Thought leadership means being recognized as an authority in a particular field. Recognition may come from peers as references in blogs, magazines and other media, and as invitations to participate in expert panels and keynote talks at conferences. The concept of thought leadership applies to specific people rather than technology or organizations. However, people who seek thought leadership indirectly promote their organizations and technology.
The Competitive-Positioning Compass illustrates the various domains in which one would seek thought leadership as their market matures. Here are the steps:
At first, thought leadership means being recognized for the approach you apply to a problem. It involves promoting the sophistication of the core skills and technology you deploy, which translates into technology leadership.
Next, thought leadership means getting recognition for your product and its full potential, which translates into product leadership.
Finally, your objective is specific to a market niche or industry where you want your tech product or offering to be recognized as the new gold standard, which is the best way for leaders in the market niche to go about their business.
Business leaders operating in a world of continuous change look for new and improved ways to approach the strategic challenges their organizations face. People with new, relevant insights are recognized as thought leaders, especially if they create additional strategic options for business leaders.
This recognition is paramount for startups promoting new technology because it provides a credibility that would be difficult to build through normal marketing activities. Thought leadership is a highly cost-effective way to commercialize innovative ideas.
Bear in mind that it is key opinion leaders (KOLs) who determine whether you are a thought leader. Your customers consult KOLs when they want to learn more about a field. For more information on this subject, see Marketing to influencers and opinion leaders.