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November 19, 2020
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Bringing a sustainable strategy into your thought leadership marketing

By Yogesh Shah | Time to Read: 00:05:00
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Bringing a sustainable strategy into your thought leadership marketing
Marketing

Fortune 500 companies understand that what they do today is not essential if it will not last. These brands have well-oiled marketing strategies that are built to last and will rarely make any marketing move if they have not played it out in the long run.

One such example I want to share is KPMG, who have been running the CEO Outlook, a thought leadership program, for more than four years. The 2019 edition surveyed more than 400 US CEOs and up to 1,300 CEOs globally.

It is one thing to do that once and give it up. It is another ball game to keep up with the trends and see out where the thought leadership path will lead to in the future. With a strategy to guide it, tweaks can be made along the way to ensure that the program keeps with the times while maintaining the core of its formation.

The question right now is if your company has a sustainable strategy for thought leadership in place, or are you just taking things as they come? Many of my clients asks me what does it mean to have a sustainable strategy in marketing, so I will make an attempt to decode it.

Why you need a sustainable strategy in marketing

Thought leadership alone cannot take a company from where it is to the top crop of the field. It would, however, contribute massively to that growth.

Evidence for this is found in a body of research supporting that C suite executives are doing more business with brands that have an appealing thought leadership strategy. Up to 60% of these executive decision-makers are also ready to spend more on the companies who exhibit a clear-cut approach, which results in them being perceived as thought leaders.

The key here is not that your audience is willing to pay a premium. It is that the brand they want to pay a premium to must be able to deliver and solve their problems and challenges, and more often than not, this a reflection of great thought leadership. Doing so consistently is something that does not happen overnight or without a strategy.

For us, this is why we are concerned that 14% of content developers do not have a well-thought-out content strategy – and they are nowhere near as successful as the 65% who do.

The sustainable strategy also pushes thought leaders to ask the right questions. Dwelling in the presence of a company might make fleeting success look like a solid one. It could make small wins cloud the judgment so much that growth stalls. Long term planning, however, shows what work still needs to be done. It is from such growth that more thought leadership flows.

Looking again at to the KPMG example, what can we learn?

KPMG’s yearly report picks the brains of CEOs from all around the world to get their insights on global market changes, what to expect in the business space, and related topics. They also do a neat job of segmenting the CEOs regionally (by country, region, or continent) to provide more targeted insights to the consumers of their thought leadership content in such areas.

With such an impressive reach, brands that do not work or associate with them directly are able to build a level of confidence, allowing them to solicit KPMG’s services. In that way, KPMG has a broader reach of survey respondents for its thought leadership programs, and they have impacted a section of their audience too. That is all the result of a sustainable strategy.

Michael Porter (famous for Porter’s Five Forces model) believes that the essence of strategy is choosing not what to do. That statement might sound vague in isolation, but it packs a powerful punch in practice.

Long term strategy allows you to play all or most of the angles before they even present themselves. With such a focused approach, your messages are cohesive and not scattered in multiple directions. You know what internal goals need to be achieved and you are only focused on them.

That plays out better than trying to do everything at once without having anything to resonate with and involve your audience. That is why we can identify KPMG as stable and strong players in thought leadership.

How to Know If You Need A Sustainable Strategy

What drives your current thought leadership and marketing campaigns?

Before you answer this, don’t default to the generic answer of wanting to reach more of your target market. There is also the boilerplate response of wanting to become the central voice in your industry on the matters on which you have chosen to focus. Surely, that is what every marketer should be aiming for?

Once you get that out of the way, you can decide if you have set a solid goal for your thought leadership programs.

Think about if you can report your thought leadership successes to the public and shareholders in their current format. Of course, you may not need to – but would it be possible if you were asked? Would you be comfortable and confident in doing so? If not, chances are, you are not measuring your thought leadership campaign success effectively.

That might through of not giving much thought to where you want to be with your thought leadership in the future.

So, why bother? (Wrong question!)

Adopting a Sustainable Strategy

Like every other aspect of marketing, thought leadership requires creating a sustainable strategy that look inwards as well as out. The company goals, products, services and culture will take the driver’s seat, guiding the vehicle of strategic transformation through the most desirable, effective path to actualization. It goes without saying that these elements should already be built around your customers’ needs and the solutions you can provide.

Employee engagement should also be a priority when creating a sustainable strategy. While senior management is responsible for decision making, employees get work done. These employees are also better connected to the end-users of your product/ service, so their input towards sustainable strategies becomes highly valuable.

The strategy should also allow you to appeal to customers, while saving costs (not necessarily money) in the long run. Reaching customers and potential customers more efficiently and effectively saves costs in the longer term. In turn, you are rewarded with a setup for a highly profitable business model to stand the test of time in what is now a crowded market.

Three takeaways

  • You need a sustainable strategy to win at marketing and thought leadership.
  • Your strategy needs to be informed by the internal brand goals and visions.
  • Decision-making around strategy should not just be a top-down process. It should also respect the employees further down the chain, as they form an integral part of the business model.

Do any of these trends jump out? Get in touch with a thought leadership expert to find out more

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