B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast
B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast

Episode 2092 · 10 months ago

What I've Learned About Thought Leadership After a 30 Day Deep Dive

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Dan Sanchez talks about his journey into the topic of thought leadership from reading all the books on the topic to doing this 30 day deep dive on B2B Growth. 

Welcome back to BBB growth. I'm dan Sanchez with sweet fish media. And today we're concluding the deep dive on thought leadership. Through the month of june, I've been interviewing experts practitioners, actual thought leaders and have been reviewing resources books as well as giving some my own ideas on this show about the topic of thought leadership marketing shoot. I even debated somebody who kind of had took a stance against that leadership marketing just to see where we could land. And this episode is going to be summarizing uh some of the lessons I've learned after diving deep into this topic. Now, even before this topic, I did try to read every single book I could possibly find around the Topic of thought leadership marketing or becoming a thought leader. And there was about, I don't know, 20 so or so of them and then maybe like 10 that were like somewhat related around like personal branding or something like that. Um quite a few books and I can say that there is without a doubt, something different about actually talking to the experts themselves. Um you can read their books, but you get a much better feel for the material and what's being said after talking to actually talk to people about it, actually, working through the nuances of it. So if anybody's ever interested in that in particular, I think I probably didn't need to do a whole podcast episode and how to use a podcast to learn and accelerate your own expertise because it's, it's been phenomenal. I've done this twice now with the deep dives here on GDP growth and I could just feel my, my own knowledge and handle over subjects, like growing rapidly just from actually talking to the people that really know their stuff. But today I wanted to summarize a lot of the lessons I've learned through this process of this deep dive into the topic. So here they are first thought leadership is a thing, It is real thought leadership. Marketing is not a buzz word, it's not a fad, it's going to be here to stay.

It's existed for a few 100 years at least at least, but was only coined In the 90s as far as the term thought leadership, right? So that hasn't been around for too long, but it's been a thing for a while, like building influence through your expertise or your original ideas on the subject has been around for a long time, being able to do marketing that way has been around quite a while. Um dating all the way back to josiah Wedgwood who was a famous potter, but also like brilliant when it came to business and marketing strategies. Uh a lot of modern marketing concepts get dated back to josiah Wedgwood and that's kind of another episode in and of itself, like the brilliance of that man from Back in the late 1700s kicked off the the Industrial Revolution, but I'm not gonna diverge into a history lesson here. Let's dive back into thought leadership. Thought leadership fits somewhere between brand and demand jin because obviously if you're positioning yourself as a thought leader, of course it's a perception play, it's a big picture thing, which kind of falls into brand, but it also does a fantastic job of generating demand. And I can tell you just as someone who's kind of started their journey on linkedin recently and built up uh like a crowd of friends and just people that we're talking about marketing all the time. I can already see it happening just a little bit for myself and I've gotten a taste um when people show up to sweet fish media wanting to ask about podcasting services and people are our podcast, try to just ask like, how did you hear about it will be like, oh, I've been reading dan for a while and I just showed up because he recommended it. That's the power of thought leadership to a degree when you start to build an authority on something and again, I've only had a small taste of it. Uh James Carberry has been doing this a lot longer and lots of other people doing this way longer than me, but I've done enough to do get like a little taste of it. Um it is real, it does generate demand so that when people show up to sales, they're ready...

...to buy their interested. They've been, they've been, they are convinced that you're the one who has the answers to their problems, which makes the whole sales sales cycle so much smoother. Thought leadership marketing also impacts your positioning and I'm convinced as essential for category design, right? To build a whole new category, you have to lead and you're leading with thinking, right? That's what category category is. It's not it's not a physical thing. A new category is essentially a position in people's minds, right? So if you're going to create a new category in people's minds, you have to lead their thoughts. Thought leadership is the backbone of category creation. Of course, there's a whole ton that goes into category creation. Thought leadership is not the only part that plays there. Um but it is an essential pillar of it because you're gonna have to lead people to creating that new category in their mind. And of course it affects positioning. If you're doing thought leadership marketing as a heavy marketing strategy for to influence your your marketing. It's honestly a positioning play. You're really trying to convince people that you are the thought leader in the space, in this unique aspect that you're trying to drive that it might not be creating a whole new category, but you're trying to differentiate yourself through thought leadership marketing. So at this point you get to the part where it's like, well how do I become a thought leader then? And that was the question I asked about a year ago before I started reading any books, I was like, oh great. Like that leadership marketing sounds cool, even though it's a little cringe e because so many people have called themselves thought leaders without actually having any substance to their message. Um but it's still worthwhile. And I went on this journey to try to figure out like how does one become a thought leader, especially if you're not already starting with a level of authority? And that's a lot of my reading was focused around that and this this is what I discovered. It's not just through um reading, it's also through a lot of the interviews that I've done here on B. Two B growth, some in this deep dive...

...and some that predated this deep dive. I've been kind of having interviews about this topic for a while, and here's the general path that I've found. Um and it's not a unique path, like as I've talked to other people, it's what I've found is that like this these are kind of like well known things. Um everybody kind of gives it a different word or a different phrase. And while I have three major points, people might break it up into four or five points, maybe sometimes two points. Um but when I've talked to other thought leadership practitioners, I have discovered that we all have similar thinking, that we just give it different terms in how we describe the path to becoming a thought leader. So this one is my own. Um but like I said, there's many, many others, um and these are my three, I guess you could call them pillars, I call them three essential ingredients to becoming a thought leader and I call it being expertise, having original ideas an authority or to simplify it, you have to be an expert, you have to be a contributor and you have to be an authority in order to be what I'm calling an authentic thought leader. If you're missing any one of those three ingredients, you're not an authentic thought leader, you can be a faker, you can be a charlatan or you could just be unknown because you're not an authority and nobody knows about your awesome original ideas, right? And I covered that in a different episode on authentic thought leadership. I won't diverge into that now, but here's kind of the step by steps in order to build each one and I generally, well you kind of build them all at the same time, they kind of go in an order, right? Like if you're not an expert, you should probably start there. You need to learn and grow and become an expert in the topic. Yesterday I published an episode called The 30 30 30 plan um that I think is a great quick start to becoming an expert, but there's also a lot of people listening right now where you're already kind of an expert in this thing, you're beyond professional, like people pay you a lot of money just for your time to listen to you talk about this one subject for the, for people like you, it's good to do an inventory and make sure that you know everything there is to know about the...

...topic. Like actually go and read all the research reports, actually make sure you understand what people are asking there on the, on the on google search engine. Like you'll find a list of keywords and make sure you have good answers for all of those. Um I would just make sure to cover all your bases. Um read every book on the topic that you haven't already right. And in order to know the existing conversation, because that's important to make sure you you are indeed an expert before you move on to trying to create original ideas, because oftentimes you'll come up with an idea other, otherwise you'll come up with an idea that already exists and that's kind of embarrassing when you're like, champion this idea and six months go by and somebody's like, actually somebody already said that. Yeah, it was published in this book. Uh, yeah. You haven't read that yet? Uh, yeah. You don't want you don't want to be caught in that situation. You want to try to have read everything. And I understand what the history on this topic has been, where it's where it's going and what the current conversation is currently taking place on the topic. But once you've gotten there, once you've been there, you can start contributing original ideas. Now, I'm not saying you can't have a hypothesis, I thrown out a lot of hypothesis is on, can you, Is that right? Hypothesize? I don't know, I've thrown out a lot of ideas on thought leadership marketing, but I haven't, I've read all the books, but there's still a lot, I don't know. I still have a lot of people I need to talk to. I'm only a year into the topic and while I've gone really deep this year, I'm still throwing them out. There is just ideas. They're not validated. I've tried some of them, most of them myself, but that's not enough evidence to say with uh with authority. Thus safe. The research, the data, the empirical evidence points to this being true. No, I'm not there yet. Um so it's okay that while you're in the learning phase to throw out a hypothesis, especially, I would even recommend doing it publicly. Like I am here on this podcast um because that's part of the learning process, right? If you do it publicly and say things like, hey, this is just an idea. This is what I was thinking. Then people can actually show up and with humility. You can accept their feedback or critiques...

...or they tell you that actually know somebody else invented that already. And then you can humbly accept it, which is a lot easier to do when you didn't throw it out there as as fact. So once you've gotten to that point, you can actually develop some original ideas and these are some of the three um, most common ways of doing it. There's a lot of ideas around how to generate ideas in the thought leadership, marketing market or in the space. But these are the ones I found to be the most prominent are most likely is one you do original research. There's nothing like doing your own research where you actually have empirical evidence of really good survey work or lots of interviews that you can actually catalog and show empirically that something is this or at least based on the one research report you've done right house. If you've done it over multiple years or done a longitudinal study over time that only gets stronger and stronger and stronger. So there's multiple ways to do research. But original research is one of those ones that we all know works really well for doing thought leadership marketing. Another one is just unique. Takes. This was probably the most common. Um, but you have to be the most careful with because unique takes or having a different angle on things because maybe you have a different background or your your company's trying to become a thought leader in this space and has a unique take because of your expertise or experience in a certain field or you've done a certain thing. Um, but generally those are the fastest ones because. Oftentimes when you are going into a subject and you have expertise from an unrelated subject or another subject that's close but still doesn't cover a lot of the same material. Oftentimes you can have unique unlocks, um, unique insights about how things could be done just based on the overlap of bringing in new information and a new project management style that didn't exist in this niche before that existed somewhere else. And you brought it in that could be thought leadership, right? Um, so there's lots of unique, lots of...

...ways to do that, but just finding other fields to bring ideas in to bring fresh ideas and from other fields to solve old problems. And then the last one is just finding the problems that your audience is dealing with and then trying lots of stuff to solve it, and then sharing your learnings as you start to find things that work better. Obviously it's overlaps with the last one of having you unique take. But I think if you have to start somewhere, just start looking for the problems that nobody else has solved, yet, problems that lots of people are talking about in the niche and then just going after even making it a journey, like posting it on social Hey, like I've noticed everybody struggles with this. Um I've seen some takes on how to solve it, but I don't think it's enough. I want to be able to solve it to this degree. I don't know what the answer is yet, but I'm going to start finding it. And then actually posting your learnings along the way is a great way into my next third pillar right here, which is authority, right? We talked about expertise, we talked about bringing, being a contributor with unique and original ideas and the last one is authority. Like if you can be an expert and have unique ideas, but if nobody believes you, nobody trusts you, it's a problem. So we have to be able to build up that kind of trust and a big part of that. Like I said before is uh an episode I already recorded was learning in the light like starting your journey early, especially on social media or wherever your niche is hanging out online or in person and getting in front of them and talking about it. Even as you're early on, even as a student, you can start asking good questions and learning. This is a way to start building a third authority early on from day one, you can start doing this, it takes years to build the authority, but it starts, you know, when is the best time to plant a tree. Yeah that whole thing. Another way to build authority is by using a podcast using a podcast throughout the journey of becoming a thought leader is probably like in my opinion like the secret hacked and going through all of this. Um You can use a podcast to learn and become an expert because you can interview the experts um like I have...

...with thought leadership and then threw it, you kind of build association with them. People start to see you like oh dance hanging out with so and so and so and so and so and so he must be in the thought leadership because he's hanging out with all the thought leadership people on his podcast and posting about it right? Like you start to just build credibility just through pure assoc association. Um It's a great way to uh package and then distribute your unique ideas like I have in this podcast, and then it's a great way to build authority because the whole time you're creating content with it and then distributing it out there and people are listening and consuming and getting to know your ideas right? A lot of you have listened to a lot of these episodes already and I've had people reach out to me on linkedin and be like, hey, like I I wasn't subscribed to be to be growth before, but now I am because I've been really eating up all this content on this one subject um and that's happened quite a few times, so I know it's happening, I know it's working and I'm just sharing it for my personal perspective to kind of like be a little bit vulnerable because it almost feels inauthentic to talk about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. But I'm also trying to share with you everything that I'm thinking and learning and trying um while also trying to build authority, but in the most helpful way possible. And I think that's a really important note when building authority, you actually have to do it for the, for the benefit of other people, not to put yourself up on the pedestal, but to help genuinely help other people. I put a lot of time and effort into linkedin and a lot of that comes back in revenue for sweet fish, but honestly, I don't really, I don't always expect it to, I go and record 5, 10, sometimes 15 minute long video is just to help explain something to people or not even just people like a person, a person has a particular thing they're asking me about and I just do it to serve and to bless and to help as many people as I possibly can without going so overboard that I'm not actually getting my job done here at Sweet Fish, right? Um I'm trying to help and bless as many people as I possibly can. If you kind of take that approach to thought leadership, you will build authority, especially when...

...you're doing it humbly, you're you're not getting defensive when people challenge your ideas, I even invite people to challenge my ideas um when you're doing it humbly and you're trying to just be helpful, it goes a long way in building authority, especially as a thought leader. And the last thing I just want to point out about thought leadership is the number one rule of thought leadership. You can't call yourself a thought leader. It's noble to aspire to become a thought leader because if you're a genuine and authentic thought leader that wants to just help people or help a niche or an industry that's a good and noble task. But and you should aspire to it, but you can't call yourself a thought leader. If you're listening to this, you have Thought Leader written anywhere on any of your material about yourself, take it off, Just do us all a favour, remove it. If you're a thought leader, like other people will say it about you. You don't have to say that about yourself. The 2nd rule of thought leadership is you can't call yourself a thought leader right to kind of reference Fight Club, right? Just don't do it. There's it's so important that I I like to reference Fight Club because I'm like, it's so important. It needs to be the first to rules because so many people break it and build a bad name for thought leadership marketing when it is a really true and worthwhile thing to pursue because it is effective marketing. It's also good and genuine marketing that's actually useful. It's not wasteful. You're actually helping people, you're going and solving the problems. You're adding your unique point of view. It takes a lot of work, takes a lot of work. So it's not like it's not like just passively done, you have to actually work at it and it takes years to build the expertise, takes years to build and work through your ideas to prove them. It takes years to build the authority, but it is a worthwhile path. It's the path that I want to be on. It's a path that I'm taking and I'm only just starting in my journey towards that. But you will never hear me call myself a thought leader, It's not worth it. I am a student, I have some ideas. I still...

...have a long, long way to go and even if I get there someday I still wouldn't call myself it because it's just one of those things that just doesn't need to be said if you are, you are if you're not, it didn't matter because you didn't call yourself one anyway. And that way we can actually clear up some of the crunchiness that's going around about this topic now to wrap up this deep dive for this month. I want to take a poll on linkedin. But if you don't have time to see that poll tomorrow about these deep dives, I'd love to get your feedback. Please find me on linkedin dot com slash I. N slash digital marketing dan let me know if these deep dives are worth it. It's something that as they don't know, I guess I'm the, I don't know what to call myself, but I'm in charge of GDP growth Swedish media. I guess we don't really have a title for it. Um I'm still trying to figure out how to always make this podcast better, how to make the content go further, reach more people and of course be more helpful, right? Like I said, I want to be more helpful to more people and that the overall show is the most helpful that it can be. So any feedback you've given, I appreciate it so much. Come find me on linkedin. Um you can also go to Sweet Fish Media dot com. Just go to the contact for and be like, hey, I was listening to be, to be growth, this is my feedback and then we can get it there. Thank you so much for listening and thank you for in advance for your feedback.

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