Thought Leadership Marketing: Where Do You Stand?

Positioning your firm as a thought leader will improve your lead generation and overall business growth. You’ll earn trust and build credibility as a firm that clearly understands the business needs of your market. Research has shown that thought leadership is fast becoming the most widely used B2B marketing practice [10 Megatrends in B2B Marketing, Economist Intelligence Unit, 2008].

So, how well is your firm positioned as a thought leader? Use the simple model below to assess your firm, the first step in knowing what you need to do to improve your thought leadership positioning. Read the description of a firm at each level of thought leadership marketing capability and you’ll see what you need to do to improve.

Five components of thought leadership marketing

  • Knowledge: understand and value thought leadership marketing
  • Exploration: articulate your thought leadership marketing goals
  • Creation: document what you know, your experience, your point of view
  • Delivery: actively engage with your market
  • Assessment: measure how you’ve succeeded

Thought Leadership Marketing Brand Pyramid

Where do you stand?

Level 1: Unbranded
You don’t know what thought leadership marketing is and/or you don’t value it. You have no thought leadership marketing goals. You don’t document your knowledge. You don’t write or speak about your ideas consistently, so few people know what they are. You don’t have a clear understanding of why you get customers. You may perform your work at a high level, but you’re not top-of-mind in your market.

Level 2: Recognized
You are beginning to build your thought leadership capability, but it’s mostly by accident. You have a basic understanding of thought leadership marketing, but you haven’t started a formal program. At most you have vague, undocumented thought leadership marketing goals. Your website and occasional marketing pieces describe your knowledge and expertise. You occasionally write in professional publications or speak at events. You think that your basic thought leadership marketing may be bringing you customers, but you’re not sure and you don’t measure results. Your market occasionally turns to you for advice or solutions.

Level 3: Positioned
You’ve begun a formal thought leadership marketing program. Certain key individuals in your organization understand the value of thought leadership marketing. You have documented thought leadership marketing goals. You understand what issues are important to your market and develop ideas and solutions to address them. Your knowledge and expertise are well-documented. You are beginning to develop a consistent and innovative point of view. Your website and marketing pieces clearly describe your knowledge and expertise and position you as a thought leader. You have processes in place for creating content and delivering it to your market. You’re beginning to engage with your customers and prospects. You publish your ideas in a variety of media and make your knowledge available freely. You measure the results that your thought leadership marketing is delivering and compare it to your original goals. You are top-of-mind in your market.

Level 4: Valued
You have a thought leadership marketing program in place and have some data to evaluate its effectiveness. Most leaders in your organization value thought leadership marketing. You have clearly documented thought leadership marketing goals. You know whether they are being met and have plans in place to address weaknesses. You have a consistent, innovative, and well-documented point of view based on your experience. You engage in research to support your ideas. You use multiple media for delivering your ideas to your market, who regularly engage with you about the issues that are important to them. You measure whether you are meeting your goals and other related factors, including: how well you engage with your audience; whether you are reaching and expanding your market; how well you are convert prospects to leads; how well you are retain customers. Your message reaches beyond your immediate prospects to a wider audience, who consider you an authority.

Level 5: Trusted
You are continuously improving your thought leadership marketing capability, which is now part of your organizational culture. You regularly review your documented thought leadership marketing goals and change them based on the knowledge you acquire about your market. You consistently demonstrate that you understand your market’s issues and have success in solving the kinds of problems that are important to them. You regularly engage with your market and learn from them, continually building upon your knowledge and expertise. Your thought leadership marketing delivery process is managed with continuous improvement in mind. Each delivery channel is assessed for effectiveness and evaluated for continued use. Media are highly integrated, insuring that a consistent message is delivered across every channel. You have in place the processes necessary to review the data you get from measuring the results of your thought leadership marketing efforts and use that information to continuously improve your capabilities. Your market trusts you implicitly. They are advocates of your brand.

Now that you know where you stand, it’s time to put together a plan to improve your thought leadership capability.