We know that content marketing is critical to online marketing, I guess that’s why some of us blog so much - but have you ever wondered what would be the one thing that would take your content marketing to the next level, and outdo your competitors? What is the single most critical requirement that could make or break your content marketing efforts in terms of influencing and attracting potential buyers?
In a recent Forrester report (April 2013) by Laura Ramos, entitled “Nurture Thought Leadership to Nurture Your Brand”, Ramos argued that thought leadership sits at the pinnacle of content marketing to nurture your brand. Not withstanding the myriad of approaches to good content marketing, what is remarkable is that good thought leadership takes content marketing to the next level and make all the difference. See her illustration below.
So, what is thought leadership? There are many different interpretations and opinions, but here is my humble take of it. Thought leaders are individuals, through their content writing and other form of contributions, are recognised by others around them – including their customers, their peers and authorities and experts in their industries, as those who truly understands their market, the needs of their customers and hence, why they do what they do in their business. In addition, they are future looking and thought provoking at the same time with new insights on latest developments, and they are able to use these insights to help their audience.
In my view, true thought leadership dictates that you love what you do. It shows your passion, energy and motivation. Thought leaders are always eager to answer questions when opportunity arises, and do so in a manner that exudes excitement and enthusiasm in the topics concerned. As a thought leader, you have the drive to impart knowledge with no strings attached or self-promotion. And you are never overly concerned about whether or not new client prospects knows how to contact you because if you add value to them, they will go out of their way to find you.
Thought leaders always reach out and communicate in authentic manner, genuinely willing to help. They are neither arrogant nor think that they know it all, but that they are very much part of the learning community. In fact, their confidence in their field is balanced by curiosity and willingness to learn from others, even from those in the same industry. They are not ashamed to ask questions, because they know their willingness to learn is not judged, but praised and welcomed by others, thereby earning them respect for reciprocity. In doing so, thought leaders are constantly improving their body of knowledge with which they can continue to add value to others. Thought leaders are constantly connecting and communicating, because they know that investment of their time today reaps the benefits of years to come.
At SavvySME, we cultivate thought leadership by enabling the community promote “top influencers”, photos of whom you can see clearly on the homepage. These top influencers are recognised by others in the community as “thought leaders” in their respective field of expertise - as evident by ratings given for their contributions to the community. Whenever you rate or vote their contributions positively such as their posting of articles and answers to questions, it adds to their reputation score, hence their ranking as top influencers in their field of expertise. If you visit their profile page, you will see their contributions hence why they are thought leaders.
The real question is, why is thought leadership and recognition of thought leaders important in our SME community? It is because SavvySME is founded on the premise of healthy and sustainable B2B relationships. And B2B relationships as we know are centred on earning trust and credibility. It is trust you cannot buy, but earned. In our community, members are recognised for thought leadership through contributions ranging from posting of articles, answering questions, to asking questions and facilitating discussions with others in the community. Thought leaders are noticed by offering help and something fresh such as information, insights and ideas in their respective fields, which is why each member on the site has a different set of top influencers displayed based on their individual selection of topics of interest.
We encourage thought leadership on the site because if you are willing to invest, you will be easily seen on the site as an authority in your industry. If you are a generous contributor, you have proven to be invaluable as a resource and an advisor. You naturally attract an audience and new prospective customers to your business. It shows potential customers that your differentiator is not always about competing on price, but on maximum value for your customers. It is also about their security of knowing that they are in safe hands. Demonstrating your thought leadership allows your prospects to ‘experience’ the value you provide before they buy. Remember that when buyers spend time listening to what you have to say, they have actually ‘invested’ in you before the actual purchase. As such, you have effectively shortens the sales cycle because they already know and trust you as an authority in your field.
My team and I had to first learn to build trust, before we start introducing premium memberships. We wanted to show how well it all works together before we charge for our services. The opportunities to share thought leadership with each other is an incredibly satisfying experience. The most constructive discussions we have back at the HQ are thought provoking discussions about how we can go “above and beyond” to solving local small business owners’ problems, rather than simply follow the pack.
Our focus on enabling thought leadership is why SavvySME is designed the way it is, with its solid focus on B2B and helping to shorten the B2B sales cycle. Our goal is to help you make the right connections and do business effectively on the platform. But in order to make that happen, we needed to create an environment where you can build trust through thought leadership in front of a quality audience of business owners and entrepreneurs. It takes the right mindset for you to start participating and engaging with others in the community. Getting started is easy if you’re up for it. We are spoilt for choice in this digital age, but the more you give, the more you get.
At SavvySME, the stage is set. The question is, are you willing?
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