What do businesses get wrong about thought leadership as a marketing strategy?

Corporate buzzword or business asset? Ego boost or sales driver? There are plenty of misconceptions about thought leadership, from the effort it requires to the value it offers.

Turns out you don’t have to be an industry heavyweight, master wordsmith or Nobel Prize winning thinker to make an impact with thought leadership content. 

When done well, it’s a powerful way to elevate your brand, differentiate your offering and convert your ideal customers.

So what deters businesses from making thought leadership a priority? Here are six ways this content marketing strategy is misunderstood and the latest data that demonstrates why it’s time to reevaluate.

Myth #1: Thought leadership is a nice-to-have, not an essential. 

Time-poor founders, leaders and teams often view thought leadership as a worthwhile initiative…when they can get around to it. 

But it’s a disservice to place this marketing strategy at the bottom of your list of business building tasks. 

Especially when 63% of B2B buyers say it provides proof that an organisation can solve their specific business challenges, according to the 2021 Edelman LinkedIn Thought Leadership Impact Report

When you’re selling your expertise, thought leadership content gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your capability before any direct contact with potential customers. In fact, the DemandGen 2022 B2B Content Preferences Survey found 62% of buyers engage with three to seven pieces of content before connecting with a salesperson. If you can facilitate a purchase decision just by sharing your industry insights, that’s a big time saver.

Businesses that treat thought leadership as integral to customer acquisition rather than a standalone activity will reap the rewards.

Myth #2: Thought leadership is only for industry giants.

Small businesses and up-and-coming leaders can view thought leadership as something only large corporations or high-profile executives can achieve. You may believe you need a massive budget, huge marketing team and an already stellar reputation to be seen as a thought leader.

However, effective thought leadership is focused on sharing useful insights and unique perspectives – something any knowledgeable professional or subject matter expert can do regardless of the size of their company or personal platform. 

Your fresh take on a topic may just be the reason a customer chooses your business over a big name brand. 

Myth #3: You need to be a business leader to be a thought leader. 

Another misconception is that thought leadership is reserved solely for the C-suite. In reality, anyone with solid industry knowledge, a curious mind and the ability to articulate their point of view can be a thought leader. 

Impactful thought leadership is more about the strength of your ideas than the seniority of your position. It consists of asking interesting questions, exploring possibilities, encouraging discourse, promoting critical thinking and contributing to the collective knowledge of your industry. 

While forward-thinking content is expected of executives, it sends a powerful message when people at all levels of your organisation are given a platform to share their perspective. You might be surprised by who your best content creators are within your business.

Myth #4: Thought leadership is just about self-promotion. 

Two thirds of buyers want content that prominently features the point of view of a clearly identifiable author (2021 Edelman LinkedIn). 

Despite this, 89% say that thought leadership can be effective in enhancing their perceptions of an organisation (2020 Edelman LinkedIn).

So, while it’s important for each piece of thought leadership content to be championed by an individual, the benefits go beyond boosting your personal profile. 

It not only highlights why you’re qualified to talk on a topic, but also demonstrates the calibre of expertise your business offers its clients. 

Your organisation can build a reputation for its specialist knowledge, strategic thinking and understanding of client needs as a result of the collective thought leadership efforts of your team. 

You can certainly increase your personal visibility with this content marketing strategy, but the opportunity to differentiate your business is even more valuable. 

Myth #5: Thought leadership content has to be groundbreaking. 

It’s a common misconception that thought leaders must be visionaries bestowing wisdom from a lofty intellectual pedestal. 

Being completely original and perpetually innovative is an unrealistic goal. And it can stop many professionals from exploring their clear capability for thought leadership. 

64% of Survey Monkey’s Thought Leadership Report respondents say challenging the way you think is an essential component of thought leadership content. This can be achieved by sharing industry news, opinion pieces, trend reports, helpful resources and personal recommendations.

You don’t need to constantly produce proprietary research to be a sought-out source either. This is highlighted by a significant 80% of decision makers desiring content that includes insights from other trusted individuals or organisations beyond just the publishing person (2021 Edelman LinkedIn).

Myth #6: You have to be a good writer to be a thought leader. 

Written articles can be an effective way to deep dive into topics and drive organic search traffic, but they’re time-intensive to produce. If you’re not a wordsmith by nature, it can be hard to sustain a regular publishing schedule because cranking out that much content feels like a chore.

Your thought leadership content will gain the most traction if it’s easy for you to create and for your customers to consume. 

Where is your target market looking for industry insights? Do they want to read, watch or listen on these platforms? What delivery style aligns best with how you like to express your ideas?

However you choose to communicate, consistency is ultimately what will attract attention, build credibility and earn trust. 

What’s stopping you from pursuing thought leadership?

If some of these misconceptions have held you back from prioritising thought leadership content, it might be time to reconsider. 

The data shows that buyers crave this type of content to validate their purchasing decisions. Being able to sample the knowledge they’d be tapping into only increases their confidence in investing in your product or service. 

Thought leadership is a differentiation strategy open to anyone willing to share their industry expertise. When it’s an integral part of your content marketing plan (rather than a too-hard task left till the end of an already long week), you get to demonstrate just how good you are at what you do – and how much you care about helping your customers. 

Don’t let those good ideas go unrealised. We can help you create expert-driven content that delivers results – get in touch via team@playbookcreative.com.

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