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  • Writer's pictureNat Sharp

10 tips to create a thought leadership programme

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

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How does a small business create thought leadership?

With careful planning, a small business can build an engaging thought leadership programme. Too often, thought leadership doesn’t involve much thought or leadership. The most obvious mistake is when brands use it as a self-promotional story to push their products or services. Over 30% of business decision makers have removed organisations from consideration in the buying process after engaging with poor thought leadership content, according to an Edelman and LinkedIn study.

But, thought leadership can be powerful in B2B. Based on the Edelman and Linked In 2017 study, nearly half of business decision makers said thought leadership has directly led them to award business to an organisation.

So where do you start?

Here are 10 practical tips to get you started: -

1. It’s all about the theme

Start with identifying a theme. Focus on what your business is about aligning with your business proposition. Think about the problem you are you trying to solve for your customer. Focus on the strengths of your business - what are you true experts in?

2. Know your market

Begin by seeking out any research on your customer’s business priorities and challenges. Why not conduct a quick survey with your target audience and ask them topics of interest. News sites and trade associations can provide a wealth of information. See what topics they are discussing. Also look at the competition - your direct competitors and those organisations that are owning the space in your topic.

3. Benchmarking

Now you can analyse your research and create a benchmark for your own thought leadership. Identify the themes emerging and map your competition, separating the good from the bad examples. The mapping exercise will reveal where the market is flooded, and where the gaps are for you to produce something original. Think about the output and the creative execution, not just the topic itself.

4. Topic guide

Identify hot topics relevant to your theme and pertinent issues of interest to your target audience. What do they want to know about and what is going on in their world right now? Expand on this by developing your topic guide.

5. Know your experts

Now recruit experts that can provide credible insights. Find several people from your business. Are there also suppliers or partners you could link with? Consider external experts in the form of trade associations, and ask for their expert comment. This will be key if you are trying to reposition your business and enter new markets.

6. Create your calendar plan

Put together a calendar plan for the year. Remember that true thought leadership takes time to prepare so build in enough time for planning and production.

7. Invest in primary research

One of the best ways to establish authority on your topic is to produce in depth research on the subject. Undertake some research with your customers using both quantitative and qualitative techniques. Support this further with industry experts.

8. Spot the story

One of the essential ingredients for good thought leadership is the ability to tell a story to your audience. Once the research has been conducted, summarise the key findings. Start to jot down the key trends and the story you are telling. What is the beginning, middle and end?

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9. Create your assets

Consider how the thought leadership will be used and the best output to tell your story – how can you bring it to life? Will it be via a webinar, an infographic, an interview, video or a white paper? Content is best when readers can interact with it – on their own terms.

10. Start campaigning

Put together a promotional plan. Consider the touch points the thought leadership can be used. Decision makers value timeliness of thought leadership content more than pure originality of ideas so think about the purchasing process and how and when your thought leadership fits in. This will include SEO, your website, social media, marketing collateral and sales enablement tools. Also look at PR opportunities and how the thought leadership can be leveraged at events and conferences. Finally, a piece of thought leadership should not just be used once. Think about how it can repurposed at a later date.

Will you set the benchmark?

Successful thought leadership content takes time to develop and produce. Customers will be able to spot good thought leadership, so it isn’t worth taking short cuts. A more strategic approach is essential.

I hope you are now inspired to take this forward and create your own thought leadership programme. Will yours set the benchmark for future brands to follow?

If you would like more tips on what makes good thought leadership or would like a chat about how to create a thought leadership programme for your business then please contact me for a 30 minute free consultation.

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