When inbound marketing first began edging out the more traditional outbound marketing, in the early 2000s, the concept of building relationships with customers was quite new. Marketing was still largely seen as a transactional affair. You, a marketer, convinced someone to buy your product by touting its advantages. Customers purchased your product, and hopefully they liked it enough to come back and buy again when they ran out.
The internet changed all of this. The capabilities of digital marketing allowed for a much more equitable, give-and-take relationship between brand and consumer. As brands began to see the value in creating content that brought their customers to them, inbound marketing grew.This new method of relating to consumers taught marketers and brands the importance of building authentic relationships with the people who purchase from them. To facilitate those relationships, we started turning to storytelling. Storytelling, was a much more effective way of communicating in this new paradigm than pithy slogans or sales pitches. Brands of all types and sizes started incorporating stories into their branding and marketing, and it’s worked.
Thought leadership and storytelling need to collaborate
Storytelling is not going anywhere any time soon. It’s too effective a technique—there’s little else that can bridge the gap between consumer and brand as quickly, thoroughly, or authentically as a strong story can. This is especially true in the age of the connected consumer, when disdain for anything that sounds too promotional or sales-y has risen to an all-time high. Thought leadership, however, makes us better, more purposeful storytellers. Becoming a thought leader is all about sharing not only your expertise, but also your unique experiences with readers. To connect with readers on a large scale, you’ve got to tell your story.
Thought leadership helps us serve customers
Thought leadership channels our creativity to serve our customers—and not just in the typical, business sense. The best thought leadership helps solve problems, but it also does more. When we share our expertise, along with our authentic selves, with consumers, we can enrich lives and empower our humanity.
Thought leadership is disruptive
Even though thought leadership is the natural evolution of inbound marketing, it’s also disruptive. Thought leadership embodies dedication to a particular idea, endeavour, or discipline, and disrupts the dichotomy between social strategy and content strategy. Instead of existing in one or the other, it emerges at their intersection and thrives on their integration. After all, great content can not graduate to thought leadership without one crucial element: amplification. Thought leaders, by definition, are people who are considered authoritative voices, and go-to resources, in their industries.
That doesn’t happen without amplification. And amplification requires both strong content and strong social networks, both with your fans and with other industry voices. Thought leadership isn’t a replacement for all the trappings of inbound marketing—it’s more of a goal to move toward. By creating content and cultivating your social networks with this aspiration in mind, you’ll be able to better serve the connected consumer and gain their trust.