The technology industry is one of the most dynamic kinds out there.
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 little as one week these days.
That a new piece of tech makes the market today does not mean something else cannot leapfrog it in a matter of days or weeks.
That is the kind of growth that we like to see, but it could also mean a nightmare for thought leaders. After all, how can you stay relevant and pass a timely message across when things seem to be changing faster than you can put your finger on it?
Becoming a thought leader in this industry is not a lost cause, though.
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.
That a company is on top today does not guarantee that they will be there tomorrow. A new solution might come up faster than we can snap our fingers, snagging all the market share from beneath the former winner.
If you don't believe us, look at the likes of Yahoo, Blackberry, Nokia, and some other tech-focused company that looked infallible yet have been replaced effectively.
The first stage of thought leadership in tech, no matter the brand's scale, is geared towards recognition. Tech problems are serious problems that require unique approaches that save costs and time in the same breath. Thus, substantial recognition will come on the back of preferring tangible solutions to real-life problems.
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 actionable solutions, it means you have built something to help out even better. Without directly promoting these services and products, you would be gaining traction to it.
Honing on both foundations, start working to make your offerings the go-to-market solution in your chosen niche.
At the end of it all, you would have attained the industry clout needed to make the needle swing in your favor. That puts you in a primes position to be the go-to guy for problems you have solutions for (as evident in your insights and products).
Types of Thought Leadership to Embrace
The end goal might 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 is that they are only launched around products. With the rise of the crypto niche in the tech world, we are not too surprised by such an erroneous thought line.
The truth is that whitepapers can be just about any problems at all.
As a thought leader, niching down should allow you to understand your audience's pain points. Identify the problems that they have, which also intersects with your skillset.
As a general rule, we recommend tackling these kinds of problems:
- Those problems that your target audience have, 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 brand. This is no place for expertise creep, so stick with your audience and skills.
Thought leaders are seen as the crown jewels of the content marketing space. Thus, they should not be seen interacting with the social media minions they are supposed to lord over. Wrong!
Thought leadership is not an ego trip.
You are established as an authority that solves problems for the people, so you are in their service. You get your reward for that service with the fame, engagement, and recognition you get from this set of audiences.
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 those 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 too.
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 in these newsletters. 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 getting speaking engagements.
This is, by far, not a measure of thought leadership success. Unless you have set out to make it a part of your strategy, that is.
Speaking engagement is good PR for your brand.
It allows 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 all the benefit of the doubt. Worked right, you can never lose with speaking engagements.
A tech thought leader is under no obligation to go for all these thought leadership types, although they can.
Likewise, it is not uncommon to see brands deploy different thought leadership champions to the various categories for better focus and success. If your brand has the luxury of talents that can shine in the other types, it will not make sense to dump it all on one person.
The Core Vitals for Tech Thought Leadership
Towing 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 Opinions
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 either.
Dig deep into where your skills, abilities, passion, and current position intersects. This defines what you can speak on for days on end without ever getting tired. It also points to the niche that you will be very interested in identifying and solving problems in.
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 member is waiting to call you out on your lack of expertise. That is the market which you have found yourself in.
Forget ‘Technology’ Language
The birthing place 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.
Thus, 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 putting out any content, ensure it is free from any 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 around. However, they are not emotionally spurred the same way as you would a B2C audience.
The buying process for B2B markets keeps getting complex by the year. With more vendors to consider and the pressure to pick a performing product, these buyers' stress is mounting.
You can solve this problem and make their work more comfortable 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 piece remains how relevance is of high importance in tech.
What worked yesterday might still work today – but there could as well be a better solution to that already.
Trends are short-lived in the tech industry, while predictions can fizzle out in a matter of little time. Producing evergreen content in this niche is, therefore, a hassle on its own.
The first step to getting out of this bind is niching down on your buyer personas.
You cannot be chasing all the trends for all the market all of the time. You need to know who you are catering to 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 ship 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. 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 the technology language subheading above, but more needs to be said on this subject.
If things were going 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 CTO 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.
Already, we have identified three offices that are indirectly weighing heavily on the purchasing decision. Crafting a buyer persona and the CTO journey alone will result in your brand leaving too much money on the table.
Finetune your content in a way that allows other decision-makers and business leaders have a seat at the table. Appeal to their senses and offices too so that they see the tech's advantages to the brand as a whole. That way, you can get more stakeholders to your side and leapfrog 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 their having a problem. Thus, they have seen solutions and have ignored them till 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 would instead hire you to solve it better.
There is a reason why we naturally trust third party reviews and testimonials better 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 that piece of content.
It is not enough to have done a ton of good research and formatted the content right for the market. If you do not promote, 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 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 appearances.
- Social sharing – social media is a great tool to get your thought leadership out there better. The success of social media boils down to identifying the right social media for your audience. Otherwise, you would be projecting your voice loudly in empty space.
From Prototype to Product
You don’t have to get it all right at first.
Thought leaders are humans, too, so they are bound to make mistakes. These are learning phases as they climb the ladder to the very top.
As you would with any product, this is an excellent time to launch your beta thought leadership. Iterate, improve, and keep improving the process. Learn as much as you can on the job and keep reinventing yourself along the way.
Taking the tips on this list to mind, a working product of compelling thought leadership is just around the bend for you.
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