Insight November 6, 2019

How to Be an Approachable Expert: A Guide to “Thought Leadership”


thought leadership“Thought leadership” may sound like business jargon. But authentic thought leadership is more than a buzzword. It helps you build your brand, inspire trust, and influence purchase decisions.

People buy from companies, but they work with people. Thought leadership is designed to humanize your brand.  It helps you build a relationship in the digital age, where there are fewer opportunities to interact face-to-face. Once you become a thought leader, you (and your company) become the go-to source for answers. The place people look to first, confident that they can trust what you say will.

Building that trust can take time, but it’s worth the effort. In an Edelman and LinkedIn survey, 82% of business decision makers said that thought leadership has increased their trust in an organization. Almost half (45%) said that thought leadership has directly led them to do business with a company.

Authenticity in Thought Leadership

So, how do you achieve authentic thought leadership? It’s easier than you might think.

Write content that adds value. Thought leadership isn’t a sales pitch. The purpose of the content you put out there isn’t to make a direct sale. Your only goal is to share helpful, informative content that helps your customers along the buying journey.

Think about your target audience and their path to purchasing your product or service. Is there a common pain point? Are customers asking the same questions? One great strategy that many thought leaders use is to resolve unanswered questions that might hinder someone on their path to purchase.

If you can figure out what your readers need to know and give it to them without pushing your own product in the process, they begin to associate your business with interesting content and impartial advice. That’s how you start to build trust.

Where to Share Your Insights

A few great places to start sharing your insights include:

  • Blog content
  • Contributed content
  • LinkedIn Pulse articles by executives
  • Twitter chats
  • Social media (sharing insight posts with commentary)
  • Speaking engagements

Share timely, relevant content. Buyers are trying to gather information that convinces them to purchase one product over another. Generally, they don’t trust sales reps to provide that information. Too many overly aggressive sales pitches or exaggerated claims have made buyers skeptical.

Sharing relevant content is a first step toward showing potential customers that you can be a valuable resource. When you find a new article or study that you want to share, it’s important to vet it. Does the research come from a source you trust? Is the content timely, or has it been a few years since it was published? How does it connect with the purchase process your potential customers face?

If you share indiscriminately without vetting the content, you can actually do more harm than good. So when you share content, make sure that you trust the source. It also helps to add some context for your audience. When you share a quote or a statistic from a recent article, write a few sentences connecting the content with what is currently going on in your industry.

Show (don’t tell) people that you’re approachable. When you set out to become a thought leader, you need to be open to engagement. It’s essential to engage with potential customers as often as possible and wherever they are. Join the social platforms where your target audience tends to congregate and stay active.

Your social strategy should include consistently providing links to compelling, relevant content. It shows that you know great insight when you see it — and demonstrates that you’re not afraid to share the spotlight with other thought leaders.

Still, true thought leadership includes that unique perspective that you bring to a topic. Make sure you chime in on discussions about your industry. Comment on posts by potential customers and other thought leaders. Share your insights and answer questions. The goal is to show people that you’re open to interactions, receptive to their questions, and always happy to share what you know.