The Best Way to Measure Thought Leadership

thought leadership

By Eric Wittlake, {grow} Contributing Columnist

The more we use a word, the more we destroy its meaning.

Thought leadership? Sure! We’ll just start publishing the barely regurgitated points of view previously shared by others that actually took the time to think about them. Piece of cake.

Sadly, this seems to be what thought leadership means to many marketers today. And its purpose? Thought leadership, of course. We’ve used the term so much that we’ve forgotten the real business reasons why we cared in the first place.

Why Thought Leadership Matters

A sweet spot for a professional services organization is to be recognized as grounded in today’s market reality, able to deliver excellence at scale and having a clear and compelling vision not just of what we should do in the future, but what the capabilities of the future will make possible.

That is a company I want to hire, or maybe even work for. And if I don’t see you as a thought leader, the second half of that statement will never apply to you. Sorry.

Measuring Thought Leadership

Measuring an investment you make in thought leadership is extremely difficult. Many B2B marketers (the market I usually work in) end up measuring thought leadership programs on leads or content consumption.

Sadly, the result often becomes a program built around heavy content, often licensed from another company (umm, that doesn’t make me care about YOUR vision) and hiding behind a form that dramatically limits distribution. Alternatively, we create clickbait headlines that drive page views to increasingly forgettable content. This isn’t working.

To change it, we need to change what we are measuring. We need to understand what will happen when we are successful and we need to build our measurement around those outcomes.

So what will happen?

  • Your business will grow. It is the ultimate outcome, but it is impacted by far too many things to be the metric for one program or initiative.
  • More people will come to you, looking to hire you (or looking to work for you). This is closer, but it is still too broad.
  • People will want your perspective about changes in the market.

More specifically, when you or your organization are seen as a thought leader, the media will want your perspective on what is happening in the market. This is what you need to measure. How many quotes and references are you getting each quarter? Is it consistently increasing? Are quotes in those coveted top tier outlets increasing?

Count them. Track them. Yes, this is a high bar, but it will tell you if you really are being recognized for your leadership and perspective. And that’s what you said you wanted, right?

A Big Bonus

One of the challenges with common thought leadership measurements is they create the wrong behavior. If measuring press quotes leads you to ramp up your PR efforts, that’s a good thing! Those references help to establish recognition of your leadership as well. So if, as the saying goes, we manage what we measure, measuring your efforts on those media quotes will keep you on the right path.

I’d love to hear how you measure your thought leadership efforts in the comments!

Eric WittlakeEric Wittlake spends his days working with B2B marketers and (occasionally) shares his marketing views on his personal blog, B2B Digital Marketing. You can find him on Twitter (@wittlake) when he isn’t working with B2B marketers.


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