Updated: May 27
Thought leadership is a means to earn customer respect and build customer relationships and trust through the output of quality blogs, videos or guides. When you set out to become a thought leader, you’re signalling, not only to your customers but your competitors also, that you are an expert in your field and that you can offer valuable insight.
What is Thought Leadership Content?
When you’re looking to buy a product or service, you will naturally gravitate to the sites that you trust and are familiar with, and with that in mind, how do you, as a business or influencer, go about building that trust?
If you offer quality products that speak for themselves, that trust comes naturally through repeat sales, but how do you convince a first-time buyer that your business is the right one? One possible answer is thought leadership.
This can often be easier said than done and thought leadership content relies not only on you having a deep understanding of your field but more importantly, a unique perspective on your industry that makes you stand out.
In this piece, we will discuss why thought leadership can be an important content strategy and what some of the key aspects of thought leadership are. In the next piece, we will give you some tips on how you can start making your own content.
Why is Thought Leadership Valuable?
What makes thought leadership so valuable is the slow building but immensely strong link that it makes between you as the authority and the customer. The reason this link is so powerful comes down to 2 simple points; customer value and authority.
Customer value: Initially this may seem like an ineffective strategy, why should you spend time researching and creating valuable content for others to have for free, but creating valuable content for customers is a sure-fire way to build long-term customer relationships. If every time a customer has a question about a certain topic, they can rely on you to give them the answer they need or they can see that you’ve written a detailed and thoughtful piece on it already, when they’re eventually ready to make a purchase, they will know that they can rely on you.
Of course, the major benefit of thought leadership driven content is that it places you in a position of authority relative to your competitors, which is an incredibly prestigious achievement and comes with enormous benefits.
That you can create a following that values your output and is excited to hear what you have to say on a topic is a great way to drive traffic to your site, and this happens for a few reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that in earning a level of authority relative to your peers, you will probably build up a loyal following who is excited to see your output.
This is the type of high-value customer who you can eventually turn into a sale and once you have them regularly returning to your content, that’s when you can move them through the sales funnel from awareness and interest toward decision and purchase.
The second reason authority can lead to greater site traffic is because once you have earned a level of recognition for the quality of your work, other sites will want to share your content and back links are some of the most important factors that search engines use when ranking search results. This type of inertia where it can take a sizeable amount of effort to get your content recognised initially and subsequent recognition gets easier is so often what can leave people feeling discouraged when sharing content. Reaching this level of authority makes subsequent future recognition more attainable.
Also, being seen as an authority on a topic means that services that you provide are perceived as being great by association with your thought leadership content. There is a kind of symbiotic relationship between services and content creation. Outputting excellent content shows your knowledge of a topic and customers can safely assume that the services you provide will be equally good, but also the reverse is true in that providing excellent services can give credibility to your content.
What You Need to Create Thought Leadership Content
So, now you see why thought leadership is so valuable, lets delve deeper into what the core elements that make up thought leadership content are.
Authority is the benefit you get from credibility. Above we talked about how authority is one benefit of thought leadership content, but as we said you can't get to that benefit if you are not a credible source.
When you put out your content out, why should anyone listen to you over your competitors?
When you’re first starting out, people don’t know your expertise, so you have to prove it to them.
This will inevitably mean that your content will develop over time as you prove yourself. At first, I think it's important that you’re understanding and respectful of your audience not immediately giving credibility to your point of view as you’re starting out but you can combat this by explaining thoroughly your thought process and reasoning behind your final conclusions, that way, they don’t have to believe you, they can see your working and come to their own conclusions. Inevitably, as you build trust, you may have to walk through your position less, as people trust you more and you can refer back to your own previous work for credibility.
Sure, you can have one piece in particular that blows the reader away with its level of insight and analysis but authority doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a something that you have to earn with consistently high quality, valuable and credible content.
Our next piece will go more in depth about how to create more credible content practically.
Value is the driving force behind why people are likely to visit your content and is why creating value for your customers is an absolute must. Let’s say you’re writing about an already popular topic. Commenting on trends is a great way to benefit off of the back of a naturally popular subject and it can also show to your audience that you’re aware of the surrounding market.
However, the value that you add to that discussion is what will make your content stand out from the rest. Often blogs can rely too heavily on external data or research to have much value themselves, the reader might as well just go to the sources that you have used. The goal is to be a thought leader, not a curator of facts and statistics. So, when creating your content, ask yourself, "what value can I add with my analysis and insight?"
Everybody has access to facts and data but not everyone is an expert like you so leverage that expertise to make truly valuable and insightful content.
Understanding your audience is crucial to thought leadership as It governs so many aspects of the type of content you create and the image that you want to project. Here are some points to consider when trying to understand your audience:
One of the first questions to think about is your audience’s level of understanding on the topic. This changes your content drastically as if your audience is at a beginner level of understanding, it naturally places you as an educator, a fundamentally different position that if you are writing to your peers with very high level knowledge and you really have to use your expertise to set yourself apart. Typically thought leadership is that latter of those options and is much more difficult than other educational content however the rewards are also much greater, as you are writing to a high value audience.
Somewhat parallel to that, try to understand what you want to get from your audience and have that goal very clear to yourself. Youre probably not putting this amount of effort into creating thought leadership content just for personal recognition. There is likely some sort of transaction that you are aiming for in the end and so what’s your goal to transform this earned respect into transactions and what will success in that look like. Understanding what you want from your engagement with your audience will drive the content you make.
Understand where your customers are in terms of the platforms that they like to see your content. We have a comprehensive guide to a multichannel content strategy to learn more about this in depth. But essentially, you need to know where your customers spend their time and match the tone of those platforms in your output. There is no good in writing great content if you’re not posting it to where your audience is and that’s why a multi-channel approach is so important, It allows you to reach many sectors of your audience through the use of different platforms.
All the above points are about your current and short-term future understand your audience today or in the short-term future at least. However, it is also important to consider how your audience will change. Will you have a cohort effect where some people grow out of your content, but they are replaced by new people or will your audience grow and learn with you.
Its inevitable your audience will change (hopefully grow) but it is important that you are constantly aware of who makes up your audience and what the trajectory is. Are you moving toward the size and type of audience you want, you may be growing but are you growing with the right kind of people or at the right rate for your goals.
So as you can see, being recognised as a thought leader is a highly prestigious position and one that will take a lot of expertise and skill. The rewards for reaching that level, however, are enormous and will be a long-term driver of traffic to your site, which you can hope to capture and convert into sales. In our next piece, we will give you some more practical advice on leveraging your own skills to create thought leadership content.
At Kahana, we live and breathe content creation. We love learning new concepts, exploring emergent trends, and writing about topics that foster creativity and wellness.