I was asked to speak at a Rotary meeting last month on the topic of social media trends and what’s next for local businesses It was a great time, a short presentation and a wonderful group of civic-minded professionals from our area. I’ve always been a fan of the work that Rotary does in the communities they serve and our downtown Green Bay group is a fine example of that.
After the reading of the Rotary Four-Way Test, I got to thinking about the ‘test’ that thought leaders must have for their ideas, their content and what they bring to market. To be a thought leader is not just to pontificate or curate or ruminate (we could go on with the rhymes) but rather to agitate and move ideas through the marketplace that benefit all concerned. Thought leaders must have a clarity about their own thinking and their own processes that can guide a would-be follower to the desired place or idea with conviction. That’s a pretty tall order, but the thought leaders I know are up to the challenge!
This idea of the Five-Way Test for thought leaders is still very much “in beta”, but I wanted to share our current thinking on the ‘test’ that we’re applying to the thought leadership projects we’re working on for ourselves, and for our clients this year. Perhaps you can glean some insight for your own thought leading endeavors.
- How will this benefit our customer?
How does the point-of-view that you’re developing, whitepaper you’re publishing or the webinar you’re conducting benefit the customer that you have today? Will it help them improve their business? Will it bring them into closer relationship with you and bring mutual value? Of course, many thought leading organizations use their position to attract new customers, but the real thought leaders bring ideas and concepts to the market to benefit everyone, and that body of ‘everyone’ should start with those closest to you – your current customers.
- How will this benefit our prospective customers (and the market at large)?
This is really where our minds go when we think through a thought leadership platform for an organization - planning out how it will attract inbound marketing opportunity for our organization – ultimately leading to new sales. However, we have new things to consider, like the Challenger Sale, for example, and whether or not we’re really benefitting the prospect and helping them to make better decisions, move through their decision journey and come to the right conclusion that benefits their business, even if that decision doesn’t include us.
- How will this benefit the industry?
Thought leaders must think beyond their customers, and even their prospects, and consider for a moment how their endeavors to lead through ideas will benefit the industry that they serve. Whether it’s thought leading on a common problem or trying to bring a new meme to the market that crystalizes a new way of thinking, the industry benefit is always embedded in what the thought leader does. In fact, as @ChuckFrey puts it, thought leadership is a form of ‘evangelization’ of an idea or set of ideas to the industry. Are you evangelizing your ideas?
- How will this benefit our company?
I submit that genuine thought leadership, the kind born of original insight, real data and hard-won experience, actually makes an organization more valuable. You also put yourself at the center of a conversation that may have, heretofore, been taking place without you. Of course thought leadership should always benefit the organization, but the ways in which benefits manifest are often further reaching than simply meeting some quarterly marketing objectives.
- How will this benefit our team? (staff, sales, front lines, distribution, etc.)
Will it help them to differentiate the company in the eyes of customers and even potential new hires? Will it help to spread a ‘meme’ throughout the company to move you in a new direction? Usually it’s the sales team, especially those in a Challenge Sales organization, that benefits most from good thought leadership in the form of sales-ready thought leadership messaging and topics that help to agitate the market in your direction, but solid thought leadership should have a ripple effect within your organization.
Apply the Five-Way Test of Thought Leadership in your organization today. How does your thought leadership stand up to it?