Trust isn’t easy to come by in today’s marketplace, where most consumers conduct online research before making a purchase. Thought leadership is one of the most worthwhile marketing strategies for attaining consumer trust and boosting brand value. Not only does this marketing strategy keep your content well from running dry, but it also helps your business attract website visitors, talented employees, potential partnerships and new customers. Despite its lofty title, thought leadership is essentially the sharing of industry expertise with the goal of establishing your business as an authoritative leader in the field. Successful thought leadership marketing is about harnessing your existing knowledge and sharing it to inform and inspire others, without specifically promoting your products/services (although you will undoubtedly see an increase in sales).

So how is it done? Read on to learn the who, what, where, when and why of turning your brand into a trusted source that consumers turn to.

The Who – sources of inspiration

Though becoming a thought leader does take time and dedication, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to position your business as an authority. You need only to tap into the expertise and knowledge you already have as a launching point. Start with your target customers and buyer personas. Develop a list of problems, concerns and questions they’re asking that relate to your products/services. Consider even surveying your existing customers to find out what they want to know more about. Deepen your knowledge by researching online search trends, and then build your content in a way that answers those questions. Inspiration can also come from your managers, designers, sales team and customer service employees. Consider offering staff incentives to encourage team members to share their insight and expertise.

The What – your content

With a wealth of content already out there, your content must provide a reliable, researched perspective with a fresh voice to be on the map. Familiarize yourself with industry trends, and look to current industry leaders’ published content as a springboard. Ask yourself how you can enter the conversation on that topic and add something more or a creative spin. It can also boost brand reputation to engage in online discussions with other leaders and even to share others’ content. When it comes to high-interest industry content, depth and quality trump breadth and quantity. Maintain an informed voice with facts and examples to influence buyer decisions, and stay true to your brand’s style.

The Where – omnichannel approach

Quality content isn’t the only consideration to becoming a thought leader. To gain necessary exposure, you can’t limit yourself to traditional formats. Yes, blogs (your own and guest blogging on sites with similar audiences) are excellent places to showcase your knowledge. However, you can also restructure your content into engaging videos, podcasts, infographics, newsletters, presentations, live streams, sharable quotes and books. Original research, like white papers and case studies, is another great way to offer informed content. Additionally, you can plan opportunities to share your insight in discussions at live events that you attend or host. And of course, a strong social media presence is essential to thought leadership strategy. Ultimately, you cannot gain recognition and visibility as an industry leader without distributing your informed perspective across channels.

The When and Why – frequency and authenticity

Thought leaders do not achieve (or maintain) their status from sharing only a few insightful pieces. Instead, they regularly publish meaningful content to stay relevant and recognizable. Create a weekly content calendar to set deadlines and designate responsibilities. Test different times of day and days of the week to maximize engagement. Be careful, however, not to push your posting ambition beyond what you can deliver. The most important element of thought leadership content is an authentic motivation to help consumers in their journey. Sometimes marketers focus too much on posting frequency, which leads to low quality content and reliance on product/service promotion. Even at a lower volume, high quality content with the foremost aim of helping the curious customer is what increases consumer trust and improves brand reputation.

In the quest to be a thought leader, it’s important to remember that recognition doesn’t happen overnight. Trust can be earned slowly over time by regularly delivering helpful, educational, well-distributed content that is not promotional. Consumers want to find knowledgeable sources that understand their wants and needs, brands they can rely on to learn new things about their career, business or life. What’s more, other industry leaders (90% of C-suite executives, according to an Edelman-LinkedIn research study) respect and admire an organization more for strong thought leadership. With an understanding of the who, what, where, when and why of thought leadership, your business can become the go-to industry source.