As small business owners, do we market our top products and services, or our knowledge? Are you an authority on information and knowledge that is relevant to your clients? Do you have the ability to answer their questions before they even ask? Are you the first one they call with their questions, and are you able to provide them with relevant answers?
If you have read more than a handful of my articles, you are acutely aware that I take great caution with regards to buzzwords – especially terms that do nothing more than rebrand or spin existing concepts. Maybe Thought Leadership will simply become just another way to spin subject matter expert, industry expert, et. al., but I find it (Thought Leadership) worth identifying, cultivating, and exploiting in your company. Let’s take a closer look at two levels of Thought Leadership.
First, the company or principle level. This is the authority or inventory of knowledge others (customers) seek from your company’s culture or from the owners / principles of the company. Often, this is part of the founding purpose that drove the creation of your company. Most likely this knowledge is referenced or articulated in your strategic plan. How strong is this level of thought leadership in your business?
If B2B or B2C consumers come to you for your information, and subsequently purchase your services – your thought leadership metrics are high. Companies with very high levels of thought leadership have the confidence (not to be clouded with arrogance) to market their knowledge; with the risk they may not secure a contract for services. This is a strategic business risk they take – often with great rewards.
If you “add value” to your services with a fallback of customer access to your knowledge, the metric yields a slightly weaker level of thought leadership. You may still have high loyalty, as the customer is interacting with you after the delivery of your product or service, but compare this level of loyalty to that of a company who can lead with their knowledge.
The other level of thought leadership is hidden within the minds of your employees. How might we tap this information and knowledge, repackage or rebrand it, and use it to secure future business? An example may be a Web designer who has become acutely aware of (and possibly obsessed with) the systematic and social engineering related security risks of ecommerce or online collaboration. Could they provide special training and peace of mind for your customers? Can you bring in new Web development business by leading with this employee’s knowledge? Can you lead with this knowledge?
I speak often about identifying your Core Competency. Becoming an authority on relevant information – and strategically packaging that knowledge for your customers can help to build stronger barriers to entry, and increase your profitability, value, and relevance.
So what’s the trick?
Think about our next marketing campaign. Will we lead with the product, service, or our knowledge?
How do you identify, measure, and manage your company’s Thought Leadership? If it defines you from your competition, I recommend you give it the time of day.
Think about how our knowledge is managed and packaged. We keep our intellectual property secrets close to the vest, and wrap our products and services up with nice marketing and advertising slogans to entice B2B and B2C consumers to take a closer look, with the hopes of finding a fit.
Your company (large or small) has developed areas of expertise and knowledge that can be of great benefit to customers (consumers and businesses). Now is the time to market that information.
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