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True thought leadership is authentic, compelling, door-opening content that showcases your company as an industry leader. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will set you on the right course. Beresford Research shares top thought leadership development tips so you will be able to elevate your company’s influence, earn the respect of your target audience, and take a major role in your industry’s conversation.

Beresford Research has been developing successful thought leadership for over 30 years. They are a niche market research firm that surveys and interviews C-Suite executives, business leaders, buyers and influencers, and high-net-worth decision-makers worldwide. They’ve proven that learning what successful senior executives think, do, and plan is both fascinating and informative.

Take advantage of this straightforward advice to help build your strategy, make sense of the ever-changing trend landscape, produce standout content, and measure your impact. It’s important to point out that if your thought leadership isn’t interesting and noteworthy, it’s not leading anybody’s thinking.

Crafting a Robust Thought Leadership Strategy

A table with markers, crayons, and a map to help elevate your thought leadership.

Developing a robust thought leadership strategy involves:

  • Establishing a solid thought leadership foundation
  • Setting clear and measurable objectives
  • Choosing the right platforms

Establishing A Solid Thought Leadership Foundation

Effective thought leadership requires a solid foundation. What foundation, you ask? The building blocks are an informed thought leadership strategy and fresh, relevant, and compelling information.

To build credibility, you must align your company’s unique expertise and knowledge with the market’s needs. To break through the clutter, be seen as an industry leader, and fuel your authority, business research that uncovers unique industry insights and decision-maker perspectives presents a rock-solid start.

Identifying Unique Expertise

The first step towards a successful thought leadership strategy involves designing a campaign that focuses on the following:

  • Recognizing the company’s unique expertise—do you know why your customers choose your company over your competitors?
  • Tuning into your organization’s strengths—what can your enterprise deliver bigger, better, faster?
  • Embracing the company’s culture—why partner with your company versus others?
  • Leveraging the organization’s differences—how to establish a distinct market presence?

Primary market research can provide robust answers to these questions.

Uncovering Market Needs

There is an easy recipe for uncovering the market’s needs. Go to the market and identify pain points. Whether you interview your clients, talk to the company’s salespeople, or commission a custom research study, it’s essential to truly understand your marketplace’s needs.

Consider balancing internal resources and primary research to fill the gaps between corporate beliefs and your customers’ actual challenges or goals.

Once you align the company’s expertise and market requirements, you can strengthen the strategy further by implementing a thought leadership framework.

Setting Clear and Measurable Objectives

It is imperative to steer the journey to thought leadership with well-defined objectives that can be measured. Whether augmenting brand presence, establishing credibility, or cultivating lead generation, the presence of explicit and quantifiable goals not only directs the strategy but also lays the groundwork for future wins. Companies that are the happiest with their thought leadership results clearly outlined their objectives and tracked the consumption of their thought leadership assets.

There are multiple tools to gather thought leadership metrics and analyze results such as social media analytics, email marketing software, CRM systems, Google Analystics and custom surveys.

Choosing the Right Platforms

It’s not just about where you share your insights but also where your audience is most active and engaged. The right platforms enhance your reach, establish trust, and position the company as an authority in your industry.

For these reasons, selecting the right platforms is a critical decision that can significantly influence success rates. When deciding on which platform to use, consider the following:

  • Understand Your Audience: Identify your target audience’s industries, roles, challenges, and preferred information sources to choose platforms that will make your thought leadership most effective.
  • Align with Business Goals: Select platforms that complement your business objectives, whether for lead generation, brand awareness, or partnerships, with options like LinkedIn for networking and industry-specific sites for engaging niche markets.
  • Leverage Multi-Channel Approach: Use a mix of social media, company blogs, industry publications, and conferences to reach different audience segments and enhance the breadth of your thought leadership strategy.
  • Prioritize Quality and Engagement: Choose platforms that support high-quality content and audience interaction, utilizing analytics to refine your approach and encourage community building through comments and shares.
  • Consider the Competitive Landscape: Opt for platforms with less competitor presence to gain a strategic advantage, attract potential clients, and establish thought leadership in new market segments.

Generating Innovative Ideas That Resonate

Thought leadership thrives on innovation and strategic insights gleaned from leaders with a perspective from the top. By surveying senior executives, learning the perspectives and attitudes of industry leaders, and documenting their thoughts about the future, you can generate innovative ideas that resonate with your audience and set your company ahead. With content built on primary research, data quality is paramount. Be sure to work with a research partner with the highest quality standards and a track record of delivering unassailable results.

Original, informed, and trusted thought leadership with industry leaders is a powerful tool for grabbing attention and creating opportunities.

Constantly level setting with industry needs is important and remembering to focus on presenting valuable information is key—not just different information.

Leveraging Industry Insights

Leveraging industry insights will show that your organization has taken a leadership role and will aid in understanding the landscape at any given moment. Keeping your eyes on the pulse, you’ll be able to respond to news quickly with timely and authoritative content. Being the first to react to an industry change by comparing it to past survey results or C-suite perspectives will put your content first. Proving again (and again) that your company consistently provides timely insights.

Collaborating with Thought Leaders

Engaging in meaningful conversations with thought leaders can provide new perspectives, expand your network, and elevate your thought leadership presence. Confidential in-depth interviews (IDIs) conducted by a trusted third-party market research firm with a well-designed discussion guide will yield insights, color, and context to thought leadership research. Interviews are great way to learn from leaders, gather stories that illuminate opportunities and risks, and document situations where well-aligned actions helped companies.

Undoubtedly, industry leaders have a unique view of the competitive landscape and are in the best position to understand the industry’s knowledge gaps. Their quotes and business stories create authentic connections and depth to thought leadership content.

What Works in Thought Leadership Research

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Achieving successful thought leadership isn’t instantaneous. It necessitates authenticity, prioritizing quality over quantity, and continuous learning and adaptation to industry changes. Here are Beresford Research’s tips for successful thought leadership topics.

  • No matter the industry, thought leadership needs to be original. Your customers and the media aren’t interested in yesterday’s perspectives or learnings recast with new data or a new brand. Do the research necessary to ensure you’ve staked out new territory.
  • Structure your research methodology to include multiple perspectives. Participants from different industries, regions, and positions enable compelling comparisons.
  • Complement relatively dry statistical findings with quotes from industry leaders commenting on the results or the topic under investigation. Even better, obtain permission to use their name and a photograph.
  • Budget for sufficient samples to produce statistically significant and meaningful differences. While 30 respondents per cohort is an absolute minimum, you’ll want more like 75 or 100 (if possible) for each group to have statistically significant differences in your samples. Refamiliarize yourself with confidence levels and margins of error so you know what’s required to meet your objectives. Utilize this margin of error calculator.
  • While drafting study objectives, consider creating new variables to measure success/maturity/leadership. Two or more survey questions can create critical independent variables to drive discovery and enhance the findings.
  • When possible, capture financial performance metrics. Not only do financials (e.g., revenue and pre-tax profit growth) provide an objective measurement, but combined with success/maturity/ leadership measures, the study’s findings are much more compelling. If your sample consists only of public companies, you may be able to source and append the information separately from the survey. However, suppose your sample includes privately held companies. In that case, it’s best to incorporate these financial questions in the survey, with small ranges to make mid-points meaningful but large enough to keep the specific company anonymous.
  • Extrapolate study findings to the global universe of companies. Assuming you have a sufficiently robust sample and access to the relevant international or national statistics, generalizing your study’s findings to the universe of companies is far more engaging and relevant than findings about a few hundred respondents. Utilize these survey calculators as tools. Several clients have created jaw-dropping discoveries by identifying the millions of dollars in profits “left on the table” by corporate laggards compared to leaders.

What Doesn’t Work in Thought Leadership Research

Avoiding common pitfalls in research is fundamental while embarking on your thought leadership journey. Relying on outdated information, presenting biased perspectives, or failing to provide actionable insights will diminish your credibility as a thought leader. Elevate your influence by not making these common mistakes:

  • Don’t expect respondents to be objective about subjective assessments regarding how “advanced” or “mature” their company is relative to the competition. Doing so will likely result in the “Lake Woebegone effect,” where all the men are strong, all the women are good-looking, and all the children are above average. Replace such questions with objective assessments of various aspects of the topic so that a score can be calculated during analysis.
  • Set up a process to publicize your findings before deploying the strategy. One study we designed uncovered exciting new findings applicable to a broad audience. The PR agency was responsible for promoting the initial public roll-out, but no person or agency was tasked with publicizing the study’s findings beyond the launch. Ultimately, the only people who knew about the study were those at the launch event and the fortunate salesforce that used the research to sell millions in new business. However, they missed the opportunity to be celebrated in the business press, have their company associated with attention-grabbing headlines, and be seen as an industry leader.
  • Don’t sit on the findings. Recency is the currency of media; yesterday’s finding isn’t news at all. Imagine having the first authoritative study about the power of the future Internet only to have its release delayed by over 12 months due to internal approval delays. What had been truly visionary thought leadership became a dog’s breakfast. The loss our client suffered was incalculable.

Producing High-Quality Thought Leadership Content

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Whether through comprehensive white papers or engaging blog posts, your content must provide thought-provoking insights that resonate with your audience. Compelling thought leadership materials make the audience think, open doors, and generate conversation. Content strategy must aim to showcase expertise and provide genuine insights with the highest quality. Implementing a well-planned thought leadership content strategy built on the foundation of original decision-maker market research will produce thought leadership content that achieves these goals.

Amplifying Your Thought Leadership Presence

To amplify your thought leadership presence, you must produce high-quality content and use the right channels to reach your audience and engage meaningfully.
Social media platforms and speaking engagements are two effective ways to amplify your thought leadership presence and connect with your audience. Ask your audience if you don’t know the best places to connect.

Utilizing Social Media for Engagement

Amplifying your thought leadership can be effectively achieved via social media. It allows you to reach a broad audience, engage with them directly, and monitor their responses in real time.

By sharing your thought leadership content on social media, you can foster a community of followers interested in your insights and willing to share them with others in their network.

Hosting Webinars and Speaking Engagements

Showcase your expertise and engage with your audience through webinars and speaking engagements. These events not only allow you to share your insights in a more personal and interactive way but also help in building credibility and trust with your audience.

Measuring Thought Leadership Impact

Measuring the impact of your thought leadership efforts is essential for understanding its effectiveness and making necessary adjustments. By analyzing content metrics and evaluating customer retention and acquisition, you can gauge the success of your thought leadership strategy and identify areas for improvement.

Elevate Your Thought Leadership with Custom Research from Beresford Research

As a niche market research firm that surveys and interviews C-Suite executives and business decision-makers worldwide, Beresford Research has specialized in building foundations for standout thought leadership materials for over 30 years. They partner with organizations to generate data-driven insights, guiding them through complex challenges and sustainable growth fueled by wisdom from those with a view from the top.

Contact them today to discuss what you need to know and what you’d like to accomplish. Call +1 (203) 226-6997 or email kathy@beresfordresearch.com.

Thought Leadership Strategy FAQ’s

How do you develop a strong thought leadership strategy?

A strong thought leadership strategy begins with a solid foundation, clearly set objectives, and selecting the appropriate platform for your content.

How can I be a good thought leader?

To be a good thought leader, focus on your company’s unique expertise and the market’s needs. Top thought leaders have something important to say that others are interested in hearing more about.

What is the best thought leadership strategy?

The best thought leadership strategy involves building unique content you know your audience wants to learn more about. Industry insights shared through interviews and media engagements can reach your target audience effectively, strengthening credibility and trust through continuity and valuable content sharing and applying design thinking to make it easier for the audience to understand and absorb your ideas.

What are the basics of thought leadership?

The basics of thought leadership involve getting to the truth and sharing genuine insights, ideas, and valuable perspectives through public media channels to influence others and create a lasting impact. Thought leadership is about being authentic, empowering, and getting people to think differently about specific topics based on insights from industry leaders rather than just generating content or commenting on events and trends.

What is a thought leadership framework?

A thought leadership framework consists of four pillars: credibility, profile, being prolific, and depth of ideas. These pillars work together, and one must progress through each to become a thought leader.

What are some practical ways to generate innovative ideas in thought leadership?

Gather high-quality data and draw conclusions that stand up to scrutiny. Connect the dots in ways others haven’t, and illuminate your findings with examples from trusted industry leaders. Use stories to grab your audience’s attention and help them remember. Strategic insights gleaned from leaders with a perspective from the top are always compelling.