What is thought leadership marketing? Three tips for becoming a respected thought leader and industry influencer

By Grasslands Staff

“What is thought leadership marketing?” This is a common refrain that we hear from our clients at Grasslands as more executives pivot toward thought leadership as a strategic content marketing and business development tool.

Becoming a thought leader is grueling work. Climbing to the top of your industry and being a trusted leader among your peers requires innovative ideas, a deep well of knowledge about your industry, a vast network of influencers and an audience who has come to rely on your insights.

But the effort is well worth it for aspiring thought leaders. As trust in the media and government continues to stagnate, more people are turning to business leaders for sage advice. Technical experts were rated as the most credible spokespeople, according to the global results of the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer.

There is no single path (or shortcut) to becoming an industry influencer, but there are several tools every executive can fill their arsenal with. Most importantly, a thought leader is a content generator who has something important to say.

Success won’t happen overnight, but embracing these strategies will help you cut through the noise. And rememberpractice makes perfect.

Find your voice

Thought leaders are held up as experts in their respective fields of interest. Step outside of that knowledge base, and an influencer can risk going up in flames.

It’s imperative to begin rooting your thought leadership marketing in a niche. Develop yourself as a subject matter expert. Start small and dominate that niche. Once you’ve established yourself, work your way into a larger niche. Play and repeat. Soon, people will be turning to you for expert insights and advice.

Most importantly, people don’t want to listen to the same old humdrum. Be innovative and bold. Have something new to say. Make big (educated) predictions, and don’t be afraid to disrupt traditional thinking.

Thought leadership requires strong personal branding

Don’t be fooled: Personal branding isn’t about you or some delusion of grandeur; it’s about delivering value to others and publicly establishing your credibility.

Developing a successful personal brand means finding your strengths and effectively communicating them to your audience. The secret: know thyself. Know what makes you great, what differentiates you from your peers and what unique promise of value you offer.

Like any successful business, your personal brand should center its identity around these points of interest:

  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Values
  • Strengths
  • Goals

After an identity is established, you can begin positioning yourself (and your personal brand) as a highly visible and indispensable source of thought leadership.

Network, network, network

Now that you’re rooted in a niche, connect with influencers in your industry who can help you grow professionally as well as expand your audience reach. Get involved in industry trade groups, workshops, conferences and online networking groups.

Network with industry colleagues, peers, influencers and potential mentors who can solidify your credibility and lift you up as a thought leader. Don’t just swap business cards; make sure to link up digitally. These are the people who will listen to and admire your insight. There’s no simple way to network; get out there and take action.


What is thought leadership marketing? If you are ready to take your thought leadership marketing to the next level, Grasslands can assess your unique strengths and strategically position your brand for high visibility. Contact our agency here.

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