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Marketing Thought Leadership vs. Being Your Customer's Guide

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As a business owner, you know that you need to be a thought leader in your industry if you want to stay ahead of the competition. But what does that really mean? And how can you balance developing new ideas and providing value to your customers?

If you want to be successful in business, it's easy to think that you need to provide thought leadership to your customers. To throw you off even further, your customers also need you to be their guide, showing them the way through your products and services. It's a delicate balance, but one that's essential for success. 

A Thought Leader and a Guide

Thought leadership is about developing new ideas.

They are confident in their marketing abilities. And while this is great, it can get you into trouble with your customers. Thought leadership is great for attracting customers, but it can also cause them to lose interest very quickly.

Being Your Customer's Guide is about taking the time to truly understand your customers' problems. It's about finding out what they need to be successful and guiding them on their journey toward that success. Thought leadership content entertains while it informs, while guide content fills in the gaps of knowledge for your customers while it entertains you.

In this post, we'll explore the difference between marketing thought leadership and being your customer's guide, and we'll even give you a tip on how you can establish trust in your target market. 

What Is Thought Leadership Strategy?

To become a thought leader, you need to use your knowledge and expertise for developing new and innovative ideas and content. Thought leaders are the trendsetters in their industry. Thought leadership marketing focuses on providing value through content that entertains as well as informs. Thought leaders often share their perspectives, giving readers a glimpse into their world views.

Thought leaders are confident in their marketing abilities. Thought leaders can use storytelling, but it's almost always for the purpose of promoting thought leadership articles and content. Thought leaders are focused on getting readers to subscribe to their email lists or follow them on social media. Thought leadership strategies are designed to attract new customers. Thought leadership is all about being an expert at self-promotion.

Thought leaders are not shy about making claims that they have the solutions to your problems. Thought leadership is a one-way conversation between you and your customer, with them as an observer to what you think and know.

When it comes to thought leadership strategy, marketers trust themselves over their customers. Thought leaders themselves can't afford not to be thought leaders.

Thought leaders, because they have so much experience in their respective fields, know the right questions to ask and what solutions customers need. Thought leadership can get you to trust from your readers, but it's not going to keep them around for long.

 A thought leader's goal is only to say something that sparks attention and gets people talking about their ideas. They might be right most of the time, but they're wrong enough to turn off customers who don't agree with what they have to say. Thought leadership can be seen as attention-seeking and thoughtless when it's not relevant to your customers' stories or problems.

Thought leadership can easily become about you, and it doesn't care about your customers. Thought leaders neglect to ask themselves what valuable information they're bringing to the table for their potential customers.

A Thought Leader thinks:

"Does this get me more exposure?" "Will people like my ideas enough that I'll go viral on social media?" "How can I leverage this blog post to get more clients?"

A Thought Leader doesn't ask:

"Does this help my customers?" "Will people find this valuable and seek me out for it?" "Is there a way that I can use my marketing abilities to stand out as a resource for my potential customers?"

Thought leaders don't need to consider their customers in their process of creating thought leadership content because they know what's best for the consumer. After all, they're the leaders, and you, as a customer, are just following along.

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Where Thought Leadership Marketing Failed

We can't blame thought leadership marketers, though. Thought leadership is a great marketing strategy because it's all about you and how much value you're creating for your customers' lives. Unfortunately, it doesn't always connect to what your customers need; that's why we've seen such a rise in the StoryBrand Framework as a marketing strategy.

Thought leadership has taught marketers to be experts without considering what the reader really needs, and it doesn't take into account the customer journey. Thought leadership marketing fails when thought leaders aren't able to direct their readers toward any real, tangible solution.

Thought leadership is a one-to-one conversation that only makes promises about your product or service, but it doesn't connect with your customer holistically. Thought leadership fails because thought leaders make promises to their readers that they can't necessarily keep. Thought leadership content is about you and how much value you've gained from what you read, not the problems your customers face.

When you're doubling down in thought leadership content marketing strategies, you could be enriching your customers with information that they need. But if you do it in a way that only talks about how high and mighty you are, you risk losing their attention.

In a content marketing environment where everybody wants to be seen, the important or emerging trends manifest themselves in the blue check social media platforms give you. But that's not the only way to establish trust in your customer's minds.

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A Better (Safer and Easier) Approach to Establish Authority to Your Target Audience

Thought leadership thinks about dominance - am I better than other brands in this industry? While it's so tempting to choose thought leadership because you're going to be the trusted source for everything your target audience wants, it's not the most effective way to reach your audience, no matter how many speaking engagements you book, or how much money you invested into thought leadership content marketing.

Donald Miller's StoryBrand Framework shifts the landscape of thought leadership marketing by positioning your brand as the guide, and not the hero of your brand's story.

When you check back on your favorite stories, the hero or the main character is not the strongest character. Being a guide instead of standing at the center of your marketing message is a generous way of telling your customers that you care about their needs and problems.

It's easier to establish trust within your customers when they know that they can both trust and respect you. You don't need a blue check on Twitter to start increasing your sales. You just need to tweak your story in a way that generously puts your customers first and be the guide who has been there before, and who will happily guide their customers into the success they want to achieve.

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Guide More Customers Into Engaging With Your Business

Join the next StoryBrand Workshop today and learn how your story can help transform the lives of your ideal customers. In this workshop, you'll be working with StoryBrand Certified Guides - some of the world's best and most effective marketers in creating a story that resonates with your prospects enriches your existing customers, clarify your brand messaging, and most importantly, help you establish trust within your customers, all without the unnecessary hard work of becoming a thought leader.

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