioning the company at the leading edge of industry trends. This can not only be an alternative to traditional advertising, but by targeting peer groups and specific people, organizations have an opportunity to frame the way people think and guide their choices.
Thought leadership is no less vital for the marketing function in an organization. Leveraging a deep understanding of your client’s business and markets through thought leadership creates unique differentiators that translate into significant competitive advantage. Another important result of thought leadership is that it inspires trust in potential customers. Trust, is a coveted factor in marketing relationships as it increases the organization’s value proposition. Clients that understand the industry through the thought leadership of the organization, value the shared experience and wisdom as part of the overall relationship.
Therefore, merely viewing thought leadership as a sales enabling tool or restricting its activity to one function will not unlock its full potential. While strategy decides the kind of thought leadership necessary and where to use it, marketing takes it to the customer and creates relationships with them hence a marriage of both is inevitable!