thought leader holding an email flag

Thought Leadership Marketing Strategy: Nurturing Leads with Email


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 those forms of content most certainly can be included 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 even just your target audience. A person who has succeeded in becoming a ‘thought leader’ could be invited to speak at conferences, offer advice to bloggers, be interviewed on podcasts, or even write forewords for books.

A business using thought leadership marketing strategies will have leads and prospects come to them. They attract customers, rather than relying only on tactics that try to compel a response.

So what role does your email strategy play in thought leadership marketing? Unlike blog posts, videos, podcasts, eBooks, white papers, and other forms of content, email is unique because it is both a form of content and a means of distributing it.

Whether you focus on code, strategy, or design Email on Acid’s Splat Fest has something for every kind of email marketer. Check out what we have planned! Pick and choose the sessions you find interesting!

Why thought leadership and email marketing go hand in hand

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.

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.

Let’s look at some examples.

Lead-generating content

lead magnet attract at symbols

There’s one clear goal for creating gated thought leadership content such as eBooks 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 through thought leadership with a new lead begins when they request your lead magnet. After that comes the important work of nurturing them using email to offer more helpful content.

A few other goals can be achieved through email regarding lead generation content:

1. Motivate the lead to consume the content

Lots of eBooks 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 sequence 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.

2. Connect the lead 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.

3. 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…”

4. Ask them to share your content

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

Webinar marketing

webinar with a thought leader

Webinars are a very 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?

Maximize attendance:

First of all, the majority of 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. And 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 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 will 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 that come from this familiar name are more likely to command attention.

Touch base with those who missed the webinar:

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

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, but 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. And 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 that everyone experienced (Wasn’t the magician on 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.

Similarly, if something has changed since the event, call it out in a message to create discussion and buzz around the topic, while also showing your commitment to staying up-to-date on what’s happening in the industry. Followers will appreciate your authenticity.

Video marketing

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 TedX 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 fact, in our whitepaper, 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.

Email newsletters

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 cannot become a thought leader. If you’re a thought leader, then 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.

Match thought leaders with personas

thought leadership 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 each 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.

Develop your 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? Find mistakes and fix them before they happen so that you maximize the effectiveness of every message.

Email on Acid empowers marketers every day by checking each and every email for spelling errors, strange graphics, deliverability issues, accessibility problems, and more. It not only makes quality checks foolproof — but your entire email team more efficient.

Make sure 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!

More on thought leadership marketing

thought leadership content white paper cover image

Download our special report, which includes survey results from best-in-class marketers. Start finding ways to implement thought leadership marketing in your email strategy.

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Author: Laura Horkey

As Email on Acid’s email marketing specialist, Laura is slightly obsessed with email strategy and is often geeking out on A/B testing, behavioral patterns of subscribers, and the occasional pop culture reference in email copy. Outside of work, she can be found on a baseball field or at a backyard bonfire with her husband, two kids, and poodle-mix puppers somewhere in Northwest Arkansas.

Author: Laura Horkey

As Email on Acid’s email marketing specialist, Laura is slightly obsessed with email strategy and is often geeking out on A/B testing, behavioral patterns of subscribers, and the occasional pop culture reference in email copy. Outside of work, she can be found on a baseball field or at a backyard bonfire with her husband, two kids, and poodle-mix puppers somewhere in Northwest Arkansas.

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