How does a Thought Leadership strategy work?


Thought Leadership Strategy is the tool of all those companies and brands that have taken over the opinion leadership in their industry and thereby shape the market opinion. Thought Leaders are the thought leaders and opinion leaders in their industry.

Time and again we observe that the traditional market leader in an industry is also the opinion leader at the same time. This goes well until a completely new player comes along and replaces the established thought leader in the perception of the target group with new perspectives and ways of thinking. Just think of the short period of time in which a completely unknown player, such as Tesla, has taken over the thought leadership for electric mobility and is now driving the global automotive industry forward.

These Thought Leadership successes can be planned and they are indeed strategically planned by individual companies. The secret of success is called: Thought Leadership Strategy.

How do you plan a professional thought leadership strategy and how do you implement it successfully? Here are five steps to achieving a unique position in the market as a thought leader and opinion leader.


Step 1: Thought Leadership strategy is the basis

You have already dealt with the Thought Leadership methodology and realized that your brand can use it to build up a unique position in relation to its competitors. Good!

You then analyzed what your brand should stand for as a pioneer, how it can win people's hearts and minds and what great idea it can stand for. All the better.

And you have familiarized yourself with how Thought Leadership Strategy works and now you know how the brand of a Thought Leader differs from that of an expert or celebrity.

You know that the step to thought leadership requires a long-term commitment and that your brand is an idea that is bigger than you are.

You are aware that you urgently need a thought leadership strategy to win over employees, customers and the public to your big idea.

You are determined to use thought leadership marketing to build an independent brand terrain that inspires people to embrace your big idea. You will put your brand at the spearhead of your market more strongly than before.

This is already the superstructure of your Thought Leadership strategy. But what about the implementation? After all, you cannot simply develop your Thought Leadership on the drawing board. And a brand vision on paper does not create a pioneering role in the market. So on to implementation!


Step 2: Start with a Thought Leadership Campaign

Analyse your marketing campaigns, your PR activities, your SEO activities and your content marketing. Which overarching, major brand idea do the previous campaigns pay off on? What is the overall picture? Is it really what you want to stand for and what you inspire customers with?

Now develop a brand idea with professional storytelling that addresses an unresolved and previously unarticulated need of people.

This is easier than you think. Just think of Dove, a personal care brand that realized that women have had enough of the ideal image of the beauty industry. They want authenticity and self-confidence. Dove is the only brand that has occupied the newly found terrain of "natural beauty" worldwide - and has successfully defended it for more than a decade.

Involve customers in this story:

  • as a source of ideas about innovative co-creation in product development, service delivery and market development,
  • as the star of brand history (e.g. like the self-confident and natural women in the Dove print and TV commercials) and
  • as brand faces, i.e. brand ambassadors who are not bought, but who identify with the brand and its big idea.

In this way, customers become fans who are passionately committed to the brand and who, as "brand evangelists", convince more people. Create a consistent message in your thought leadership marketing campaign - across all communication tools and all customer touch points.

Step 3: Implement Customer Experience Management

Just a short time ago, it was all about a Thought Leadership Campaign - a marketing campaign that "only" concerns your communication - and not your products, your service or the advice of your sales team.

Thought leader strategy often goes further - and puts the entire value chain at the service of the brand message. At Apple, for example, even the top management attaches great importance to the customer experience. For example, the company creates a consistent and extraordinary customer experience for iPhone customers - from unpacking the mobile phone (unboxing), to simple commissioning, to updating the product experience with ever new apps and features. Everything is meticulously coordinated right down to the design of the last app button.

A Thought Leader Brand can be recognized exactly when the logo is not present. You can feel and experience a Thought Leader hard brand hard. Leave nothing to chance in the customer experience.


Step 4: Create your brand community

What makes Thought Leader? They are companies, brands and personalities who own both: authority and reach in their target group. However, you cannot expand your thought leadership position in the long term by your own efforts alone. Fortunately, a thought leader brand receives a lot of support - from its customers and fans. They enjoy getting involved in a brand community - with or without your support.

Thought leadership strategy requires you to be one step ahead: Support your dedicated customers passionately in building a brand community, whether as a Facebook group in B2C marketing, as a LinkedIn Group in B2B marketing and professional services marketing or as an independent customer community on your own platform.

Today, there are excellent tools for this purpose, such as the community software Lithium. In our work with corporate customers and medium-sized businesses, we have repeatedly seen that companies overestimate the financial and human resources required for a brand community. And, as I said, do not underestimate the helpfulness of your customers once you have won their hearts with your brand.


Step 5: Build your Thought Leader System

In the short term, it may seem sufficient to pursue a purely communicative thought leadership strategy and only lead a thought leadership campaign. But what if you put not only your communication, your products and services, but ultimately your entire business model at the service of your brand idea that wants to make the planet a little better? This is not rhetoric or business esotericism, because look at companies like Google or Amazon.

You're looking at two global market leaders who have created their own market. You see brands that have a virtually unique position in the market, and no one else. Both brands have a big big idea and a worldwide brand community.

Google simply set itself the goal of making all of humanity's knowledge available to everyone at the push of a button. The founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have probably more than thoroughly achieved this - and only they.

And Amazon - a customer community? Sure, after all, a worldwide and broad user community writes all the reviews, recommendations and usage tips that make purchasing decisions and lives easier for millions of people, of its own accord and without financial reward.

In a business model such as Google or Amazon, the thought leadership strategy is already woven into the DNA of the business model and inseparably linked to the brand message. And that's what the billions of customers of Google and Amazon experience and enjoy every day. We call such a business model a Thought Leader System. It is a Thought Leadership Strategy in perfect form.

Do you think this is too high for your company? Maybe not, if you consider that Larry and Sergey from Google built their great vision with a first search engine PC made of Lego bricks...