Thought Leadership Branding: Where Do You Stand?

Where do you see your organization on the thought leadership brand pyramid ? We’ve put together a tool for informally assessing your thought leadership branding. The first step in knowing what thought leadership marketing you need to do to improve your brand is to know where you stand today. The goal, of course, is to get to the top of the pyramid. But by getting to the third level, your organization will already be branded as a thought leader. Getting to levels four and five simply requires consistent effort in improving your thought leadership marketing capability.
The pyramid consists of five levels of thought leadership branding: Unbranded, Recognized, Positioned, Valued, and Trusted. These levels describe a progressive improvement in your organization’s thought leadership marketing capability in building your brand. Six components are considered in evaluating your overall capability: 

  • Knowledge: how much is understood about thought leadership marketing;  how much is it valued
  • Perception: how does your market perceive you
  • Exploration: what are your thought leadership marketing goals and objectives
  • Creation: what do you know; what is your experience; what is your point of view
  • Delivery: what have you done to expand and engage with your audience
  • Assessment: how do you know whether or not you’ve succeeded


Thought Leadership Branding Pyramid

Below is a brief description of the five levels of the thought leadership branding pyramid. Were do you stand? Let us know.

Level 1: Unbranded

  • Knowledge: You don’t know what thought leadership marketing is and/or you don’t value it.
  • Perception: Your market only vaguely knows what you can do. They may have heard of you, but they certainly don’t think of you when they’re looking for solutions that you can provide. You have customers because you’ve either directly marketed to them or they came across you by accident.
  • Exploration: You have no thought leadership marketing goals or objectives.
  • Creation: You may perform your work at a high level, but the market does not regularly turn to you for your thoughts on what’s important to them. You do not document your knowledge or best practices.
  • Delivery: You don’t write or speak about your ideas consistently, so few people know what they are.
  • Assessment: You don’t have a clear understanding of why you get customers.

Level 2: Recognized

  • Knowledge: You are beginning to build your thought leadership brand, but it’s mostly by accident. You have a basic understanding of thought leadership, but you haven’t started a formal thought leadership marketing program. You’re not sure of the value of thought leadership marketing, but you’re willing to try a few things.
  • Perception: Your market knows that you have knowledge and expertise in certain areas. They may occasionally turn to you for advice or solutions. You have customers primarily because you’ve directly marketed to them.
  • Exploration: At most you have vague, undocumented thought leadership marketing goals and objectives.
  • Creation: You have basic documentation of your knowledge and expertise.
  • Delivery: Your website and occasional marketing pieces describe your knowledge and expertise. You occasionally write about your ideas in professional publications or speak at events.
  • Assessment: You think that your basic thought leadership marketing may be bringing you customers, but you’re not sure and you don’t measure results.

Level 3: Positioned

  • Knowledge: You have begun a formal thought leadership marketing program. Certain key individuals in your organization understand the value of thought leadership marketing.
  • Perception: You are beginning to be seen as a thought leader. Your audience appreciates your ideas and your expertise and regularly turns to you for advice and help.
  • Exploration: You have documented thought leadership marketing goals and objectives. You understand what issues are important to your audience and develop ideas and solutions to address them.
  • Creation: Your knowledge and expertise are documented. You are beginning to develop a consistent and innovative point of view based on your knowledge and experience.
  • Delivery: Your website and marketing pieces clearly describe your knowledge and expertise and position you as a thought leader in your market. You have processes in place for creating content and delivering it to your audience. You are beginning to engage with your customers and prospects. You publish your ideas in a variety of media and make your knowledge available freely.
  • Assessment: You measure the results that your thought leadership marketing is delivering and compare it to your original goals and objectives.

Level 4: Valued

  • Knowledge: You have a thought leadership marketing program in place and have some data to evaluate its effectiveness. Your marketing and new product development departments in particular value thought leadership marketing as do other key leaders in your organization.
  • Perception: You are valued as a thought leader in your market. Your audience has an emotional attachment to you. Your message is reaching beyond your customers and immediate prospects to a wider audience, who consider you an authority in your market even though they are not currently looking for your solutions.
  • Exploration: You have clearly documented thought leadership marketing goals and objectives. You know whether they are being met and have plans in place to address any weaknesses.
  • Creation: Your knowledge and expertise are well documented. You have a consistent and innovative point of view based on your experience as well as research that you’ve engaged in to support your ideas.
  • Delivery: You use multiple media for delivering your ideas to your audience, who regularly engage in discussions with you about the issues that are important to them. This includes writing (white papers, articles, books, blogs, websites, e-mail marketing), speaking (professional meetings, industry roundtables, webinars), and teaching (classes, workshops).
  • Assessment: You not only measure whether you are meeting your goals and objectives, you also measure a variety of other factors that can be tied to your thought leadership marketing efforts, including: how well you are engaging with your audience; whether you are reaching and expanding your market; how well you are converting prospects to leads; how well you are retaining customers.

Level 5: Trusted

  • Knowledge: You are continuously improving your thought leadership marketing program. Thought leadership marketing is part of your organizational culture.
  • Perception: Your audience trusts you implicitly. They are advocates of your brand and spread the word that you are a thought leader who should be engaged with regularly. Your audience acts in your best interests.
  • Exploration: You regularly review your documented thought leadership marketing goals and objectives and change them based on the knowledge you acquire about your audience. You are continually learning how to best market your thought leadership brand.
  • Creation: You consistently demonstrate that you understand your audience’s issues and have success in solving the kinds of problems that are important to them. You regularly engage with your audience and learn from them, continually building upon your knowledge and expertise.
  • Delivery: 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.
  • Assessment: 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.