Crafting a Thought Leadership Strategy: 10 Essential Steps for 2024

Beth Bagley
April 18, 2024
Crafting a Thought Leadership Strategy: 10 Essential Steps for 2024

Content is king. It’s important to craft content that brings people in droves to your site and piques people’s interest. However, it’s not enough anymore to just put some content up onto your website. Right now, you really want to build trust with your audience and show them that you know your stuff. 

How do you do that? The answer is thought leadership. Thought leadership helps position your company as an expert in your industry. Doing so builds brand affinity and credibility with your target audience. So, how do you build yourself into thought leaders? Read on to learn about thought leadership strategy and 10 essential steps to build your own. 

What Is a Thought Leadership Strategy?

Thought leadership strategy is your plan for building your industry influence and spreading your expertise. Content that’s true thought leadership leaves a lasting impact on your readers, and your strategy is how you are going to create that and distribute it to the right people. 

Your thought leadership strategy is a piece of your overall marketing strategy. Aligning these two strategies can help you create a synchronized approach to marketing that really brings the right people to your company. 

The Benefits of a Thought Leadership Strategy

Creating your own thought leadership strategy can help you and your company: 

  • Attract long-lasting customers and clients. People don’t want to read a sales pitch every time they’re looking for information on the internet. Instead, they want experts who can provide them with clear answers to questions and thought-provoking content. Crafting a strong strategy helps you create that content and get it to the right crowd. That ultimately helps you attract customers and clients who will stick around. 
  • Enhance that audience’s engagement and trust. A great strategy will also help you keep your new audience’s attention. You’re able to map out exciting content that keeps them interested. Doing so also helps build trust. These people come to rely on you to provide them with top-tier information regularly. If you keep delivering, you’re going to build genuine relationships with your audience and true credibility. 
  • Drive business growth with brand credibility. An audience that trusts you then helps you grow your business. You’re getting people who believe in your company and trust your products. That is something that helps your company expand and your brand become solid. 

Let’s dive into 10 steps to help you build your thought leadership strategy: 

Step 1: Define Your Thought Leadership Goals

Before you start pumping out content, start by setting goals that will help motivate you and your team. Your thought leadership goals should ideally align with your overall marketing strategy. For example, if you’re a B2B company, you’d want your thought leadership content to focus on industry-specific interests and pain points. 

On top of that, you want your thought leadership strategy to complement your entire organization. If your business wants to increase sales by a certain amount during the year, your thought leadership goals could be oriented toward building up a stronger audience. That group is then more likely to make purchases and boost your company’s sales. 

Here are some example thought leadership goals: 

  • Build a strong audience base that regularly reshares content
  • Produce content that generates frequent and thoughtful comments 
  • Connect with prominent thought leaders in the industry and collaborate with them on a piece of content

Step 2: Identify Your Target Audience

Content aimed at the entire world as a whole isn’t that useful. It’s generic and not oriented toward the real interests of your potential readers. Instead, try choosing a specific group of people who would be interested in the unique niche your company operates in. 

So how do you find your perfect audience? Start by thinking about who your ideal customer would be. What are they interested in? What are their needs? What are their pain points? What motivates them? And most importantly, what questions are they asking? 

Start by learning the answers to these questions and understanding who these people are. From there, create a persona of your customer. Then, you can craft your content specifically for this person. That keeps it catered and relevant. Don’t forget to revisit and reevaluate your personas from time to time. Sometimes their needs change, and you want to be on top of that. 

Step 3: Analyze Existing Thought Leadership in Your Industry

Take note of what other people are doing and how you can iterate on it, or perhaps go in a completely new direction. If somebody out there is creating great content from a specific angle, there’s no need for you to do that too. You’ll just be in that creator’s shadow the entire time. Instead, look at what everyone else is doing to find a gap in the conversation. What are people not talking about? That’s what you want to find because then you can craft an angle that fills that need. 

Step 4: Establish Your Unique Perspective

Once you see space in the industry, think about what your company’s unique perspective could be. Right now your company already has interesting insights, experiences, and expertise. Think about how you can funnel that into content. Can you tell stories? Could you provide advice? Try to find your angle and differentiate it from your competitors. 

One tip is to consider how you can do original research. Original research can go a long way in giving you something interesting to touch on in your content. Your research could be a study or even just interviews where you get real thoughts from your reader’s customers. 

Step 5: Develop Your Content Strategy

Once you have a clear understanding of your goals and audience, you can start mapping out exactly what content you’re going to create. You might plan out if you’re going to make:

  • Blog posts
  • Whitepapers
  • Videos
  • LinkedIn posts
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Guest lecture speeches
  • Social media posts
  • Email newsletters
  • Case studies
  • Templates
  • E-books

From there, determine when you’re going to create what asset. You might consider a full content calendar that gives you ample time to create everything and promote the finished products. The calendar can also help you map out how you can create themed content. For example, you might plan some of your content around holidays or conventions so it feels timely when you release it. 

Step 6: Create Compelling Thought Leadership Content

With your full plan in hand, it’s time to create. Think about who you need on your content team. Do you need an army of writers? People who can appear on camera? Additional industry experts to provide guidance? 

From there, start creating! Here are some tips: 

  • Implement a content management system. This can help you track the status of every type of content. You can see who’s responsible for what and when their contributions are due. 
  • Take advantage of editing software. Why spend time trying to parse out every error when the computer can do it for you? This will save you time and help you put out high quality content. 
  • Build a content process. Your production process is the order of events for producing a full piece of content. Planning it out can help keep everything on schedule. As you go, try to find ways to streamline it to make it even more efficient. 

Don’t forget to celebrate when you create something truly amazing. 

Step 7: Promote Your Thought Leadership Content

Your content deserves to be shared with the world. Getting it out can be hard if you don’t have a plan. Here are some tips to create your strategy: 

  • Consider what channels you should use. Where is your audience on the internet? That’s exactly where you want to put your content. If your audience is on LinkedIn, that’s where you should post. If they’re prone to watching YouTube, be sure you’re present there too. 
  • Use omni-channel distribution for amplification. Once something is out there, it’s time to help more interested people find it. Taking an omni-channel distribution approach will maximize reach with minimal effort.  Take your podcast video and turn it into micro-videos that can be used on Instagram and LinkedIn. Take your key points from your episode and turn it into a newsletter for your people who aren’t keen on podcasts. If you’re not distributing content across multiple channels, you are leaving money on the table. 
  • Create a media brand. For those of you trying to create thought leadership content as a means to promote a B2B company, you need to start a media brand. A media brand is a distinct brand from your company that helps you break free of corporate messaging and speak directly to your target audience. There is no better place to house your thought leadership content than in a media brand, as it will be directly tied to yourself and your B2B company, but not give the salesy-ness of thought leadership that comes directly from a company’s page. 

Step 8: Engage With Your Audience

Thought leadership is meant to strike up conversations with your audience. So you’ll want to engage with your audience to create real dialogue. To do that, you’ll want to encourage them to respond to your content. Maybe that’s leaving comments or writing posts of their own. However you get them to respond, try to respond. Help your audience feel welcome in your community. 

Step 9: Measure and Analyze Your Strategy's Impact

You’ll want to know how your content is performing, so you can figure out what works and what to replicate—or avoid. Measuring impact can come in a bunch of different forms. You might measure social media metrics to see how many people are interacting with your content. 

Determine the best way to measure your success before you start. That way you can see right away how your content performs. 

Step 10: Iterate and Evolve

Because your industry is likely ever-evolving, your thought leadership strategy will need to be as well. It’s exciting because it will never get old, but you do have to stay on top of changes. You will want to adjust your strategy based on how content is performing. You’ll also want to adjust your strategy based on the industry. The industry can be constantly changing as well, and it’s crucial to stay on top of new developments. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Your Thought Leadership Strategy

Now that we’ve covered how to be a great thought leader, let’s look at what not to do. These are six of the most common mistakes within thought leadership strategies, so you can avoid making them. 

Lacking a Clear Focus

Too often, thought leaders try to cover too much. Trying to cover too many topics dilutes what makes your company unique and your expertise. Instead, stick with your niche. While it might feel small, it’s incredibly valuable to the right audience. 

Underestimating the Value of Original Research

If you only cite secondary sources, you’re not going to look like a true expert. It takes original research to truly become an expert in your field. Original research also helps you provide something unique to the industry. 

Neglecting the Audience's Needs

Don’t focus on what you want to say or what you think your audience will want to hear. You want to always be catering your content to specific needs. That helps your audience feel understood and makes you look like a true thought leader. 

Inconsistent Publishing Schedule

Sporadic production can hurt your user engagement. Sometimes it’s because your audience wants to hear from you regularly. It’s also often because you’ll need to manage the algorithms. The social media algorithms show preference to accounts that post regularly. That’s what helps your content show up on people’s feeds and as suggestions. 

While you don’t need to create content every day, try to post at least once a week somehow.  

Overlooking Promotion

Creating content is only half of the battle. If you’re not promoting it, it’s not reaching all the people it could be. Don’t forget to map out exactly how you’ll promote your content in your full strategy. 

Ignoring Feedback

Not paying attention to your audience’s comments and reactions is a missed opportunity. They’re providing you with free feedback on your content and current strategy. Take their feedback seriously. 

Implementing Thought Leadership Strategy

Overall, thought leadership is an opportunity to build a real community and cultivate relationships with your potential customers. Planning everything in advance with a solid strategy can help you succeed. 

Ready to level up your thought leadership strategy? Then you need a media brand. Sweet Fish’s services are the solution B2B companies need to amplify their thought leadership and increase top-of-funnel growth. To take your thought leadership strategy to the next level, learn more about media brands

FAQs About Thought Leadership Strategy

What are examples of thought leadership?

Thought leadership can come from an individual or an organization. Two examples of individual thought leaders are Oprah Winfrey and Dave Ramsey. They have an established platform, and people take their thoughts seriously. 

Some business examples include: 

  • Acorn. This finance services company aims to educate the entire community about all things financial. They have information on budgeting, saving for retirement, investing, and more. 
  • CEO Think Tank. This organization covers everything business related. They also have an advising network that connects their audience with great CEOs that can propel their business forward. 
  • REI. REI runs an expert-led blog. Hiking, camping, and other outdoors experts will write up content that helps people better understand how to use their REI gear. 

What are the pillars of thought leadership?

The pillars are credibility, expertise, a depth of ideas, and being prolific. You have to start by developing your credibility and expertise, and that will be the foundation you can build your profile on. 

How do you drive thought leadership?

  • Establish a strong strategy 
  • Develop original research
  • Keep readers updated on developments
  • Use a variety of channels

How often should I publish thought leadership content?

A large company should aim to publish four to five times a week in some form. Smaller thought leaders can aim for two or three times a week. 

Can small businesses or individuals implement an effective thought leadership strategy?

Yes! Anyone with expertise in something can build a strong niche and become relevant thought leaders. Individuals have become extremely prolific thought leaders. So no matter your company size, you can benefit from building a thought leadership strategy. 

What's the difference between thought leadership and content marketing?

Both thought leadership and content marketing involves creating content, but they have different focuses. Content marketers aim to increase clicks and sales. Thought leaders strive to provide valuable knowledge to their audience. 

Do I need a large budget to execute a thought leadership strategy?

Nope! Remember, the best thought leaders are the ones who have some kind of expertise and create content that meets their audience’s needs. You can do that on any kind of budget.