How can thought leadership and business growth work together to achieve both? 

What are some successful tactical ideas others have used to meet the strategy of communicating thought leadership to customers?

From Tom Marks, President of TMA+Peritus and Thomas R. Marks Speaking. Author, Nationally Acclaimed Speaker and Thought Leader.

These are great questions from Abbey Alderman that I could spend the best part of a year answering. Thought Leadership is one of the four 21st Century Disciplines of Market Leadership™ that I have formulated and extensively written and spoken about. The other Disciplines are Value, Service and Innovation Leadership. Every company, at least those who want to be market leaders in their particular product, service or distribution areas, must be a leader in one, or more, of these Disciplines. There’s no avoiding it; it’s an irrefutable fact.

Of these four Disciplines, there’s little argument that Thought Leadership is the most sought after and somewhat “trendy” Discipline of all. Unfortunately, you’ll never achieve business growth by making the idle claim that you’re a Thought Leader; it’s a house of cards built on a self-professed foundation of anointed expertise. If you’re going to embark on a Thought Leadership market discipline, then you need to prove your Thought Leadership many times over; only then will people identify you as a Thought Leader, and only then will you be able to capture revenue and drive incremental sales because of it.

There are four characteristics of Thought Leaders. They are originality, being a superior listener, having a devout sense of curiosity (understanding that the more we know, the more we need to know), and having a strong sense of ethics. Without diving into the genetics of these characteristics, let me just say it would be highly unusual to witness a Thought Leader in action who didn’t exhibit all of these characteristics over and over again.

You and your company will have reached Thought Leadership status when you begin publishing, speaking, or conducting workshops that show a steady diet of original content and insights that others have not. You will need to connect the dots when there are no dots to connect; you will need to understand what’s usually misunderstood; and you will need to be an influencer who other people and companies cite in their writings, speeches and postings. This can take a year to gain that sort of traction; but be advised, there are a lot of pretenders and almost all are outed in a New York minute. If you try to “game” the process, you will never have another chance at Thought Leadership. Build your credentials, publish original insights, pitch the press, write a book, hit the speaking circuit, and once you do this, the sales will follow.

Now, in order to prove your Thought Leadership that will ultimately drive sales, you’ll need to produce original content and insights in the form of white papers, POVs, videos, articles, blogs, eBooks and all the other content marketing types of materials that demonstrate your market leadership. That steady drumbeat of knowledge-sharing will result in inquiries and requests. However, if you want to take revenue-capture to an elevated level, you should utilize my proven technique of Critical Insight Selling™. This is a sales process that replaces old and worn-out feature/benefit selling with the selling of your wisdom and industry knowledge. You literally use the original insights you’ve developed as a Thought Leader to drive relevant differentiation from every sales rep and every competitor that keeps pushing product.

That’s how, in the end, Thought Leadership drives sales growth. Sell your wisdom and you’ll beat the product-pushers every time.

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