Much like “social impact” or “storytelling”, “thought leadership” has fallen victim to the curse of becoming just another buzzword. However, when you take a look at the rise and fall of digital trends, thought leadership appears to be a concept that is very much here to stay.
In fact, in a 2018 LinkedIn survey, 60% of decision-makers credited thought leadership as a deciding factor when purchasing a particular product. Hence, you’ll probably want to incorporate it into your business strategy.
Let’s begin with a simple definition.
What is Thought Leadership?
It’s a method of driving conversations, building healthy business-to-customer relationships, and challenging the way businesses face strategic problems.
Keep in mind that thought leaders are not influencers. They’re well-respected individuals who not only demonstrate high industry standards but can corroborate why certain approaches are better than others.
Lastly, thought leadership can characterise content beyond just being shareable and entertaining. Instead, thought leadership content is valuable, educational, accurate, and well-targeted.
In a nutshell, thought leadership is a business going the extra mile—and here’s why that matters.
Why is it Relevant to Your Tradie Business?
The benefits you enjoy when incorporating methods of thought leadership effectively are plentiful. While outcomes may depend on the goals you set, one thing remains consistent—that thought leadership is a prerequisite to buyer trust and competitive advantage.
Trust remains the top influencing factor in buyer-seller relationships, and building that is just one of the outcomes you’ll get to enjoy as a result of a powerful strategy. Here are the other benefits you may encounter.
You Get to Introduce Your Brand
While you can’t rush quality content, being among the first to put out meaningful and relatable content keeps you top-of-mind. As you discover your brand voice and personality, audiences get to familiarise themselves with the way you speak and with the content you provide.
You Earn a Trusted Reputation
We all know what buyers are after—making the smartest purchasing decisions. As a business who can meet their needs, you’ll best want to influence those decisions, but selling yourself can be difficult.
79% of online publication editors claim that sellers tend to over-promote, which is a huge turn-off to buyers who would rather buy a solution and not a product. When you find creative and serviceable ways to sell your brand, you earn a credible reputation.
You Become a More Engaged Member of Your Industry
The more you know, the more you attract potential clients or even industry peers who want to know as well. Becoming an industry resource doesn’t just bring you leads—it also earns you respect.
Plus, knowledge sharing can lead to strong business partnerships, referrals, and greater exposure.
So how do you get there in the first place?
How to Develop Effective Thought Leadership
The core of thought leadership is selling your brand as an expert. Regardless of who you’re speaking to, you’ll want to set yourself up as a business that knows what it’s doing and at the same time benefit your audience.
Here are some best practices when it comes to incorporating thought leadership into your tradie business.
Begin With an Idea in Your Field of Expertise
As most leaders do, you’ll want to start with a vision—and you can begin within your niche. Don’t limit your vision to what you’re currently capable of. Allow your goals to wander. You’ll get there eventually.
The point is to develop new and innovative solutions to pressing industry challenges that haven’t quite been put to rest.
Take a look at Refinery29’s 29Rooms, an annual funhouse event that features all types of artists and cultural experiences. At face value, it appears to be a random, quirky experience meant solely to entertain. In reality, 29Rooms has found a way for unlikely designers and musicians to market themselves in a more approachable space.
No matter how out-of-reach one’s objectives may appear to be, passionate industry leaders will eventually find ways to achieve them.
Understand What Your Audience Needs and Educate Them
As an unspoken rule, you can’t satisfy a customer if you don’t know exactly what they’re after. Audience analysis is a vital first step when it comes to establishing yourself as a thought leader.
You may not think you need to spend a lot of time crafting buyer personas. After all, if you’re placing a valuable product or service on the market, chances are an audience will eventually gravitate towards you. Or you can ask the 60 – 70% of B2B marketers who don’t know their buyers at all.
Knowing your audience isn’t limited to demographics or basic preferences. Instead, you’ll want to focus on audience psychographics. You might categorise your services by how simple or complex they are to achieve. However, who might avail of these services can vary more than you think.
You may encounter two different clients who want to achieve a similar outcome. The difference is, one may have prior knowledge of your service, whereas the other might be an entirely blank slate.
To best educate your audience, you’ll need to know who they are. Are they up-and-comers? Are they social media masters? You’ll have to decide.
Come Up With a Meaningful Content Strategy
Valuable content isn’t just a one-off solution. Thought leaders don’t just seek to answer one immediate question. Rather, they prefer to create content that inspires, contributes, and continues ongoing dialogues about their industry. Whether to add to an already pressing conversation or take an entirely new stance is completely up to you.
Consider every option on your plate. Are you hoping to debunk a common myth that plagues your industry? Perhaps you want to predict trends or evaluate the ones that already come and go.
Knowing how you want to tackle certain issues can steer your content strategy in the right direction. It’s just a matter of incorporating these ideas into your websites, forums, or periodicals.
Become an Industry Resource and Present Data Intelligently
As a tradie, you’re likely to be dealing with a lot of numbers and information. Not only will you want to find a way to present information to your audience at all—you’ll want to find a way to present information and make it interesting.
Many industry leaders have been turning to infographics; 65% in the last four years, to be exact. People respond better to information conveyed within a visual, they do 323% better following instructions that are accompanied by an illustration.
But are infographics overused? No, you’ll just have to figure out an intuitive and intelligent way of presenting them. Or, because of today’s always-on approach to data and information, you might try hosting a poll or interactive Q&A.
Alternatively, you can present yourself as a resource in various other ways. Especially in today’s digital landscape, forums such as LinkedIn, Quora, and even Reddit are becoming a refuge of information.
Allocate a certain time of day to converse with your audience. Something as simple as a link to a helpful article or response to a question can reinforce to your customers that you care.
Whatever method you pursue, ensure that you deliver content that reflects your brand’s unique imprint. Maybe you’ll come up with a catchy signature or hashtag.
Humanise Your Brand
There’s no doubt knowledge sharing is a vital first step towards becoming a sought-after resource. However, churning out links, no matter how useful, becomes meaningless when you fail to tie back to the buyer’s context.
Being relevant also means being specific. Providing someone with a thousand-word article to answer a single question may end up increasing a buyer’s burden. Instead, consider sending over the same article, but supplement this with a specific thought or paragraph. This helps to reiterate that there is a human behind your brand—not just jargon.
It’s also safe to say that people love a story. You can get personal and demonstrate vulnerability without losing credibility. Think about your most successful product or service. Customers may love it, but will they recommend it? With the push of a backstory, they just might.
Consider letting your buyers in on the challenges you faced developing a single product or service and how you overcame them. Being vulnerable with your audience gives them an opportunity to want to get to know you on a deeper level.
One trend you might want to hop onto the bandwagon for is going behind the scenes. This will allow you to define the company voice, which buyers are often keen to hear.
In short, empathy is good for business. Success isn’t all about being cutthroat and competitive. Studies, in fact, have shown otherwise. Companies are learning to foster more empathetic cultures because it increases sales, loyalty, and referrals.
Consider Unique Formats of Storytelling
As you know by this point, thought leadership takes on dozens of mediums. There is no one way to get your point across. Depending on the size and scope of your message, you might consider pursuing a blog, a YouTube channel, or even an event.
You don’t have to do something different. You can take an old idea but you’ll have to do it best. But with dozens of communication channels at your disposal, how do you choose?
You may be trying to convey a single message—but note that you’ll be relaying this to many different kinds of people. Spend time getting to know their pain points, online behaviours, and attitudes towards different brands.
Create a messaging matrix. Outline not what your services are but how they create solutions for other people. Think about how you have an advantage over your competitors. For future reference, drawing from your messaging matrix when crafting targeted messages better streamlines your process.
When it comes to selecting a channel, be where your audience currently exists. In recent years, Instagram has become a platform for longer-form video storytelling, which has given modern thought leaders a greater avenue of expression.
If you’re a smaller, startup business, you might want to tap into guest blogging. Figure out what your audience is reading and submit your content for publishing there. In any case, it’s a great way to link back to your website.
Every now and then you may want to experiment with formats out of your comfort zone. At the very least, if you succeed, you’ll be remembered for them.
In the end, thought leadership is more than just a buzzword. It becomes a stepping stone to reframing industry discussions you’re passionate about and enhancing your market leadership.
Thought leaders are responsible for bridging gaps between audiences and creating long-term growth opportunities. They understand that the end goal may be to sell, but that overseeing the best buying decisions for their customers is just as important.
There are dozens of new techniques that can help boost your tradie business. To learn more about them, visit our blog and read our wider article on personal branding.