A thought leader is described as an individual with an informed opinion in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources that move and inspire people with innovative ideas, turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success.

It is important to align thought leadership efforts with a business’s overall strategic goals to drive a meaningful outcome. Establishing yourself or your business as a thought leader requires consistent, diligent effort – it is cumulative.

A true thought leader knows a topic, product or business inside and out, has formed a clear, unique and defensible point of view about it, and freely shares that perspective.

There are three types of thought leaders:

  1. Industry
  2. Product
  3. Organizational

Industry thought leadership is an individual who knows the ins-and-outs of their industry – they are able to form a valid, educated opinion about any topic and they have established themselves as experts in the industry.

Some strategies that you may want to consider for establishing yourself as an industry thought leader are:

  • Maintain an active business blog
  • Speak at conferences or events
  • Answer questions on social media

An industry thought leader addresses questions that their prospective customers are asking – typically in long-form content on a company blog or social media post. At the very least, it means that you need to focus on the news, trends and markets shaping your industry.

Product thought leaders are experts on a particular and specific product. Ideally, your products are the vehicle for taking your customers down a path to success. This can become a reality by:

  • Sharing best practices
  • Offering practical how-to’s
  • Strategic roadmaps

Apple, for instance, has established itself as thought leader in smartphones, tablets and computers. In fact, Apple has replaced Google as the top “Business Thought Leader” in the U.K., according to this study. Apple has created a persona that they are the best smartphone creators, among other products. Apple is the thought leader of their category of products. As such, the majority of customers seek them for product advice and guidance.

Being a product thought leader doesn’t mean that you have to be the first in the industry to develop a product – but you must be the first to address how your product will help your customers solve a problem or fulfill a need.

Your company’s thought leadership should reflect its culture. An organizational thought leader is defined as a professional who knows everything about the business and creates the corporate culture.

Focus on the areas of thought leadership that can make an impact and add value to a conversation, rather than just adding noise.

How is your company establishing itself as an industry, product or organizational thought leader?