Beyond being clusters of features and benefits, compelling products represent a point of view. Products take a perspective on how things should work and how they can work better and make that perspective tangible, something people can interact with. This notion holds whether the product is a technology, a service offering, or some mix of the two.
Thought leadership provides companies with the most direct way to articulate that point of view and communicate it. Thought leadership also allows companies to make the clearest possible case for what “better” means.
Therefore, treating thought leadership as only one content marketing tool among many misses the point. Similarly, engaging subject matter experts to create individual pieces of thought leadership content without bringing C-level and other senior leaders to the table to develop a thought leadership strategy misses a massive opportunity.
Because thought leadership takes an implied point of view and makes it explicit, discussing thought leadership in full strategic depth has a way of bringing unanswered questions to the fore. A tactically-focused project-based team typically doesn’t have the right stakeholders at the table to ask or resolve such questions.
In the process of figuring out what to say and how to say it, big-picture, even existential questions can come up:
- Who are we, and what do we stand for?
- Where is our “blue ocean” (i.e., what we and only we can do to stand decidedly above the fray with competitors)?
- What is missing or vague about our brand?
- What do we want to communicate to internal and external stakeholders?
- What are the gaps between the way we talk about ourselves and what we offer to the market?
- How well do our products connect with the needs in the market?
- Which features or capabilities might be missing from what we offer?
- What are the big questions on our clients’/customers’ minds?
- How effective and efficient are our marketing and communications processes?
- Where is our company’s top talent, and how do we cultivate it?
In essence, you are asking what you can say about yourselves that is true and what you do in the world to make it true. These questions span an entire organization. Thought leadership strategy discussions center on these questions with unique clarity and rigor. They can open up some of the most critical questions an organization can have.
Answering them and then doing something about them requires the input of people empowered to make executive decisions and lead towards change. Including top company leaders takes the best advantage of this transformative opportunity.