We are excited to welcome Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D to Legal Marketing Blog; he is the managing partner at Hinge Marketing.
Today we are going to explore how thought leadership marketing works.
Black: When did thought leadership take hold in the world of marketing?
Frederiksen:Although it may seem like it’s been around forever, the concept of “thought leadership” is relatively new. The term first appeared in the 1990’s and was initially used to describe individuals with a reputation for developing ideas that might be considered highly advanced and influential. Today, thought leadership has evolved to include anyone who is an intellectual leader. And as it pertains to business and professional services, has become a powerful marketing tool.
Black: What is thought leadership marketing?
Frederiksen: Thought leadership marketing is the process of promoting specialized expertise and accelerating market influence to accomplish marketing goals, such as building brand strength or generating new business. Thought leadership marketing is powered by valuable, insightful content that positions your firm and key individuals within it as experts in a particular topic or industry. That content is then distributed to your target markets via their preferred channels to make that thought leadership visible.
Thought leadership is often confused with content marketing; however, content marketing is a much broader discipline. It involves using content to attract, educate and close new business. Thought leadership is a specific strategy within the broader concept of content marketing.
For example, a firm might publish helpful content without offering any innovative or advanced thinking. Another firm may offer entertaining or humorous content. Both of these are content marketing strategies, but neither would be considered thought leadership.
Thought leaders are individuals or firms recognized for their specialized expertise and their influence on the development of their discipline. They are both subject matter experts and influencers, driving professional discussion and advances within their field of expertise.
Black: What are the benefits of thought leadership?
Frederiksen: Thought leadership benefits both the subject matter expert and their firm:
Faster growth Thought leaders’ single biggest impact is their ability to drive firm growth. Highly visible thought leadership attracts clients who want or need greater expertise. The leads are more qualified and easier to generate. Prospects close more quickly with less effort and greater success.
Higher billing rates There is a direct relationship between the visibility of a subject matter expert’s thought leadership and their billing rate.
A stronger brand Combining thought leadership with greater visibility creates a significantly stronger brand that will increase value, growth, and profitability.
Better talent The best people want to work with industry leaders. Thought leadership helps demonstrate the quality of your firm and attracts top talent who also want to become thought leaders.
More opportunities Leading subject matter experts not only attract better clients and more talented employees, they also foster better strategic partners and business relationships.
Black: How do you develop thought leadership content?
Frederiksen: While there is no magic formula that can guarantee you will become recognized as an insightful, influential thinker, there are specific steps that will help strengthen your expertise. Deeper, more relevant insights make better thought leadership content.
Narrow your focus Our research on high-profile experts shows that narrowing your focus greatly increases the likelihood of deepening your expertise. The narrower your focus, the faster your ascent to leadership. You’re able to accumulate experience and insight faster, which will accelerate and improve content development.
Do original research Conducting original research on a topic gives you a huge advantage. It is one of the key paths to thought leadership. New research findings are the raw material of thought leadership content. High-quality research produces new insights that can be applied to clients’ challenges and shared with others.
Become a contrarian A contrarian perspective doesn’t mean being quarrelsome or negative. It means looking at a problem from a novel angle. A fresh perspective is another hallmark of thought leader-level thinking. When everyone is looking at a topic one way, explore the opposite view.
Create a novel expertise niche Sometimes great insight comes from applying the methods and thinking of one discipline to another — putting expertise in two seemingly unrelated fields together. For example, combining a scientific theory approach to legal services.
Play well with other experts Having a good working relationship with other experts provides access to the most advanced and influential thinking. The thoughts and ideas of others will help you become smarter and develop more insightful content of your own. And don’t forget colleagues. They add credibility to you by association. As a member of an “influential experts club” you’ll have access to shared ideas and possible new business referrals.
Black: How do you share thought leadership?
Frederiksen: Unlike promoting a tangible product, promoting thought leadership can be challenging. Thought leadership is invisible so it must be demonstrated to be experienced. Generally, there are three traditional approaches:
Writing Writing the definitive best-selling book on a topic is the gold standard of thought leadership. However, there are other ways to convey expertise through writing. Articles in trade publications, blog posts, white papers and executive guides are excellent channels to communicate your insights and build your reputation.
Speaking For many experts, public speaking engagements are their single best source of new business leads. Live speaking events are also a great way to meet new people and get fresh input — audience questions can be a source of new insights and inspiration.
Direct Interaction and Networking This involves working with people directly, interacting with colleagues, clients, and prospects in meetings, educational settings, or at conferences. The interaction, however, must provide an opportunity for people to sample the thought leader’s expertise.
Thought leadership has become a powerful tool within the realm of professional services. Marketing your thought leadership through your valuable and insightful content positions both you and your firm as experts, ultimately helping you to generate new business.
Black: Generating new business! Isn’t that what we are all looking to accomplish? Thank you Lee Fredriksen for sharing your insight and giving us another tool to help us reach our goals in 2019.
Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D is managing partner at Hinge Marketing. He is a former researcher and tenured professor at Virginia Tech, where he became a national authority on organizational behavior management and marketing. He left academia to start up and run three high-growth companies, including an $80 million runaway success story.