What is “Thought Leadership” and What Does it Mean to My Brand?

I first heard the term “Thought Leadership” about four years ago from my friend and online mentor, Paul Barron.  Paul has been establishing “Thought Leadership” far longer than most of us has been on the web.  Paul was one of the first bloggers on the internet, blog about the food industry.

I remember him telling me “it’s not about selling on the internet, everyone’s doing that.”  His strategy was instead of telling everyone how smart he was and what he could do, he proved it by sharing information that would help the reader do something better, become more efficient and effective. It seemed odd to me at first, that by simply sharing some thoughts or links one could establish such a position in the marketplace.  But it works! Assuming of course that you actually KNOW something about which you speak, or write or shoot on video.

If you look around the web today, there is no shortage of people and their “how-to’s”, “to-do’s” and “whereto’s.”  They’re realized that by sharing knowledge people will take favor with what they have to say.  The goal of course being that when the time comes, you get the opportunity.  I can tell you unequivocally it has worked for me.  Most of my new clients come from call-ins as I’m simply too busy to make outbound sales calls any longer. And I haven’t called and asked for business from anyone for probably two years!  Just two months ago, about an hour after one of my monthly emails went out I got a call from the owner of a dealership in a major market exclaiming “it’s time for me to do this.” And we were off and running!

He had been seeing my marketing materials, the posts I’ve written here, on my website, perhaps through my Twitter account or through industry groups I belong to via LinkedIn. And when the time came for him to take action and begin proactively market his business, I was one that came to mind. But what is a person to share? Doesn’t it go against the grain of sharing our knowledge base with potential competitors?

I would never suggest revealing trade secrets or other proprietary information in mass media. But there are many ways to help your customers and prospects run their businesses better by simply sharing knowledge that you and your competitors already know, but no one is discussing, right? In the industry I serve (material handling) there are tons of things to share like;

  • How to inspect brakes, when should they be replaced?
  • How to perform proper service?
  • The difference between OEM, reman.,and aftermarket parts.
  • What proper safety training looks like.

There are many, many topics you could think of on your own by soliciting the advice of the pros within your business, namely your department managers and ask “what could we share that would provide benefit, without tipping our hat to any proprietary processes or information we possess?” The answers might astound you. Where and how to share, though?

I like blogs just like this! You can organize your entries and categorize them, tag them and tweet them using your Twitter account. Then by linking your blog back to your website your organic search ranking will improve as now you have an inbound link to your website that’s full of valuable and recent content matching the content of your website, or complementing it.

Share your information on LinkedIn by joining some of the groups that your customers and prospect belong to and start conversations of your own within the group.  Answer pertinent questions within these groups, and begin to show those in the group that you are out there on the leading edge of being a “go to” resource to improve their businesses.

Social Media, email campaigns, your website and direct mail are all great vehicles to spread your knowledge around. By working them all together you build a web of constantly changing and growing information to help your customers and prospects. All of which will eventually lead them to one conclusion, when the next need arises, you have to be one of the calls they make.

Oh and as for Paul Barron? Well you can Google him to find that he IS the face of Fast Casual restaurants, just published his book “The Chipotle Effect” and has nearly 75,000 followers on Twitter, of which I am one!

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