The phrase “thought leadership” is definitely corporate jargon. But underneath, it’s actually a marketing strategy to help define how you want to show up to your target audiences.
Does this sound like you?
OK! Then you’re in the right place.
Thought leadership combines big ideas, a clear perspective, and distinctive insights about a particular industry or topic to offer authentic value to an audience outside of a sales pitch. That’s the key: True thought leaders offer helpful, unique information without being self-promotional.
Thought leadership usually falls into five categories:
And common outputs for thought leaders include:
This is often passed through a sieve of your own personal perspective and experience, sometimes known as the earned secret. At its core, here’s what it means:
You did something in your past to solve a hard problem and learned something about the world that not a lot of other people know.
This is shorthand for having a unique point of view, experience, or resources on a topic that only you can share. Not a small ask, but one that you can accomplish.
While top-of-funnel marketing casts a wide net, thought leadership can bring people back into the mix when it’s time to make a buying decision (and can be used for lead scoring in between). Why? Thought leadership builds trust by educating and assisting people without a quid pro quo. Readers and listeners can access expert insight without laying all their cards on the table.
And as you get better at sharing your helpfulness with your audience, you’ll naturally increase organizational awareness and ultimately bring in more leads. That’s why this is an earned marketing strategy. Though thought leadership doesn’t take off overnight, it’s a marketing strategy that keeps on giving. And it can be a great addition to your inbound marketing efforts, too.
Here’s where the real work starts. With a little investigating and a whole lot of reflection, you can create a stable of thought leadership topics to pull from.
Much like carving out your competitive edge, defining your voice will set you apart from the pack. There are a lot of insurance experts, but how can you position yourself as someone driving the industry forward? Consider what about your experience sets you apart from your peers. Maybe it’s your career path, maybe it’s a big milestone, or it could even be an experience that went wrong.
And in a similar vein, refine your perspective. Thought leadership doesn’t need to be contrarian or combative, but it can’t be bland. And it doesn’t have to be stuffy, either! You can be your human self.
Remember this: Thought leadership is, in essence, your opinion. By design, it won’t be for everyone. Coined purposeful provocation, you need to be OK with potentially ruffling a few feathers.
Pay attention to what your customers are asking you, what prospects want during sales meetings, and what commenters are saying on social media (and if they are on your social pages, please respond to them!).
For a low-lift way to discover questions and topics, try entering a search in google and see what populates in the auto-fill text. If you want to take it a step further, try free tools like Google Trends or Ahrefs keyword generator (which offers questions, too).
Keep an ear to the ground on what’s happening within the insurance — and adjacent — industries, too. Is there new legislation in your state? How will it impact people now, and down the road? Use the news to develop your own forecast grounded in your experience.
Brains love stories. We’re hardwired to — beginning, middle, and end with people, places, and things. It’s much easier to recall a story since it evokes an emotional response. By creating your thought leadership with a narrative thread, you can weave a tale of an idea, setback, bootstrapping, and success (or lesson learned). Entire groups of people have leveraged this type of thought leadership into full-blown careers (motivational keynote speakers, we’re looking at you).
Apply this lens to develop your answers to those questions above. Sometimes it’s adversity, sometimes it’s humor, sometimes it’s shock, and sometimes it’s awe. Or maybe all of them at once. But it has to be true. Otherwise, your push for building trust and authenticity with your audience will slide right off the rails.
Don’t shy away from pulling in third-party sources and data to back up your perspective. This helps build trust, too.
If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, try this.
Swap out those brackets with an experience true to you. And then see where it leads you. As you work your new thought leadership muscle, you’ll continue to reap the rewards long after you click publish.