Getting to the top: How to use thought leadership to gain a strategic advantage
As a business owner, a consultant, or an innovator, there’s a change you want to see in our world. Your great work should be about making that change happen. But in order to create changes and innovation in your industry, you need to be heard above your competitors – and to do that, you need a strategic advantage.
Luckily, thought leadership makes that possible. It’s a powerful approach to connect with those who need to hear your ideas, while also giving you an advantage in your industry.
Here’s how you can use thought leadership to advance your business and get ahead:
Make yourself the authority
Great thought leadership content involves showcasing your experience and expertise in your field to inspire others to live and work better. In doing so, you’ll also build authority in your industry by leading the conversation. If you’re making comments, inspiring people to do things differently, and giving people the tools to do their great work… then you’ll be a highlight in a crowded industry. Not to mention, you’ll also be able to charge a premium for your business’s work – because why would people go anywhere else if you’re the authority?
People will come to you for insight, and with that kind of authority comes the chance to lead your industry. Leading an industry is a big deal – and one you have to step up to. You’ll have the opportunity to show true leadership and innovation with your thinking, and use it in a way to inspire others. In doing so, that’s when you can really use thought leadership to rise above the rest.
Nail your positioning
Part of gaining a strategic advantage involves nailing your positioning. If you are selling one thing, and talking about something else throughout your communications, then it won’t work! Instead, all your great thinking and thought leadership content should be aligned so that your business becomes the ‘go to’ in one clear, undeniable area of expertise. This will become, to borrow a term from W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, your ‘blue ocean’ – the undeniable and uncontested space that your business leads and owns. There, you’ll have no competitors. Because nobody can do exactly what you do, and nobody has your exact expertise, combined with your unique purpose, and your audience’s need.
When you’ve done that, you’ll find that your prospecting process will be cut in half – because when people are clear on what you do and what makes you great, your target audience are far more likely to approach you to do the work you love to do.
Improve your offerings
Dedication to building and maintaining strong thought leadership means plenty of thinking and reflecting. Thought leadership requires time spent brainstorming, challenging yourself, reading and consuming thought-provoking material, having constructive conversations, and thinking deeply about the changes you want to see in your industry and how you can make them happen.
And all that powerful thinking will have benefits that run far deeper than you might expect, helping to give your business an advantage ahead of others who aren’t doing the same regular reflection. It gives you and your team an exciting opportunity to redefine and sharpen your existing offerings to be as valuable as possible, as well as to create new offerings that enable you to have a larger impact without necessarily increasing your time spent on them. Sure, it’s always good to be doing good thinking. But unless you communicate that thinking and actively use it to evolve and improve your work and offerings, then it will go to waste.
What’s more, by sharing your great content and thinking with your community (whether through LinkedIn posts, your blog, speaking gigs, or podcast appearances) you’ll create the ultimate sounding board for your business that enables you to get near constant feedback. Gaining a strategic advantage means being prepared to take that feedback head on (even the bad stuff!) and using it to inform the evolution and improvement of your offerings and how you best serve your audience.
We’ve definitely done that with our offerings – our workshops used to be VERY different from what they are now. But feedback from clients, time spent thinking, and research have all allowed us to develop new frameworks that make our offerings so much more powerful. (If you want to see just how powerful, get in touch.)
When you constantly refine and improve your offerings, you and your business will have the opportunity to work more efficiently, give clients more value, and create things that truly stand out in the market.
Highlight the experience in your team
When it comes to your business, it doesn’t just have to be the leader, executive, or manager leading the thought leadership helm. Thought leadership can come from one voice – but it doesn’t have to. While some businesses might just use their CEO or Founder to build thought leadership, others, such as McKinsey, highlight different members of the team through articles or public speaking to showcase their collective thought leadership. Nobody knows the thought leader as an individual, but rather as a business.
When you highlight voices from across your whole team, you can showcase the expertise of the entire business. If you position multiple team members as leaders and change-makers with innovative ideas, it will help to build your authority as leaders within your industry, and give you an advantage over your competitors who struggle to assert their knowledge and strengths. Not to mention that if your entire team is doing great thinking around your work, then they are in a better position to be trained, primed, and inspired to go out and complete sales while being huge advocates for your vision. That way, it’s not just down to the leader or sales team to champion your business and connect with others – it’s a load shared and owned by everyone.
Taking your own approach
Your business and what you do is unique. You’re different from others in your industry… but are you getting that uniqueness across? Do you stand out from the crowd and make moves ahead of your competitors? Thought leadership is how you can make that happen – if you concentrate your efforts in the right places.
After finishing up this blog, have a brainstorm and assess how you can improve your business’s efforts in:
- Making your positioning clear across everything you do. If someone can’t look at your website or LinkedIn page and immediately understand what you do and the impact your work has, then it isn’t helping.
- Using the brainpower of your entire team to evolve your offerings. Your team members will be doing amazing thinking throughout their day-to-day work – but are you applying those learnings to improving your outputs and offerings?
- Clarifying the voice of your business. Does your content come from the leader? Does it come from the entire team? Establish how you want to approach your thought leadership to ensure your consistency and clarity contributes to a strategic advantage.
Thought leadership is a tool, a practice, and a mindset you can apply to get ahead. And while there’s no single way to achieve a strategic advantage with thought leadership, there is guaranteed to be a way it will work for your business, innovation, or consultancy.