Thought Leadership: Why it Matters and How to Make It Work for Your Brand

March 29, 2023

The concept of “thought leadership” might seem inessential when compared to hard data, like conversions and ROI. However, many B2B companies are also content publishers, to the point where it’s often expected, and making that content stand out has concrete benefits. As a recent LinkedIn study put it, “thought leadership remains critical to customer engagement but breaking through the noise is harder than ever.”

Thought leaders add credibility to their brand and establish a reliable customer base that trusts what they have to say. Let’s look at what exactly this big idea consists of and how to put it into action.

Breaking it Down: What Exactly IS Thought Leadership?
There’s a lot of different definitions, but to put it simply: thought leadership is the act of providing original insight based on your company’s area of expertise. You can express this through content that only you can provide, and that content can be practically anything, from blog articles to videos to infographics. Whatever form it takes, the results can help you increase audience engagement while reaffirming your relationship with existing customers.

The main elements of successful thought leadership are:

  • Authenticity: Are you a legitimate source contributing true, verifiable information? Your content should answer this with an immediate “Yes!” by providing something genuine.
  • Industry knowledge: Insights that leverage your expertise are hugely valuable. Relevant opinions, research, and trends are all good ways to set yourself apart. Redfin’s recent blog post about appraisal contingencies is a substantial guide to how they work – and there’s no hard sell. The quality of the article speaks for itself.
  • Transparency: You don’t have to ditch the paywall entirely, but you should make at least some of your content available to anyone who searches for it. The best brands are eager to share what they know and are often rewarded for it.
  • Voice: Your content should closely align with the values and experience of your brand. This interactive resource map from Paychex combines tax and compensation data from multiple sources in a way that fits the company’s identity. It makes perfect sense coming from Paychex and matches their stated values of simplicity, responsibility, and dedication.

Making Thought Leadership Work: A Brief Guide  
With all this in mind, where do you actually start? Below is an example of how to divide your marketing strategy for maximum effectiveness. Note that while it makes up the largest percentage, thought leadership is just one of the types of content included, with educational and problem-solving pieces accounting for lower-funnel audiences.

Table Header Education Problem Solver Brand Image







Insights and commentary
Informs on a specific topic
Cites problem, provides solution
Change perception of company


Raise industry credibility and reputation
Provide practical how-to education, be trusted source
Solve a specific problem
Enhance brand image

Target audience

Top of funnel
Middle funnel
Deep funnel
Top of funnel

Reader perception

"They make good points."
"This can help me now."
"This might be what we need."
"Good to see they're involved."

Common attributes

High-level view on issues/topics
Advice, tips: "How To" articles
Testimonial approach
Demonstrates proof of performance

1. Define your goals, focus, and audience
To start, answer three important questions:

  • What are your thought leadership goals?
  • What areas of expertise can you speak to?
  • Who is your audience?

Your goals can be broad but should still help determine the type of content you’ll be making, such as promoting awareness, educating potential customers, or highlighting your brand’s reputation. Your focus depends on what your organization is an expert in. If there’s a larger agenda or change you are looking to make, that can also be an important factor. Finally, your target audience should be those who would benefit the most from your message and be likely to share it.

2. Review existing thought leadership
It’s hard to say something new when you don’t know what’s already been said. Take the time to see what trends and ideas others in your field are posting. Instead of copying them, identify ways your brand can add to the conversation—or better yet, start a new one.

3. Create the content
Now it’s time to produce whatever type of content you’ve chosen. It’s a good idea to pick a format and topic that’s unique, can be backed by industry data, and leaves room for other perspectives.

4. Map out the process

Confirm how many parties will be involved, develop a project timeline, and set firm deadlines, including your desired launch date.

5. Measure marketing results
After your content is published, you need to chart your performance based on realistic metrics. Ideally, your earlier research will inform how you measure success, whether it’s through organic traffic, an increase in email subscribers, or, yes, conversions and/or sales.

Your thought leadership strategy will always vary, but that’s also what will make you successful. When you put time and effort into original content, your audience will notice, and they’ll be more likely to respond positively.