Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is not about boasting or bragging, rather it is about sharing informed insights to hopefully inspire people. Thought leaders are not afraid to propose new ideas, new models or different views on a topic.

Thought leadership when done correctly can help further a person’s career or a business. Being a thought leader should mean becoming a trusted source of information on your chosen topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of the audience seeking enlightenment or education.

So here are a few tips on using content marketing as a launch pad in thought leadership for you, your business or even the team you mentor.

THOUGHT-LEADERSHIP

Thought leaders speak and present

They speak to educate not to sell. Thought leaders seek out opportunities to present as to impart their insights from research or experience. They rise to the challenge of delivering opinions so to drive debate on topics. Thought leaders advance the adoption of ideas by speaking on commercially relevant, and research backed points of view. They are dreamers and doers; they talk about “blue sky strategy” from their own research or from research gathered through clients, customers or competitors.  They rarely speak about product, brand sponsored white papers or rehashed content that copy ideas already well discussed.

Give time freely with no expectation can propel someone into thought leadership and general awareness. A good lesson here is to accept non-paid speaking engagements if it puts you in front of an audience that facilitates dialog and exchange of opinions. Regardless of the event, the audience or the setting, a thought leader will always deliver meaningful content.

Thought leaders write and share

Thanks to social media and the access to content marketing channels, a constant flow of well researched articles which you have written will keep you visibility high and credibility in-tact.  Thought leadership is not about writing a few 600 word articles and then retiring your pen, in a digital world people will soon forget you. A constant stream of articles shared across social networks and forums tells people that the author is a thought leader year worth following on a continuous basis.

Articles need to be a minimum of 800 words although most research based articles can be 1500 words plus. Longer, deeper articles demonstrate the time taken to craft the story, to prove research undertaken and ensure reference points are covered in detail.

Once an article is written, the article needs to be published. For whitepapers and heavy research based articles, a good starting point is a professional or membership based organisation to which you belong that publish articles. Explore trade publications that cover your industry or topic.  Also submit articles to local newspapers, on-line news, on-line interest groups and publications.

Consider sites like BizSugar, LinkedIn Pulse, Academia, and inc.com, Forbes or Harvard Business.  Make sure to also publish to your own social networks to reach more people and improve your profile in visibility. A few options include publishing to your own website, your blog, and post on your LinkedIn profile or to groups, publish to Tumblr, Google+ or Medium.com, send out an email with article link to clients and connections. Send out a message regarding your article on Twitter, Facebook and relevant forums you feel would benefit from reading the article.

Thought leaders publish research

Research does not have to mean focus groups or an academic background, it has more to do with , homework on the topic you are going to write about. Write about topics you have expertise in, deep knowledge and first-hand experience in. Focus on writing great content with supporting information that will make you stand out from your competitors by giving more than just a bunch of research jargon or results.

Articles should be interspersed with references, quotes, trends, external research, supporting documentation or forecasts. Though leaders will use the research element within an article to gain the readers trust when sharing ideas, creative thinking or a different view on a topic. Some research and support ideas include interviewing experts in the field you are writing about, conduct surveys, share real stories about your own experiences, tap into social media channels to gather opinions or ask someone in authority to write a footnote.

A mistake to avoid if never publish in a hurry. Save a draft, let it cool and with fresh eyes review it yourself, rewrite sections where it does not make sense, spell check it and then depending on the level of “news” within the article you could share it first among friends, work colleagues or a mentor to check for errors and give you honest feedback.

BUSINESS-IDEAS

The vision of every thought leader is to be in the spotlight. The knowledge you share can bring about business opportunities, social influence, a better job, an award or an accolade, acknowledgement from your industry or a mention in a newspaper that engages your audience to rally behind the topic you have been championing.  A constant presence on the speak, write, research channels can lead to an invitations, doors being opened and new  ventures that never possible before, including the chance to mentor and encourage other people to become thought leaders themselves.

For lots of thought leaders it is a very personal journey, a deeper reason around, why am I here, what is the meaning to my work, what would I like to leave behind? As the articles get published, the influence will grow and the exposure to inspiring people will be the most rewarding. As a thought leader, regardless of the topic or reach of your publications, you will leave a lasting legacy for yourself, other people, a bright young business brain or even an industry.

Business Plan for Growth

Devising a Business Plan and Strategy for Growth

Business plan and implementing a business strategy is more than simply achieving business goals. It inspires people to work hard, makes the team feel part of a purpose; it incites actions and ensures that activities happen. Simply constructed, effectively executed, a business strategy is a template for business success.

  1. Take Time to Think

A business needs strategic thinking before any strategic planning. Maybe the biggest strategic obstacle to any business is if they can out think their competitors.

“If today was the last day of your life, would you do what you are about to do today” Steve Jobs

  1. Ask and Answer Key Business Questions
  • The purpose of the business
  • Strength of the team
  • Current effectiveness
  • Financial resources of the company
  • Target market trends
  • Current market position
  1. Know the Business Why
  • Real planning and growth strategies are founded on “Business Purpose”
  • Vision: where the business is going in the long-term
  • Mission: the business purpose and reason WHY for existing
  • Values: Who and what the business stands for
  1. Business Mission
  • Think about the Business Mission
  • The business mission concentrates on the here and now. A mission statement defines the fundamental purpose of any business. It identifies who the company is, what it does, and who it serves.
  1. Why do Business Planning?

A business plan gives a business options, it can Die Quickly, Die slowly, survive or thrive. Doing nothing is not an option; a no business plan is the weakest plan of all.

 business-planning

  1. A business strategy to Thrive
  1. Start with goals – what do I want out of this business?
  2. Create a vision of what the business needs to look like in order to accomplish your goals.
  3. Create a business mission to guide you along the way.
  4. Develop strategies to get you from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. Strategies require investments – which mean budgets, resources and timelines.
  1. What is strategic business planning?

Strategic planning is the process of determining the primary business purpose (the “WHY”), putting in place goals and tactics, then adopting courses of action and allocating resources to achieve the selected goals and tactics.

What causes business success?

  • Has history shown us that the No.1 business killer is lack of market?
  • When a great business team meets a stagnant market, market wins. When an average business team meets a great market, market wins. But when a great business team meets a great market, then something really special happens.
  1. Ideal Growth Plan
  • Desirable products or Services
  • Big enough market
  • An economical way to target and serve it.
  • Note: Product quality will not create market size; Steve Jobs learned that lesson with his NeXT business.

business strategy options

  • Market Penetration – selling more of the same things to more of the same customers
  • Market Development – selling more of the same things to different customers
  • Product Development – selling new products or services to the same customers
  • Diversification – selling new products or services to different customers

Market penetration

Market penetration is the name given to a growth strategy where the business focuses on selling existing products into existing markets.

Market penetration seeks to achieve four main objectives:

  • Maintain or increase the market share of current products – this can be achieved by a combination of competitive pricing strategies, advertising, sales promotion and perhaps more resources dedicated to personal selling
  • Secure dominance of growth markets
  • Restructure a mature market by driving out competitors; this would require a much more aggressive promotional campaign, supported by a pricing strategy designed to make the market unattractive for competitors
  • Increase usage by existing customers – for example by introducing loyalty schemes

A market penetration marketing strategy is very much about “business as usual”. The business is focusing on markets and products it knows well. It is likely to have good information on competitors and on customer needs. It is unlikely, therefore, that this strategy will require much investment in new market research.

Market development

Market development is the name given to a growth strategy where the business seeks to sell its existing products into new markets.

There are many possible ways of approaching this strategy, including:

  • New geographical markets; for example exporting the product to a new country
  • New product dimensions or packaging: for example
  • New distribution channels (e.g. moving from selling via retail to selling using e-commerce and mail order)
  • Different pricing policies to attract different customers or create new market segments

Market development is a more risky strategy than market penetration because of the targeting of new markets.

Product development

Product development is the name given to a growth strategy where a business aims to introduce new products into existing markets. This strategy may require the development of new competencies and requires the business to develop modified products which can appeal to existing markets.

A strategy of product development is particularly suitable for a business where the product needs to be differentiated in order to remain competitive.  A successful product development strategy places the marketing emphasis on:

  • Research & development and innovation
  • Detailed insights into customer needs (and how they change)
  • Being first to market

Diversification

Diversification is the name given to the growth strategy where a business markets new products in new markets.

This is an inherently more risk strategy because the business is moving into markets in which it has little or no experience.

For a business to adopt a diversification strategy, therefore, it must have a clear idea about what it expects to gain from the strategy and an honest assessment of the risks.  However, for the right balance between risk and reward, a marketing strategy of diversification can be highly rewarding.

  1. All Business Plans need Resources

Money – to fund cash flow, product, materials and resources

Information – Market and product research, market trends, market size, customer profiling, customer acquisition

People – The team needed to facilitate the growth plan, to execute the plan, to manage the costs

The success of a business strategy depends on the resources available to thee business. A good tip is to follow this 5 Step Planning Process

  • Imagine – what products or services
  • Dissect – data and customer feedback
  • Expand – market research and tasks
  • Analyse – results, information, investment
  • Sell – customer acquisition, marketing, sales

Every business should develop a “strategic hypothesis” and test it out making very small bets. Try to sell the idea to a customer before it’s built, look for a supplier, and ask a mentor or advisor who has some expertise in the new area.

10. People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan

A business plan for growth should be grounded in your Business Purpose, Mission and Core Values, a solid business strategy will help you develop a plan of action and maximise your likelihood of success in achieving your vision.

 

Business and Leadership

Business leadership can be hard to define but it is a title many aspire to regardless of company size or industry. But is business management different to business leadership and which of these traits (leadership or management) is the most valued when promoting someone to a senior role. Is the term “business leader” being overused to the extent that it is rendered nearly meaningless?

business-leadership

business leadership

The press and online articles are full of sound bites and quotes from business leaders. What are these so called business leaders?. Business leadership was once deemed to be a wealth generator, someone who took a risk, set up a business to create wealth while generating employment or was instrumental in delivering huge growth for a company. So are the real business leaders people like Bill Gates,Michael Dell, Larry Ellison or Steve Jobs to name but a few right down to the heroes of a local economy, small business people who create opportunity and employment for their local area.

Anyone with a Twitter account and a blog is a Business Leader.

It is important to state that titles are an important aspect of any organisation, business or company. They indicate a certain level of achievement, authority and responsibility. However leadership used to mean something specific. High level executives. Leaders of industry. Time was you would never call a middle manager or a front-line supervisor, a leader. Today it seems when anyone kind of picks up the ball and runs with it are called people or business leaders. What we’re really talking about here are people who are engaged in the business. So we have become accustomed to seeing the term business leadership being used in a very broad sense.

This is probably the reason middle or senior managers in large multi-nationals often get referred to as “business leaders” in press articles. Most do not define business strategy, how the business operates, the culture  or the direction of the business. So the business leaders we often see quoted in the press in most cases are business managers (even if they do have the title VP or director they are in reality managers). Title inflation, self-proclaimed titles, and title overexposure are the cause of dumbing down leadership titles. When titles are overused or abused, they lose their meaning.

Business leadership has nothing to do with titles. A C-level title, does not automatically make someone a “business leader.” In fact no one really needs a title to lead. The reality is anyone can be a leader in their community, sports club, in family, all without having a formal title.

There are lots of business managers who aspire to be business leaders but lots more do not. Having an MBA with a C level title while working within the cushion of a large organization does not a business leader make. The role of these business managers is to “Implement”. That is to take the pre-defined strategy and Business goals and implement them whether its sales,marketing,finance or product. They may lead the unit or division from a tactical stance but they do not lead the business.

The world seems to fallen in love with titles and in a centralised decision making business world maybe bigger titles such as VP or Country Manager are a way of compensating for the true role a manager is expected to perform.

Business Leadership has nothing to do with level of seniority or someone’s position in the hierarchy of a company. Too often in business, when we discuss the company’s leadership we are most likely referring to the most senior executives in the organisation. They are just that, senior executives or business managers. Leadership does not automatically happen when you reach a certain pay level. Hopefully business managers can work to earn the title business leader but there are no certainties.

If you are reading this article hopefully you love business and business strategy, the cut and trust of sales,marketing, trying to win a customer, managing people to deliver higher results but this does not make us a business leader. Knowing ones place in the business world is healthy and honest. First and foremost “Know Thyself”. No need to perfume the pig, a great manager is a great manager, no need to embellish it with titles that do a disservice to the title “business leader”, a title many aspire to but only a small portion ever really earn the right to be called it.

Not everyone in business sees themselves as a potential leader.  Maybe it is really about being the best at their job they can be.

However for people who want to continue the business leadership journey, then maybe it is a process of influence, which stimulates and maximises the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal. Real business leadership stems from influence, not title, authority or power

A few tips to build up a leadership profile includes (A) they learn to act like a leader: to manage their image in a genuine, authentic way. (B) They are straightforward; they tell people what they stand for, and then stand for it. (C) They are inspirational and learn what motivates people. They are optimistic and use emotion in their communication. (D) They know the people they are leading and help them develop and (E) They stimulate people, make people think and make them take responsible  but always with the positive support of a business leader knows they must provide.

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