thought leader holding an email flag

Thought Leadership Marketing Strategy: Nurturing Leads with Email

Trends come and go, as do worldviews and widely held thoughts and opinions. But who sets those trends and thoughts? The Illuminati? Not quite.

Thought leaders are subject matter experts who often shape the thoughts of an entire industry or marketing niche. Thought leaders and the content that they create, are included in, or that gets attributed to them, can be a powerful piece of an email marketing strategy. That's particularly true when it involves generating and nurturing leads.

Let’s go over what thought leadership marketing is, five examples of thought leadership marketing strategies, how to match thought leadership to personas, and how to develop your thought leadership strategies in email marketing.

What is thought leadership marketing?

Thought leaders are individuals who influence the opinions and thoughts of an industry or market based on their personal brand and expertise. Some social media influencers are thought leaders who shape trends and fashion, while other industry thought leaders include individuals in the corporate sphere, like investment guru Cathie Wood, entrepreneur Elon Musk, and marketer Neil Patel.

Thought leadership content marketing logically follows: disseminate the opinions and thoughts of these thought leaders to produce marketing results. Thought leaders are subject matter experts who often act as a spokesperson for a brand.

A business using thought leadership marketing strategies will effectively attract relevant leads and prospects. This is especially important in B2B marketing, and when you seek to appeal directly to decision-makers. In B2B thought leadership marketing, you often attract and nurture customers rather than relying only on tactics that try to compel an immediate response.

Difference between thought leadership and content marketing

Content marketing is a type of digital marketing that relies on the creation of online content, including blogs, emails, and social media posts, by focusing on SEO strategies. Content marketing strategy uses these forms of online content to drive leads and customer conversions.

When we use the term “thought leadership marketing,” you might think about content. But thought leadership entails much more than creating blog articles, emails, and social media posts – although you can most certainly include those forms of content in a thought leadership marketing strategy.

Thought leadership is about authority. It’s about influencing a broader part of the market, not just your customers or your target audience. A person who has succeeded in becoming a “thought leader” could be invited to speak at conferences, offer advice to industry bloggers, be interviewed on podcasts, or even write forewords for books.

Thought leadership is ultimately about service. It’s a form of “servant leadership.” You’re giving without any immediate request or attempt to get anything in return.

You’re looking for problems, issues, and concerns and producing content that helps solve and work through those challenges.

How are thought leadership and email marketing related?

So what role does your email strategy play in thought leadership marketing? And how can thought leadership make your email efforts more effective? Unlike blog posts, videos, podcasts, e-books, white papers, and other forms of content, email is unique because it can be both a form of content and a means of distributing it.

Email enables you to deliver nearly every item of thought leadership marketing to your audience. And because you can ask readers to share your content with others and mention it on social media, it can also be the spark that extends your thought leadership to new audiences who want to hear from you in the future.

Here are five examples of thought leadership marketing strategies:

  1. Lead-generating content
  2. Webinar marketing
  3. Event marketing
  4. Video marketing
  5. Email newsletters

1. Lead-generating content

lead magnet attract at symbols

There’s one clear goal for creating gated thought leadership content such as e-books and white papers: get more leads. Email helps you achieve that simply by delivering the requested resource. It’s also the main piece of information prospects provide in exchange for accessing your premium resources. Essentially, a valid email address is how they “pay” for your most valuable content.

But what happens after that?

Few leads convert after reading just one resource. Especially for B2B email automations, lead generation has a longer life cycle. Your attempt to build authority with a new contact through thought leadership begins when they request your lead magnet. After that comes the important work of nurturing them using email to offer more helpful content.

Here are a few other things you can do through email regarding lead-generation content:

Motivate your leads to consume the content

Lots of e-books are sent but never read. Webinars are never attended. Videos are never viewed. Use email to inspire more leads to look at the content they said they wanted but might be too busy to look at right away.

Create an email nurture campaign to overcome this barrier. In that sequence, you can pull out specific quotes or juicy tidbits. You can send testimonials from others who have already consumed the content or ones that speak to your helpfulness and thought leadership authority. Sometimes it’s as simple as reminding your reader what they already have waiting for them to consume.

Connect leads to other content

Use the nurture sequence to direct them to other content. By showing you’ve thought past step one, you build thought leadership and become an authority in the eyes of a lead before they ever pay you a cent.

Demystify your sales process

You could also use the nurture sequence to explain your sales process. You’re not trying to sell them here, but people like to know how things work. Confusion is bad marketing. You want them to be able to complete this sentence: “If I wanted to do business with you, the first step is…”

Ask them to share your content

Another nurture email should focus on sharing your lead generating content with others who might benefit from it. Make it easy by including share buttons and links that are easy to copy.

2. Webinar marketing

webinar with a thought leader

Webinars are an effective way to demonstrate your authority and deepen your role as a thought leader. Most of them are free for this reason. What can email do to make your webinar marketing more effective? Here are three ways you can make it work for you.

Maximize attendance

First of all, most people who sign up for webinars never attend. If you get 40% of your registrants to show up, you’re doing about average. Use email to send reminders to encourage more people to attend. You’ll want multiple emails for this purpose alone. People are busy, and they won’t see all of them. Make the subject lines clear. These are simple reminders to show up for a webinar the person already signed up for. Remember, they want to go!

Beyond reminders, use email to increase the perceived authority of the thought leader conducting the webinar. Send articles written by the person who will be speaking. Send videos. Send case studies and testimonials of companies who have worked with them. These can all serve to edify your speaker before the event, and both increase the attendance rate and the attention span of viewers.

Follow up with those who attended

After the webinar is over, use a follow-up sequence to highlight key points, refer attendees to additional resources, send slides from the presentation, and suggest the next steps. Your CRM can help you identify which registrants downloaded additional materials so you can better target your efforts. 

Many who attended will have increased respect for the speaker and be more open to additional content. Maybe they passed on a previous offer for a specific download, but now that it’s supported by the webinar host’s authority, it’s much more attractive.

As long as your host does a great job, you can increase the chances that people continue to interact with your nurture sequence by using a consistent, friendly “from” name. If someone attends a session hosted by Rebecca H., follow-up emails from this familiar name are more likely to command attention.

Touch base with those who missed the webinar

Don’t forget about those who missed the webinar. They might still be interested, so send them a recording, slides, and the next steps.

3. Event marketing

thought leader speaking at an event

A live event requires much of the same email marketing as a webinar. You need people to show up. If it’s a conference with multiple speakers or activities, you want them to attend the sessions taught by the thought leaders that come from your company. And you want them to remember the session after they leave.

Use email to thank people for attending, then follow up with the same kinds of messages you’d send after a webinar. You haven’t won them over with a single presentation. Still, you can use email to maintain the initial connection that you formed and further build credibility by distributing other content by the same speaker.

Just like with webinars, people who enjoyed the presentation will be happy to see more content in their inbox. Like you can capitalize on the name and face recognition of the expert, you can keep engagement high by focusing on the topic of the speech itself as well as the overall event. Reference a memorable moment everyone experienced (wasn’t the magician on the opening night amazing? We’ll never forget how she did…), share your team’s pictures at the event, and pull quotes and slides from the presentation.

If something has changed since the event, call it out in a message to start a discussion or create a buzz around the topic. It’ll also show your commitment to staying up-to-date on what’s happening in the industry. Followers will appreciate your authenticity.

4. Video marketing

thought leader does a whiteboard video

The most powerful form of thought leadership marketing is probably speaking in person. Nothing builds authority more than standing on a stage and delivering helpful content to a willing audience. Next to speaking, videos can achieve many of the same things and reach a much wider audience. That’s why filming a speech, such as a TED talk, has become such a powerful form of thought leadership. It has all the benefits of a speech to a live audience and the wide reach of an online video.

In our white paper “Building thought leadership with content,” a survey of B2B and B2C companies found that 63% chose video as the best format for disseminating thought leadership.

So, if you’ve filmed a presentation or created a white paper, video, podcast, blog post, or webinar, you can use email to distribute it and motivate people to consume and share it.

5. Email newsletters

Man stands next to email newsletter icon

If you have a thought leader at your company (or several of them), use your email newsletter to continually distribute new and relevant content that’s original, helpful, and authoritative.

Thought leaders should have a featured position in the newsletter. You might even give them their own graphic, which should definitely include their photo. Why? Because a faceless person can’t become a thought leader. If you’re a thought leader, people will know and recognize you.

You might even have a dedicated thought leadership newsletter that features a diverse range of experts and subject matters from key divisions within your company.

How do I match thought leaders with personas?

thought leadership marketing hero in a cape

You probably have a few different segments in your email list and, hopefully, some are categorized by persona. If so, it’s likely that one thought leader will be more relatable than others for a persona.

For example, suppose you sell software as a service, and your email list is broken into three primary personas: entrepreneurs, financial advisors, and other software companies.

A thought leader who started a business and built it up into a success will be more relatable to the entrepreneurial persona. Now, if that business happens to be in finance or software, then that thought leader could speak authoritatively to two of your personas.

Find out more about using buyer personas in email strategy.

How do I develop my thought leadership marketing strategy?

What can you do today to further the development of yourself or your company as a thought leader?

Your company’s thought leader should be the hero of the story, the star of the show. Be confident that their credibility will be boosted with each email sent. How? Fix mistakes proactively so that you maximize the effectiveness of every message.

Email on Acid empowers marketers every day by checking every email for spelling errors, strange graphics, deliverability issues, accessibility problems, and more. It makes quality checks foolproof and your entire email team more efficient. Ensure that your thought leader is the star of the show – not overshadowed by an “Oops!” 

Learn more about Email on Acid, and check out our list of email marketing thought leaders to discover some excellent examples of thought leadership in action.

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