Several studies have been published over the past decade discussing the benefits of a brand becoming a Thought Leader. Many of these studies, for instance, have found that C-suite executives and purchasing agents spend more time consuming Thought Leadership content than other forms of content. Some of these studies are discussed on our website here.
While the benefits of being a Thought Leader – including increased sales and profits – can be many, let’s not forget there can also be challenges to becoming and sustaining a Thought Leadership position.
Three of the most common challenges to becoming a thought leader are the following:
Others complain your product is (fill in the blank). When the first manufacturer introduced floor machines that use engineered water instead of traditional cleaning solutions, almost all the other manufacturers in the professional cleaning industry lined up to ridicule the company. They said the technology was unproven and flat out did not work. This type of backlash is very common. Introducing a new way of thinking, a new product, or a new methodology opens up an organization to be challenged – even ridiculed – by others, especially competitors. There is only one option if you believe in your product: Have the system independently evaluated. If the results are positive, use this information to defend your position and product.
Takeaway: Always expect others to challenge you. Prepare yourself with the evidence and the stats to back up your position.
Customers view you as a fad. With so many start-ups launching each year, especially during the pandemic, it can be easy for others to discount your business as nothing more than a fad. However, start-ups can quickly become Thought Leaders. This is particularly true for companies introducing a technology that has been proven to help others, or for companies that were founded by an established leader. Customers are invariably looking for something new, and a start-up might be the answer. Once again, if your new product or service makes a difference and helps others, the Thought Leadership spotlight may shine brightly on you and your company.
Takeaway: Start-ups can become Thought Leaders and quickly stand out and make a significant impact – including big profits – if their products or services have proven value.
Don’t have the staying power. Most of us have heard the story about Thomas Edison. He tested more than 3,000 light bulb designs and systems before he found one that was practical and worked. That’s true staying power. By contrast, I have witnessed firsthand what happens when an organization doesn’t have staying power. In the early 1980s, I was introduced to an early, unreleased Xerox personal computer with both a mouse and a touchscreen monitor. The people who introduced me to the machine were so excited about it that they repeated the following refrain over and over: “No one else has anything like it.”
However, within a few months, Xerox abandoned both technologies. The mouse, they believed, just got in the way of working with a computer, and the touchscreen needed to be cleaned too often.
They had no staying power. In two years, Apple introduced the Mac, which featured a mouse, and HP made a success of touchscreen computers shortly thereafter.
Takeaway: To be a Thought Leader means you are in it for the long haul. If you believe in your product or service, have the tenacity to stick with it. That, eventually, can bring positive results.
The final challenge involves you. Always remember, you are not your company. If your brand fails, that does not mean you are a failure. Many individuals and companies take business failures personally and abandon their dream of becoming a Thought Leader or an entrepreneur. If your venture fails, use the failure to make yourself stronger.
For more than twenty years, Robert Kravitz and his firm, AlturaSolutions Communications, has been collaborating with people and organizations, helping them become and then excel as Thought Leaders in their respective industries. He can be reached at LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kravitzrobert.