Becoming an Industry Thought Leader

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Introduction

Spend your time running your business, not your marketing.

Thought leadership is a whole new approach to IT marketing that provides a company with more effective strategies to build their brand and market their services. There are plenty of good reasons to incorporate thought leadership into your overall IT marketing strategy. You need a practical strategy to move your company into a thought leadership position within your industry.

Becoming an Industry Thought Leader

Savvy IT marketing firms have learned that, to set yourself apart from the masses, you must move beyond the standard marketing fare. Instead of simply broadcasting your services to the world, you must work on cultivating your industry reputation into one that will get you noticed and respected.

This process has been dubbed "thought leadership" and it is on track to become the marketing secret for 21st century companies. We have answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about thought leadership to help you forge a path to more effective, efficient IT marketing.

What are the Principles Behind Thought Leadership?

Many marketing gurus refer to thought leadership as content marketing, but this is not wholly true. While content is an important part of thought leadership in your online IT marketing strategy, it is not so much the act of creating content as what you put into those articles that is important.

  • Building consumer confidence, boosting your brand recognition, and marketing your IT firm better
  • Using content to build credibility and expertise and giving readers information they need and want as it relates to your industry
  • Taking an active leadership roll within your industry, rather than simply broadcasting your services
  • Reaching your target audience at the right time and on the right platform, rather than using glossy brochures and simple email blasts
  • Setting your own industry trends, instead of just following them

What are the Benefits of Thought Leadership?

Thought leadership is becoming an integral component in IT marketing today because it boasts many benefits in the overall marketing strategy. Some of those benefits include:

  • Increasing your IT firm's visibility and credibility within your industry and globally
  • Reaching and educating new customers, so they see value in partnering with you beyond simply getting a good price on IT services
  • Standing out from the noise of the Internet by providing content and information that is truly useful to your prospective client base
  • Moving from simply talking about your company to providing venues so your IT company and the services you offer become the center of discussions

How does My Company Become a Thought Leader?

There are two basic strategies employed by thought leaders today. The first is publication of articles and content in reputable venues. The second is to take your message on the road with public speaking engagements that allow you to connect with your audiences on a completely different level. While both of these tasks may seem somewhat daunting to a business startup just beginning to get their feet wet in IT marketing, they are far from impossible.

Publishing articles is not as difficult as it sounds. First, make a list of article topics that would sell the benefits or services of your business. Once you have a good list of subjects, contact editors of trade publications to see if any are interested. You might be surprised at how willing these editors are to listen to your suggestions, since they rely on leaders in the industry to keep their pulse on current trends. Once you get your articles in print, you may find it is much easier to set up public speaking engagements based on the content you have written.

Thought leadership has become the new buzzword in IT marketing today. By establishing yourself as an expert in your industry, your IT firm will be much more successful in attracting new clients and developing loyalty with your current customers.

5 Important Questions: Thought Leader Checkup

Thought leaders are seen as the experts in their industry, the ones that others turn to for advice, guidance and (yes, indeed!) leadership. Oh yes, and they tend to land the most new clients as well.

Are you an IT thought leader yet? If not, it's time to seriously consider adding this component as an integral part of your IT marketing strategy. We have a thought leader checkup to help you determine where you stand on the leadership scale.

What type of content is on your website: educational resources for clients or just information about your firm?

While you want to let customers know about your company and the services you offer, this is not the stuff that thought leaders are made of. In addition to company facts, your clients want you to educate them about the IT industry so they can become more savvy consumers of their technology systems.

Include information written by your own staff that provides valuable information to your clients while continuing to establish your employees as experts in your field.

How frequently do you touch your clients with articles, news or white papers that they would find useful?

The dissemination of valuable information is one of the key characteristics of a thought leader today. These industry experts have their thumb on the latest trends, and they are regularly sharing their knowledge with their clients and other IT professionals.

Of course, this knowledge requires staying up to date on what is going on in the IT world through trade publications, news and other expert blogs. If you are serious about kicking your IT marketing up a notch, regular distribution of current information is a must to establish your company as a thought leader.

When was the last time you added informative material to your website?

Content IT marketing, which is an important component of thought leadership, needs to be updated regularly in order for it to be effective. If you feature the same tired information on your website month after month, it won't be long before people stop visiting.

Keep them coming with new, relevant information that gets them excited about discovering what you can teach them next. The more visitors you get to your website, the more robust your client base will become.

Who has come to you for expert knowledge or guidance to assist others in your industry?

Those who put forth their expert knowledge will soon have others coming to them for guidance and advice. Who comes to your company? If you want to take your IT marketing to the next logical level, this is exactly what needs to happen.

Begin by publishing a single article in a trade publication. Distribute your published article liberally to clients, potential clients and other industry professionals. Once people begin to see that you are an IT expert, they will begin approaching you to write additional articles, speak at public engagements or otherwise distribute your expert advice to the masses.

What was the last event one of your executives participated in as a guest speaker or the last event you hosted?

Part of becoming a thought leader is participation in industry events — not as an audience member necessarily, but as an invited guest that has been asked to share your expertise and knowledge with others in your field.

Have any of your executives been approached for this purpose? If your speaking engagements have been a bit slim up to this point, don't simply sit back on your haunches and wait to be noticed. Host your own event, inviting others from your industry to join you in providing information to IT customers in your area. Once you get your feet wet on the public speaking circuit, you may find that those invitations to other events begin to come a bit more freely.

Thought leaders are the new age of IT marketing today. It is no longer enough to let others know about your business; today you must establish yourself as one of the experts in your field if you want to truly stand apart from the competition.

How are you doing in your thought leadership skills? With this checklist in hand, you can gauge how close you are to establishing yourself as a thought leader in the IT industry and determine what else you can do to take your expertise to the next level.

Checklist: Making Your IT Company a Thought Leader

Thought leadership has become the IT marketing model for the 21st century because it provides a plethora of benefits that move well beyond the traditional marketing model. By establishing your company and executives as experts in your field, you develop visibility and credibility that make many clients come looking for you.

While few will argue that thought leadership is one of the most effective IT marketing strategies today, it is still mostly underused because many companies are still trying to get a handle on how to do it. If you find yourself in this category, take a peek at our checklist for making your IT firm a thought leader in your industry.

Your basic checklist:

  • Revamp your blog
  • Leverage social media
  • Conduct market research
  • Publish your findings
  • Host events
  • Take advantage of public speaking opportunities

Revamp Your Blog

Many companies use their blog to tell customers more about their services. However, if you want to take your online IT marketing to the next level, try adding content that keeps your readers up to date on industry trends or executive surveys. Add input from other experts in the field from time to time. You may find that customers are much more willing to check your blog out on a regular basis when you improve the standard and value of the content that goes onto the website.

Take Your Social Media to the Next Level

By the same token, your social media can do much more in your IT marketing strategy than simply point others to your business. Use this forum to truly engage your audience, with interaction about similar topics listed above. This is also a good place to collect their input on key issues in your industry, allowing you to customize both your IT marketing and your services to specific client needs.

Conduct Market Research

The best way to blog and tweet on Twitter about current market trends is to find out what those trends are as a part of your online IT marketing. You can wait for other thought leaders to come up with that information — or you can develop it yourself through your own market research.

Begin by asking your current customers what they need from your services or where they feel their IT systems are lacking. Sign on for trade publications that publish larger scale market research so you can keep up to date on current industry buzz.

Publish Your Findings

When you obtain results from your own market research, publish your findings on your blog, or in trade publications. It may seem intimidating to approach an editor with an article idea, but those who work at publications for niche markets like IT are usually on the lookout for new subjects. They rely on experts in the field to let them know what the hot topics are, and as a thought leader in IT, you can be considered one of those experts.

Host Your Own Events

Public speaking is another important component on the checklist for making your IT company a thought leader. However, like publishing articles, many IT business owners are nervous about the idea of speaking in front of others. If this is you, start out slowly by hosting your own event with a smaller audience. Ask other experts in your industry to speak at your event as well to lend diversity and credibility to the engagement.

Make sure your audience understands that your company is sponsoring the event; not only is the publicity good for your IT marketing, but you also don't want to be accused of leading any potential customers astray.

Speak Whenever You Are Asked

Once you have gotten your feet wet with public speaking, begin accepting invitations where you are asked to participate. You may find that once you have published and marketed a few articles, that speaking invitations come much more easily.

When you attend an engagement, bring free copies of your published articles that include your contact information.

Thought leaders don't wait for others to come find them; they forge an expert path for themselves. By using the above checklist as an integral part of your IT marketing strategy, you will be on your way to establishing yourself as a reputable, visible and credible member of your industry. The more you venture out into the world of thought leadership, the more others will come looking for you for advice, guidance and services.

Conclusion

Achieving Thought Leadership status does not come easily for any company. Being regarded as an expert in your field or a trusted source is earned through:

  • Constantly producing and distributing unique, useful and educational content to your target audience
  • Offering expert knowledge and guidance without turning it into a sales pitch
  • Being involved in the community and participating in forums and other public events
  • Leveraging current marketing platforms, such as blogging, social media, and webinars, to extend your reach to new markets

Follow these basic guidelines and the results will lead you on your way toward becoming a trusted, well-known thought leader.