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The term “pain points” in sales and marketing is a helpful shorthand for referring to customers’ highest-priority needs. Bringing the conversation back to pain points helps improve the relevance of product marketing materials and even provides a rationale for new features and services.

Still, it’s a rather grim term if you dig under the surface of the metaphor just a little bit. There’s an implied worldview of people struggling and suffering to accomplish important ends.

I especially appreciate working on thought leadership because it doesn’t come with this presumption of pain. Thought leadership builds trust, shares points of view, challenges and increases audience perceptions of a topic or issue, and provides a space for thought leaders to articulate their area of focus.

When done well, thought leadership is a joyful communication of ideas that the thought leader cares about. It operates in the domain of passion, not pain. I often harp on the emotional dimensions of thought leadership for that very reason.

On one level, yes, thought leadership certainly does provide an answer to a marketing pain point—the difficulty of building trust and sustaining a dialogue with prospects and customers, the challenges of cutting through the noise and chatter of so many messages.

On another level, a level that I feel passionate about, thought leadership lifts up the voices of people who are helping advance pieces of their industry area rather than focusing on customer pain points. It puts advocacy and passion out into the world by helping thought leaders disseminate ideas that bring improvement to the world, with tools, skills, and channels to magnify their thinking.

While product marketing still plays a vital role in a company’s overall marketing strategy, thought leadership infuses it with a different energy, imbuing it not with pain but with passion.