Let's take a quick look at some statistics that point to the current realities of thought leadership marketing. Are you surprised by any of these statistics -- or the opinions of your peers who are trying to establish thought leadership? Please weigh in using the comments section at the end of the article.
Our hope is these statistics will help you identify aspects of your thought leadership strategy that need attention.
1. The #1 way to establish your consulting or B2B company as a thought leader on a particular topic: SEO optimization
Owning the SEO terms related to a topic matters most, according to an upcoming thought leadership marketing study by Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF), Bloom Group, Rattleback and Research Now. (This surveyed 692 buyers of consulting services, 58% of which worked in companies with >$1B in annual revenue.)
The #2 answer to establishing thought leadership, according to that survey? Conference presentations by subject matter experts.
2. Publishing too much content can actually hurt you
93% of respondents to that same AMCF study said high-quality thought leadership content improves their opinion of that consulting firm -- and 94% said poor content lowers their opinion of the firm. Quantity matters, but not at the expense of quality.
3. Consulting companies spend real dollars on thought leadership marketing
These companies are spending an average of 0.9% of revenue, or $4.3 million on revenue of $467 million, according to the AMCF study. That's up from 0.5% of revenue in 2013. Leaders among the group, those getting the most business leads from thought leadership marketing, spend more: 2.2% of revenue.
4. Storytelling matters in the digital age
If you can combine your expertise with a personal aspect of the human experience that everyone relates to, you join a special club of thought leaders. For example, look at the 20 most popular TED talks. The common theme in this list is human struggles, from education to medical dilemmas to being introverted. Being a thought leader does not mean being a stilted academic who speaks in what-ifs.
5. Interest in thought leadership is trending up
Despite several years of hype about thought leadership, interest is rising, according to Google search trends data.
Interestingly, searches dip each December and pop back up in January. New year, new determination – suggesting January is a prime time to catch people's attention with your expertise.
6. Today’s online ideas marketplace is "noisier" than ever.
The competition for readers' attention only gets harder. One example: Forbes.com now has 1500 unpaid contributors, many of them thought leaders in their fields. The site dished up 7000 to 8000 posts per month. If your posts don’t drive traffic, you won’t get anywhere on Forbes.
7. The concept of "thought leadership marketing" in business isn't new
No one in a hoodie dreamed this idea up. Sure, you could argue experts have given advice through books for centuries. But as for thought leadership marketing in business, it appears to go back about one hundred years. Frederick Winslow Taylor, an engineer at Midvale Steel Company in Pennsylvania in the late 1880's, won fame as the "father of scientific management." He published his book, "The Principles of Scientific Management," in 1911, becoming a thought leadership marketer, in effect, more than 100 years ago. He brought new ideas on production efficiency to the factory and forged a career applying that management wisdom to production techniques.