The technology industry is one of the most dynamic industries in today’s business landscape.
Players are not slowing down in the rate at which they churn out new concepts and innovations. We are used to yearly updates and growth cycles, but that timeframe has been reduced to as fast as one week these days.
A new piece of tech innovation making the market today does not mean something else cannot leapfrog it in a matter of days or weeks.
We like to see that kind of growth, but it could also mean a nightmare for thought leaders. After all, how can you stay relevant and get a timely message across when things seem to be changing faster than you can put your finger on it?
Despite the challenges, becoming a thought leader in this industry is certainly not a lost cause.
Tech and Thought Leadership: What’s the Connect?
Thought leadership remains one of the most significant market positioning and penetration strategies for tech companies at different stages of their lives.
Start-ups do not have the legacy of long-standing companies to back up their offerings. This is why they usually face stiff competition in breaking into the market unless they can show that they truly have a unique handle on solving problems.
This is where thought leadership comes in for those brands.
For the more established brands, thought leadership is the key to maintaining relevance. As we discussed in the opening parts of this piece, the tech market is ever-changing and fickle.
A company that is on top today has no guarantee that they will still be on top tomorrow. A new solution might come up faster than we can snap our fingers and capture the market share from the former leader.
If you don't believe us, look at the likes of Yahoo, Blackberry, Nokia, and some other tech-focused companies that looked infallible, yet have changed significantly in the past decade.
The first stage of thought leadership in tech, no matter the brand's scale, is geared towards recognition. Tech problems are serious issues or challenges that require unique approaches, which save costs and time in the same breath. Thus, preferring tangible solutions to real-life problems and highlighting them will bring substantial recognition.
The next stage in thought leadership transcends the personal solution model to gaining acceptance for your products and services.
If you can advance discussions and provide practical solutions, it means you have built something to help clients even more. Without directly promoting these services and products, you can gain traction.
Building on both foundations, start working to make your offerings the go-to-market solution in your chosen niche.
You will emerge from this process having attained the industry clout needed to make the needle swing in your favour. That puts you in a prime position to be the go-to person for problems you have solutions for (as evident in your insights and products).
Types of Thought Leadership to Embrace
The end goal may be practical thought leadership, but there are several ways to get there. As a current or aspiring tech thought leader, we have curated some of the best thought leadership approaches for the best ROI:
A common misconception about whitepapers in the technology world is that they are only launched around products. With the rise of the crypto niche, this does not come as a surprise.
The truth, however, is that whitepapers can be about any problems.
As a thought leader, niching down should allow you to understand your audience's pain points. Identify the problems that they have, where it also intersects with your skillset.
As a general rule, we recommend tackling these kinds of problems:
- The problems that your target audience has, but they don’t know about yet
- Emerging problems that do not have a defined solution set yet
- Established problems that do not have clear-cut paths to solutions.
We need to reiterate that the whitepaper has to be reliant on your strength as an individual and as a brand. This is no place for expertise creep, so stick with your audience and skills.
Another myth: thought leaders are the crown jewels of the content marketing space. Thus, they should not be seen interacting with the social media minions they are supposed to rule over. Wrong! Thought leadership is not an ego trip.
You are established as an authority that solves problems for people, so you are in their service. Your reward for that service is the recognition and engagement you receive.
Engagement is critical for any thought leader, and social media is a great place to tick that box.
Of course, not every social media platform might be suitable for you. Identify where your target audience is and where they love to discuss the topics that are dear to them. That is where you want to be, so you can always get in on the conversations as they are happening.
Email is essential to the corporate world. Deployed right, emails could be the most significant fuel to your thought leadership campaign.
The best thing about email newsletters is how they can be used to understand your audience better. Instead of bombarding them with long-form content that they do not appreciate, you can provide bite-sized information. They will click through to read the meatier content if interested. That way, you are building up a shareable resource that brings value to your leads and brand.
From the broader category of seeking collaborations is the opportunity to book in speaking engagements. This is not a measure of thought leadership success, unless you have set out to make it a part of your strategy. Speaking engagements are good PR for your brand. They allow you to show your unique insights and expertise to a diverse brand of willing audiences, brought together under another event's canopy. You get a ready audience that will be keen on giving you their attention. Worked right, speaking engagements are a win-win situation.
A tech thought leader is under no obligation to go after all these thought leadership methods, although including a suitable mix within your strategy will provide real results.
One person does not have to bear the burden alone, either. It is not uncommon to see brands deploy different thought leadership champions to the various categories for better focus and success, playing to specific strengths and subject matter expertise. If your brand has the luxury of multiple talents that can shine in different ways, it does not make sense to dump all the responsibility onto one person.
The Core Vitals for Tech Thought Leadership
Treading the paths of a thought leader in the tech industry, we have found these strategies to help keep your campaign alive and useful for the short and long term.
Know your Stuff
Technology is not one space where you can 'fake it till you make it.' You need to know what you are talking about. That does not come from attending one class or training session, either.
Dig deep into where your skills, abilities, passions, and current position intersect. This defines what you can speak on for days on end without ever getting tired. It also points to the niche where you will be interested in identifying and solving problems.
We can say that this is the single most crucial step for any thought leader, tech or not. In the tech industry, it is imperative. Otherwise, a thousand and one audience members are waiting to call you out on your lack of expertise. That is the market you have found yourself in.
Forget ‘Technology’ Language
The birthplace of core technology was designed by buzzwords, technical-speak, and all the software jargon you could muster. The market has evolved beyond that stage now.
Of course, it is still lovely to hear about your artificial intelligence systems tied to big data and how you leverage cloud computing to make it all work. Best believe that no one will take you seriously if you cannot show your results. So, focus on the results – which can be explained in everyday language – rather than persuade the audience with buzzwords.
True thought leaders know that anyone can throw around fancy terms and words to make it look like they know what they are doing. They also know that the bulk of the work lies in making things as simple as possible, not complicating it.
When creating and sending out any content, ensure it is free from industry jargon, while backed with vital substance.
Speak of the devil! It is always true that buying is an emotional decision, even in the B2B market. These B2B decision-makers only back up their emotions with logic, not the other way round. However, they are not emotionally spurred in the same way as you would a B2C audience.
The buying process for B2B markets keeps getting more complex by the year. With more vendors to consider and the pressure to pick a high-performing product, buyers' stress is mounting.
You can solve this problem and make their work easier with quality research that yields actionable facts and figures. Instead of guesswork, they can now come to you for the concrete numbers that will inform their buying decisions. Otherwise, they will discard you as one of the bunch that puts out generic content.
If you can, carry out your research in-house. Otherwise, you can reach out to quality research and analytics teams to collect the relevant data to drive success for your thought leadership campaigns.
Timeliness of Message
One idea that we have floated throughout this discussion is the importance of relevance in tech. What worked yesterday might still work today – but there could be a better solution to that already.
Trends are short-lived in the tech industry, while predictions can fizzle out in a matter of very little time. Producing evergreen content in this niche is, therefore, a challenge in itself.
The first step to getting out of this bind is identifying niches in your buyer personas. You cannot be chasing all the trends, for all the market, all the time. You need to know who you are catering to, so you can focus on those trends and timely messages. This is how to put less stress on your overall content creation process, allowing you to maximize each trend and concept that applies to your target market.
Afterward, the creation of an agile thought leadership team is inevitable.
Once the message is ripe for delivery, please get it to the audience. It does not have to be perfect – but passable. If there is one thing we know, tech leaves a lot of room for improvement on the content front. Once the first message is out, it gets your audience talking. As they are having that conversation, you are already at the drawing board where more content is being produced for them.
Business Leaders’ Inclusion
A severe problem plaguing tech thought leadership is inclusion. We have broached the subject under technology language, but more needs to be said on this subject.
If things were moving linearly, the only focus for a tech thought leader would be the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and their team. However, we have seen that the B2B buying process is more complicated than that.
Even if the CTOs were the ones who identified the opportunity, they would need the CFO to sign off on the purchase. The CEO would also have to be on board, as they are the one who answers to the board if anything should go sideways.
We have already identified three offices that are indirectly weighing heavily on the purchasing decision here. Crafting a buyer persona and the CTO journey alone will result in your brand leaving too much money on the table.
Fine tune your content in a way that allows other decision-makers and business leaders to have a seat at the table. Appeal to their senses and offices too so that they see the tech advantages to the brand as a whole. That way, you can get more stakeholders on your side and spring ahead of the competition that is probably focusing on the wrong target audience.
Selling the Problem
Tech is all about the solutions, so this approach seems somewhat counter-productive. Hear us out, though…
Sometimes, your target audience is not unaware of having a problem. Thus, they have seen solutions and have ignored them, until you show them how serious such a situation is.
Your thought leadership content could identify how many productive hours your audience is losing by not implementing a solution. It could be how much money they are losing yearly. You could also leverage an internal survey of other industry players to show the growth rate enjoyed by those who have chosen to solve that problem.
That beats just telling them how ‘Solution X’ solves ‘Problem Y.’ You are now showing them how serious Problem Y is, driving them to seek out solution X.
This kind of thought leadership plays on the emotions of the audience. You are selling the problem and showing them how to solve it, but you have built up enough trust that they are more likely to hire you to solve it for them.
There is a reason why we naturally trust third party reviews and testimonials more than the ones we find on a company’s website. They are all social proofs, no doubt, but the company could be running some self-promotion with the reviews published on their website.
The same thing tends to affect thought leadership content. The aim of thought leadership is not to promote – even though it does that by itself. Even if done right, always hosting your thought leadership on your blog and platforms alone could look like you are self-promoting.
Positioning your content on different industry media platforms will solve this problem for you. Seek out collaborations with trusted names in the industry, allowing them to deliver your content. Leverage the trust and credibility they have, to build even more unbiased authority and trust in your brand.
Boost your Message
Your thought leadership does not end at the time you hit the publish button. You should still seek to get more eyes on those ideas and that content.
It is not enough to have done a ton of good research and formatted the content in the right way for the market. If you do not promote it, all that good work would have been for nothing.
There are diverse approaches to boosting the efficacy of your thought leadership.
- SEO – optimize your message for the right keywords. This puts you in good standing with search engines, which could well provide more than 50% of your overall traffic.
- Newsletters – as discussed above, sending email newsletters also boosts your reach while ensuring continued relevance.
- Collaborations – seek out influencers in the industry and work with them to reach their audience too. Conduct interviews with leading personalities and other thought leaders. Be open to speaking engagements, guest posts, and related public appearnaces.
- Social sharing – social media is a great tool to get your thought leadership out there. The success of social media boils down to identifying the right social media for your audience. Otherwise, you are just projecting your voice loudly into empty space.
From Prototype to Product
You don’t have to get it all right at first. Thought leaders are humans too and they are bound to make mistakes. These are learning phases as they climb the ladder to the top.
As you would with any product, this is an excellent time to launch your beta thought leadership. Iterate, evolve, and keep improving the process. Learn as much as you can on the job and keep reinventing yourself along the way.
By taking note of the tips on this list and doing your homework, compelling thought leadership is just around the corner for you.
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