Growing a brand requires more than just ad campaigns and PR announcements. It requires investment internally among your employees, and it needs to happen from the top-down. In order to effectively engage your audience and outperform competitors, you need to show your audience just how knowledgeable your team is—you need thought leadership marketing.

“Thought leadership marketing” is a strategy that involves tapping into the existing passion, experience and knowledge already within your business in order to answer questions or spark new ideas among your audience and industry.

As two of the most customer-focused sectors within any company, Marketing and Communications teams can work alongside Sales experts to leverage thought leadership strategies that not only optimize your buyer’s funnel but also improve brand reputation. The question is, how can you cultivate inspirational leadership content from all corners of your business, and share it with an ever-growing social network?

What is Thought Leadership Marketing?

Before you can transform your workforce into an army of thought leaders, it’s important to first understand the value you’re trying to extract from employees using this strategy.

A thought leader is any person within your organization that has knowledge on specific subject matter or within a certain niche. Since your employees have an average of 10x more connections than a standard brand channel, it makes sense to tap into as many thought leaders as possible within your workforce to gain access to these audiences. The more you encourage your professionals to share their ideas, insights and opinions, the easier it will be to position your entire organization as an industry leader.

Develop New Business Opportunities

Around 64% of advocates in formal programs believe that their employee advocacy solution helps them to attract and develop new business. When Sales and Marketing teams work together to position themselves and each other as thought leaders on social media, they create opportunities for increased brand awareness, social selling opportunities and industry reputation.

Recruit Other Thought Leaders

Employees with high skillsets generally gravitate towards organizations who have a strong online presence. Around 79% of surveyed companies say that an employee advocacy program improves online visibility, so adding thought leadership to the mix can convince potential applicants that your business is the one to work for.

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Strengthen Company Development

Thought leadership marketing naturally positions your business as an authoritative voice, thus growing brand development, but you should also strive to grow internal development, too.

Be vocal with your employees about how valuable their knowledge is and the potential impact it can have on your business and its bottom line. If you can create cross-departmental goals among those creating, editing and sharing thought leadership pieces, you’ll end up with better results, delivered by a team aligned in their vision of success.

5 Steps to Incorporate Employees Into Thought Leadership Marketing

With the right direction and resources in place, any employee can be a thought leader. Every new employee you bring on board comes with their own distinct experiences, knowledge and professional insights they can share with your social network—but you need to give them the opportunity to do so.

1. Choose Diverse Contributors

Your thought leadership strategy doesn’t have to be centered entirely around managers and executives. Instead, consider bringing other people within your team into the mix and ask them to share insights into topics they know the most about or are interested in learning more about.

While your CEO might be more inclined to talk about industry trends, a Marketing Strategist is better positioned to create content that answers tactical questions that are pressing among your prospects and customers. The more you can pull employees from different backgrounds, leveraging their unique strengths to diversify your content curation strategy, the more value you’ll deliver to your audience.

2. Create Relevant Content

Thought leadership marketing is most effective when it’s used to answer pre-existing questions that your customers might have about your business, brand or industry as a whole. With that in mind, ask your Sales and Marketing teams to get together and research some of the most common concerns that customers or prospects have when they’re thinking about buying your product or investing in your service.

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Once you’ve got an idea of what might be stopping your prospects from making a purchase, you can begin to search through your employee advocacy network to find the thought leader who can potentially give the best insight into the topic you’ve selected. This ensures that you’re creating content in response to your audience’s needs, rather than publishing articles to simply fill your publishing schedule.

3. Make Sharing Easy

Once a team member has produced their thought leadership piece, promote and share it as much as possible in order to cast the widest net of reach. Make sure that your employee advocates know when new content is coming out and where and how they should go about sharing it with their social networks.

You can even use your advocacy program to provide articles to leadership content that you want to emulate from other brands, helping to increase fresh ideas and spark inspiration. At the same time, you can be tactical in your approach and provide links to style guides or learning tools to ensure everyone who produces content for your business follows the same guidelines.

4. Promote Value, Not Your Brand

While one of your primary goals in thought leadership marketing should be to enhance brand reach and improve loyalty among your customers, the last thing you want is to do is position your leadership content as solely a way to push your product.

The aim behind any thought leadership strategy is to boost the appeal of your brand by showcasing unique knowledge on a wide array of topics—some not even directly related to your product.

Rather than focusing on what’s in it for you, focus on providing genuine value to your audience and the results will organically follow. The more helpful your content is, the more likely your prospects will accept you as a market expert and worthy of their investment.

5. Foster an Environment Where Everyone Works Together

One of the biggest reasons employee advocacy programs run into trouble is because employers fail to put a clear, documented strategy in place to keep the team on track. By planning an inclusive strategy that incorporates tools to simplify and centralize the process—from curating to sharing—your adoption rates will naturally improve and confusion contributing to poor participation will disappear.

For example, Content Strategists can be accountable for editing and surfacing content created internally, Social Media managers can be held accountable for creating a few variations of enticing messages for social sharing, and to complete the process, Sales can step in to amplify that content by leveraging their vast networks to connect with to potential buyers.

Include Your Whole Team in Thought Leadership

One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is assuming that only their C-level executives have valuable information to share with the outside world. In a world where one in five employees are already advocates, anyone on your team has the ability to boost business performance with their personal knowledge.

Tapping into this broader range of potential thought leaders also gives your team access more diverse content from a host of differing perspectives. By engaging multiple teams—from Sales, Marketing, Communications and—you unlock a broader collection of content to work with, improving your chances of engaging audience members and elevating your brand reputation to the next level.