WTF* is Thought Leadership

By Thomas B. Cross @techtionary

In the beginning it was written and the rest as they say, is history but how do we know that was really written that way.  While many try to analyze the written word, we really know very little about how it is understood by the reader.  As one said, “if it wasn’t written, it wasn’t said.”  Again, the spoken word in not the written word.  I am just setting the stage for what is the greatest challenge of any company that being the thought leader in their marketspace.  Within the past few days we have seen how a shoe company has again repositioned itself as not a shoe company but a champion of causes.  The operative word being champion which leads back to what they sell – shoes for champions. It is often hard for companies to realize what they do, what industry they are in and what customers or anyone else thinks of them. Long ago, I wrote that hotels were not really hotels but storage compartments for people on their travels.  Airlines we know are not airlines but really destination providers to move you to that wonderful beach or mountaintop.  Being and building thought leadership is really hard if your customers think of you differently that what you do or think you do.  I help B2B companies with their social media and recently wrote about how none, one more time, none of them have any good CTA-calls to action on their website or part of their marketing efforts.

This is terrible when you think of all the time and money companies spend on building thought leadership content.  Also at the end of the day, you generally find they do very little to promote it.  Ok, the content might include one Twitter or Linkedin post but generally think that “one and done” is good enough.  Then they wonder why no one reads their glorious content they spent days and weeks on it not including legal and compliance review.  Drilling down into content for thought leadership companies often do not really know what they want to say thinking that if they write something it will mean something to somebody.  You better think about that again as people might read your blather once but then they realize you really have nothing to say and then they will never comeback or worse when asked they will tell their friends what a loser you are.  Writing good content is hard but doubly hard if you write on the wrong subject and don’t lead the reader to what you really want them to do – buy your solution.  Moreover, what I find and again as I read hundreds and hundreds of pages a week of all the stuff you are writing about, is a really a lack of connecting the dots between product and purchase.  There is often a clear absence in understanding what the customer really needs, what information they need to make a decision, what other information they need to sell their boss or CFO/CEO (yes, it is not the same), key points about implementation and, dare I say, and, what are the pitfalls that other customers have encountered when deploying and installing your solution.  In addition, there are other missing pieces to the puzzle that companies know about but for some reason, don’t want to tell the buyer about – like some installation required.  Also, have you looked at installation and so-called “quick start” guides they are written by the wrong person to be read by the person trying to put it together and use it.  I am nearing the end of my one-minute diatribe on thought leadership and would like to leave you with some final thoughts.

First, tell the truth.  Tell viewers and buyers what they really need to know about your product.  Yes, it may not sound good but in reality, it is really good and if you do good you will find that good things come to you.

Second, explain both from the high level but also write that anyone can understand – show your children or mom and see if they can understand what you are really trying to say.  Also, visualize what you are writing about as its true a picture is worth a thousand words or more.

Third, test drive with real customers.  Don’t be shy as customers generally welcome the opportunity to help make sense of what you are saying.  They can give you really great tips on style, level, audience, format, pictures, and more.

Fourth, change your attitude about who you are and write for those who read what you write.  This is often the hardest part but can really lead you from being a writer to being a real thought leader.

 

*Oh, WTF means what the fondue, not what you have heard it used elsewhere but you can use it like I often do.  People look at you and know you mean the other word but fondue often gives them a giggle and smile.

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