Okay, maybe this is obvious to you.

Content Marketing is different from Thought Leadership Marketing.

The thing is that today people write longer articles with a couple of quotes and call it thought leadership, right?

So let’s back up a little here.

Thought leadership is the intersection between expertise, innovation, and education. It begins with a subject matter expert (expertise) who develops a new and radically different way to solve a problem (innovation) and educates others about the problem and the new solution.

Content marketing tends to be obvious and focuses on the how. It loves generic listicles:

“5 Ways to Improve your Productivity and Get More Sh*t Done.”

Thought leadership is usually non-obvious and focuses on the why. It loves disruptive ideas that make you question your beliefs:

“Productivity is Overrated: Why Doing Less Yields Better Results.”

Most B2B companies today are not doing thought leadership because they lack one of the three elements above. They usually have the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), but may lack innovation or education.

For instance, it’s not enough to have expertise and innovate.

Innovation without education is just R&D. It’s just a product that may or may not be better than the rest. Nobody knows they need it because the company is not educating about the problem.

Instead, they focus on Product Marketing and package the “new and innovative features” in clever messaging and flashy videos.

The problem with this? Eventually, competitors will copy those features and offer some cheaper or free version of the product.

On the other hand, expertise and education (without innovation) are not enough either. That’s just a commoditized product being promoted like every other product in the market. That’s when you have content marketing talking about the old way of solving the problem and becoming white noise.

So, what steps should a person or company follow to implement a thought leadership marketing strategy?

Let me show you. A thought leadership IDEA is:

  • Innovative
  • Disruptive
  • Evangelized
  • Analyzed

I’ve created the I.D.E.A. framework to distill it down into steps. Here’s an infographic describing the framework.

IDEA Framework

The I.D.E.A. framework allows you to come up with a unique POV and disruptive ideas.

But ideas don’t have any power unless you do something with them.

They’re like dry seeds that you must scatter and water. Then wait until they become a forest.

Exploiting the potential of your leading thoughts has to be strategic.

And that’s where Thought Leadership Marketing (TLM) comes in.

TLM is leveraging your internal SMEs, your customer and product data, and your unique POV, to create disruptive content that educates your audience on the problem you solve and why you are the go-to solution.

  • TLM separates you from the competition by focusing on what only you can do and do best. It’s not about product features or obvious benefits.
  • It’s about painting a picture of the future unlike any your customers have seen before.
  • It’s about tapping into the why, not just the how.

Here are some practical steps to move from traditional content marketing to thought leadership marketing.

Content Marketing vs Thought Leadership

Do you have a content strategy for your business that includes thought leadership elements?

Is your writing innovative, disruptive, and non-obvious? Or are you settling for obvious content and broetry?

Are you willing to create a new category in your industry?

It’s time to upgrade your content strategy. So write down a thought leadership strategy that includes the elements below.

Becoming a thought leader requires you to go the extra mile that most content creators and solopreneurs are not willing to walk.

Creating a framework, writing a book, going against the grain, thinking differently, designing a category, evangelizing your message… it’s a lot of work.

But that’s the way to make a lasting impact and become a legendary writer.