A Founder's Guide to Thought Leadership

In this article, you will learn how thought leadership can be used as a tool to help you drive sales through large-level stakeholder engagement.

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Early sales in most organizations come via personal networks. But as your company grows, sales will need to be driven through large-level stakeholder engagement. Thought leadership is the tool that allows you to do just that. 

Why bother with thought leadership?

You might be asking, what can thought leadership do for me? It takes a lot of time, energy, and effort, and for what? 

Thought leadership can help you create a compelling executive presence online. This can help you build your brand and amplify yourself and your business. 

Here are 4 reasons we think you should bother with thought leadership:

  1. Brand and Reputation - Create and reinforce awareness in the market about who you are and why you exist.
  2. Market Consideration (Regarding Investors) - Showcase your unique perspective and expertise. Help audiences understand why they should listen, engage with, or choose to work with you. 
  3. Demand Generation - Connect with potential buyers, driving awareness and interest in what you have to offer. 
  4. Talent Attraction - Find and recruit the best talent by showcasing the match between the type of company they hope to work for and the company you’re creating. 

Not enough? Here’s another reason to bother with thought leadership. 

40% of people are more likely to purchase from a brand when they follow one of its leaders. 

3 Keys to Compelling Executive Presence

Key #1. Finding Your Whitespace

The term “thought leadership” has become watered down. Most people don’t believe thought leadership has value anymore. 

How do you help people see value in your content?

As a thought leader, your goal is to land in the orange quadrant of the chart. Creating engaging and uncommon content will be especially easy if you’re creating your own category or niche. 

Once you’ve found a good topic, you can work on your voice. 

Here are the 4 major voices seen in thought leadership:

  1. Industry-focused Visionary
  2. Brand-focused Evangelist
  3. Product-focused Guide
  4. People-focused Mentor

We recommend that early-stage founders devote their content to 2 of these voices. The first is the Industry-focused Visionary. 

Why? This will help your expertise to shine through in your content. 

The second? The Product-focused Guide. The teaching approach in this voice will help you share what’s made you successful and portray legitimacy.

Key #2. 3 Stories Every Founder Needs to Nail

  1. Your Origin Story - This will help connect you with investors, customers, and employees. 
  2. Customer’s Problem & Your Solution - Show you understand the problem and pain points, then explain why your solution is the best for them. Don’t rush to data and metrics. 
  3. Your Vision - Share how your company will create a better future. This aligns stakeholders with the big-picture thinking that fuels your company. 

Step #3. Digital Citizenship Best Practices

Build Community

You should follow industry-relevant hashtags and peers so you can stay on top of conversations. 

Thought leadership is not about existing in an echo chamber. 

Comment and Dialogue

Speaking of echo chambers, commenting and conversing are great ways to engage with other people online. Join conversations and share your thoughts. 

Curate Content

Not a fan of creating content? That’s okay.

Thought leadership isn’t just about creating content. You can still offer perspective on industry trends and events by sharing content that’s relevant to your networks. 

How to Jumpstart Your Thought Leadership Efforts on Linked In

Ready to start sharing some of your thoughts? Here’s a checklist of next steps so you can get started right away. 

  • Turn Creator Mode on
  • Hashtags on profile & in content
  • Complete your company’s LinkedIn Page
  • Invite connections to follow
  • Cross-post from personal & company page

And as a final item on your checklist, we challenge you to find 1 article on your favorite social media platform and comment on it with your point of view. Keep it to 3 sentences or less. 

Have questions? Thoughts? Comments? We’d love to answer them right in the comments of this post’s accompanying video. We’ll see you there!

Tom Eschbacher

Tom is currently a Director at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, where he leads the New + Emerging Business segment in North America, inclusive of the LinkedIn Marketing for Startups group. Tom works closely with his team to build a culture of sales excellence, and partner with GTM Ops, Marketing, Product and Data Science to improve go-to-market strategy, operationalize the sales process and identify new growth opportunities. Previous to joining Linkedin in 2016, Tom worked at Vevo, Shazam, and NBA.