In the business world, there’s a curious contradiction: standing out requires fitting in. As a professional, you need to be seen as a credible and authoritative voice in your industry, while also demonstrating your unique perspective and expertise. That’s what thought leadership is about.
Accomplishing this may seem daunting, but it’s precisely the challenge that content marketing can help you tackle.
73% of B2B marketers actively use content marketing to achieve thought leadership. And for the 91% of successful B2B marketers who say that content marketing has helped build credibility and trust with their audience, the results speak for themselves.
By leveraging the power of content marketing, you can build thought leadership that is both distinctive and authoritative, allowing you to stand out in a crowded market and establish yourself as a leader in your field.
In this article, we’ll explore 7 innovative examples of how content marketing can help you achieve thought leadership in your industry.
7 Surprising Ways Content Marketing Can Establish Your Brand As A Thought Leader
Traditionally, content marketing plays the following roles for your business:
- Demonstrate expertise and build authority by producing consistently high-quality content
- Increase visibility by posting on different media platforms
- Foster engagement, collaboration, and partnerships by encouraging discussion
- Build a personal brand through story-telling and relatable content
- Address industry issues and drive social impact by offering unique perspectives and insights
However, working in a crowded market is more challenging when everyone is using the same tactics. To truly differentiate yourself, you need to take a counterintuitive approach.
So, here are 7 uncommonly powerful roles content marketing plays to give your business a stronger edge when building thought leadership:
1. Breaking the rules to stand out:
In a crowded market, sometimes the best way to stand out is to break the rules.
Take the case of Dollar Shave Club, for example. The company disrupted the traditional razor market by creating a viral video that poked fun at the industry’s high prices and gimmicky advertising. The video was shared millions of times and helped Dollar Shave Club establish itself as a thought leader in the shaving industry.
This counterintuitive approach to marketing worked because it challenged the traditional assumptions about what it takes to succeed in the market.
2. Leveraging controversy to spark conversation:
While controversy is often seen as a negative thing in the business world, it can also be a powerful tool for sparking conversation and building thought leadership. Take the case of Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign.
By featuring the controversial athlete in their ad campaign, Nike ignited a fierce debate and generated significant media attention. The campaign was a risk, but it paid off, as Nike’s sales increased by 31% in the days following the launch.
This counterintuitive approach to marketing worked because it sparked a conversation and positioned Nike as a company that’s unafraid to take a stand.
3. Sharing your failures to build trust:
While it’s tempting to only share your successes with your audience, sometimes the best way to build trust is to share your failures. By being vulnerable and honest with your audience, you can demonstrate that you’re a real person who’s been through the same struggles they have.
Take the case of HubSpot, for example. The company’s co-founders, Brian Halligan, and Dharmesh Shah wrote a book called “Inbound Marketing” that chronicled their company’s journey from a failed startup to a successful marketing platform.
The book was a hit, and it helped HubSpot establish itself as a thought leader in the marketing industry. This counterintuitive approach to marketing worked because it built trust with the audience by demonstrating the company’s authenticity and transparency.
4. Embracing your weaknesses to stand out:
Competition is fierce, and it can be difficult for smaller companies to compete with large, established players. However, one counterintuitive way to build thought leadership is by embracing your weaknesses.
Consider the case of Basecamp, a project management software company. When they launched in 2004, they faced stiff competition from established players like Microsoft and Google. Rather than try to compete on features or price, Basecamp embraced its simplicity.
They positioned themselves as a lightweight, easy-to-use alternative to the bloated, complicated software offered by their competitors. This counterintuitive approach worked.
Basecamp’s focus on simplicity and ease of use resonated with users, and the company quickly built a loyal following.
Basecamp is now a project management software industry leader with their approach to simplicity and ease of use as a critical part of its thought leadership strategy.
5. Focusing on the audience instead of the product:
This approach is sometimes called “brand journalism,” and it involves creating content that provides value to the audience, regardless of whether or not it’s directly related to the product or service being sold.
For example, Red Bull’s website features articles about extreme sports, music, and culture, all of which are topics that resonate with their audience.
By taking this counterintuitive approach, Red Bull has been able to build a loyal following and establish itself as a thought leader in the energy drink industry.
6. Collaborating with competitors:
Doing so can help you build credibility and establish yourself as an industry leader.
For example, Salesforce and Microsoft, two of the biggest players in the CRM software market, have partnered to integrate their products and offer a more comprehensive solution to customers.
This collaboration has helped both companies build credibility and establish themselves as thought leaders in the CRM industry.
7. Creating content for non-customers:
It may seem like a waste of time and resources to create content for people who aren’t interested in your product or service. But doing so can help you build thought leadership and expand your audience.
For example, General Electric’s “The Message” podcast explores the intersection of science fiction and science fact. While the podcast has nothing to do with GE’s products, it has helped the company establish itself as a thought leader in the tech and innovation industries.
Combining these counterintuitive roles with conventional ones
Both roles are not alienated but can work in tandem with each other, providing your business with a comprehensive approach to establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Thought leadership content vs Personal stories
For example, while creating thought leadership content that showcases expertise and knowledge in a particular area is a conventional approach, taking an unconventional approach of incorporating personal stories and perspectives can make the content more relatable and engaging to the audience.
Focus on product vs focus on audience
In addition, focusing on the needs and interests of your audience, rather than just your product or service, can help you build credibility and trust with your audience.
By creating informative and helpful content that resonates with your audience, you can position yourself as a thought leader.
Competing vs working together
Similarly, by working with other thought leaders and competitors in your industry, you can gain access to new perspectives, insights, and knowledge that can be incorporated into your content marketing strategy. This can also help build trust and credibility with customers and industry peers.
Creating content for both customers and non-customers
Finally, consider creating content that addresses the pain points and challenges of your target audience, even if they aren’t currently your customers.
By providing valuable information and insights, you can establish yourself as a trusted source of information and build credibility with your audience.
Over time, this can lead to more brand recognition and a wider audience, as people begin to associate your name with expertise in your industry.
In a wrap
We have explored the counterintuitive and conventional roles that content marketing plays when building thought leadership. As we’ve seen through various examples, taking risks, embracing vulnerability, and disrupting traditional assumptions can lead to incredible success.
By using both approaches, you can create a thorough content marketing strategy for building thought leadership that captures your audience’s attention and earns their respect.
So, go ahead and take the plunge. With a little creativity and a willingness to challenge the norm, you can set yourself apart as a thought leader and achieve great success.