Thought Leadership is near and dear to my B2B Marcom heart. Bottom line, it gets to The Ultimate Question pretty effectively. If your target audience perceives you as the thought leader, it means that you are held in high esteem - and that your goods and services are thought of similarly. It's the step right before SALES leadership.
Friend, and marketing thought leader, Dana VanDen Heuvel, just posted an article on MarketingProfs Daily Fix, titled:Thought Leadership Remains Important for B2B in 2009. He flatters me by including a little of my thinking - but that's not the point. In this article, Dana provides ample data and info supporting the trends in thinking regarding Thought Leadership marketing. I recommend you read this brief posting.
This background info gets me to my point - and, again, it's all about Dana (I DID say "thought leader"). Dana recently posted on the topic of The Thought Leadership Marketing Equation on the MarketingSavant website. While the article doesn't really deliver a true mathematical equation, it is so ACTIONABLE, USEABLE, and VALUABLE (the Holy Grail). Here is why.
First, it concisely reviews and defines "thought leadership", including this "nails it" quote:
"Successful thought leadership is about creating exceptional content that provides insight into business issues. That's what makes executive buyers choose one firm over another."
– Joyce Renney, Associate Director Lighthouse
Then, it describes HOW thought leadership works, complete with a helpful graphic (pictured above) - the equation - which is actually a process. The process begins with you, the B2B Marketing leader, and your organization, having aPoint of View. Dana says, "the effective expression of a unique and valuable point of view is the proverbial spark that starts the thought leadership marketing fire."
Next, Dana's process leads us to Share of Voice, which he defines as, "a brand's or group of brands' weight or ratio of communication vis-à-vis their competitors, expressed as a percentage of a defined total market or market segment in a given time period." Now THAT's an equation! And it makes perfect sense.
Following is Share of Mind which leads to the out desired outcome of Share of Market.
Dana wraps things up by listing nine highly-desirable outcomes of an effective thought leadership program, including my favs:
- Adding unmatched value to proposals and presentations
- Leveraging your competence and differentiation
Dana's work is useable as it guides brainstorming, thinking, list making, task building, assignments, and actions. This equation/process can be at the heart of any organization's efforts at considering, evaluating, or implementing a thought leadership effort.
Dana and I MAY differ a bit in one aspect of the thinking. He feels that Point of View requires the view to be unique. I agree that this is highly desirable at all times, and required for long-term sustainability of the thought leader mantle. But I feel that, even when your POV is not unique, you can still acquire thought leadership status by being the organization actually making the point. If you can get associated with the point (and vice versa) , acquiring or commanding the lion's share of voice on that point, you can earn the highest share of mind. Dana's position is preferred, but I think there is an application for the equation/process even without that uniqueness, on occasion.
I am very eager to hear your comments on this topic - so fire away.