It’s no secret that content marketing can be an effective tool to generate new leads for your B2B company. Through customer research, keyword research and brand personas, your company will gain insights into who your target audience is and how you can reach them. However, the benefits don’t stop with lead generation. Content marketing is also a valuable means to elevate thought leadership. The go-to members of your business, those with ideas, opinions and insight, can establish and promote themselves as thought leaders in their industry through the use of consistent and relevant content. 

What is Thought Leadership?

A thought leader isn’t just someone who brings new practices and pursuits to their industry. They also have that title reinforced by their peers and competitors within that field. Think of it like Michael Jordan. He’s not considered the greatest basketball player of all time because he gave himself that rank. He earned that recognition by competing for championships against the likes of Magic Johnson, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley in the NBA Finals, proving his status as an all-time great player with six championships and a slew of individual accolades. 

Just as Jordan had to devote hours in the gym honing his craft to cement his place in basketball history, those who seek to become thought leaders must be ready to produce content early and often. It doesn’t happen overnight. Thought leadership, much like the practice of content marketing, is a long game that may require months or even years of hard work to achieve. The trick is not everyone can be a thought leader, nor can they pretend to be. 

What Makes Someone a Thought Leader?

Having a wealth of industry insights and experiences is an essential first step in the process of becoming a thought leader. That’s not to say that only the CEO or C-suite employees at your company can become thought leaders. Whether it’s the longest-tenured member of your team or the newest associate, anyone with advanced knowledge of their field can be a thought leader if they are able to tell stories authentically and effectively teach and help others learn. 

Keep in mind that this strategy is less about selling your company and more about proving your individual status within your industry. Think of yourself as a teacher for this business. Your job isn’t to ensure that your students think your school is the greatest; it’s to educate them. Your research into your target audience revealed the questions that others are asking. This is your opportunity to answer those questions through your content, earning the trust and respect of those in and around your field.  

How to Create Thought Leadership Content

In a world flooded with content, effective thought leadership requires creativity. Those in your B2B business’s target audience are being bombarded with information any time they surf the web, and your goal is to stand out from the crowd by educating them without requesting anything in return. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to deliver valuable information and establish a positive reputation. 

  • Company or personal blog – Thought leadership goes hand in hand with a well-published blog. Written content is an easy way to educate your audience, but don’t forget to include some personality to create a deeper connection. You’re offering yourself as much as your knowledge. 
  • Newspapers and magazines – Whether it’s a guest column or op-ed written by you or a feature article penned about your achievements, being published in a newspaper or magazine will instantly create credibility in the eyes of your audience. 
  • Speaking engagements – Any opportunity to speak at a seminar or conference should be welcomed. There’s no better way to guarantee an attentive audience filled with those in your field. 
  • Facebook Live – Live video is a valuable part of any thought leadership strategy. You’re able to connect with your audience in a way that may resonate with some members more than a blog post would, while continuing to inject your own personality with a tone of voice, facial expressions and humor. 
  • Facebook Stories – Photos, graphics and other images allow you to share information with others in a quick and easy format. It’s a nice change of pace from long-form content that promotes your creativity as well as your expertise. 

Whether it’s produced directly by you or with a team of writers, editors, producers and videographers, thought leadership content should be done in-house when possible. After all, these are your thoughts that are going to be shared with your target audience. If you lack the capacity to do it yourself, just remember that you can outsource the work but not the ideas.