Thought Leadership Marketing – Three Strategies

Thought Leadership Marketing – Three Strategies

Marketing is important for all businesses because it helps us grow. 

Most people talk about marketing in a particular way, and this works well for product-based businesses. 

But given Thought Leaders are selling ideas, what is the best way for them to market their business?

In this post, we’ll focus on three Thought Leadership Marketing strategies you can use to attract your ideal clients more easily today.

One of the best ways to learn is to discuss things with others. Share this post with your colleagues so you can turn the general principles in this video into your Thought Leadership Marketing action plan.

 What is Thought Leadership?

In our previous post, we explored Thought Leadership Meaning and Definition. We defined a Thought Leader as:

Someone who leads with their ideas.

Here I want to share three core strategies for your Thought Leadership Marketing.

1 How to sell ideas

Strategy #1: How to sell ideas is best done as a brand ideal

Thought Leaders make their living by selling their ideas and how well you do this determines two crucial things: your income and your level of influence. But ideas are not tangible or physical like a car or a computer, so how do we sell an idea?

George Eastman and Kodak

There’s a famous story, or perhaps an urban legend, about George Eastman, the founder of Kodak.

Legend has it he went into a sales meeting and was asking his sales team, “What do we sell?”

The first reply and obvious answer was, “We sell cameras.”

Then someone else said, “No, no, we sell photographs.”

And, then another said, “No, no, we sell film.”

Then George replied, “No, no, no… We’re in the business of selling memories.”

Selling the future

We might think that selling ideas is particular to Thought Leaders, but that’s not accurate. All sales rely on the same principle.

Better off in the future

Every single customer or client who ever bought anything has asked the same question, ‘how will I be better off in the future by having this?’

We are all buying and selling a future.

Brand Ideals

Jim Stengel's book GrowIn his best-selling book, Grow, Jim Stengel, former head of marketing for Proctor and Gamble worldwide, proposed that the key to building sustainable business growth is directly linked to your ability to connect with fundamental human emotions.  (Quick book review)

His strategy was to build your business brand around one of five brand ideals to directly improve people’s lives.

This fits perfectly with Thought Leadership Marketing – The single biggest idea you will have in your Thought Leadership business is your brand ideal – what you stand for and provide for your clients.

At the end of this post, I share Stengel’s five brand ideals and ask the key question to help you decide which one is right for you.

2 The best way to sell yourself

Strategy #2: The best way to sell yourself is to have others do the work for you

Thought leaders are not just selling their ideas. They’re also selling themselves as the person behind the ideas and the person delivering them. As a result, this can be daunting for many people.

The problem is when you talk about yourself nobody wants to listen. As a result, it can feel like an advertisement or your ego talking.

Rating: How well can you sell yourself? 

How well can you sell yourself? Give yourself a rating out of five where one is ‘I couldn’t sell a cold drink to a man lost in the desert’ through to five where ‘you can sell ice to a snowman’.

Rating: How well can you sell yourself?

Now, on the same scale of one to five, how well can you sell someone else?

What’s different about your two ratings? Most of us can sell someone else better than ourselves.

Evolutionary Biology

There is a deep reason for this and it goes way back to when we were living in caves, the tribe suffered when we only looked out for ourselves. In other words, we had a better chance of survival if we worked together.  

Deep down, that’s why it’s hard to sell ourselves – we don’t want to be seen as being separate from our tribe. It follows why we don’t want to listen to advertising or people talking about themselves.

Therefore, calling yourself a Thought Leader can come across as being ego-driven or chest-thumping because it’s all about you.

Two solutions

There are two ways to get better about selling yourself.

First, you can learn and practice. At some point, we all must close a sale around something. 

Second, you can have other people do the selling for you and this is a powerful strategy because this is literally what Thought Leadership is. There are two ways to do this.

1 Gaining Referrals

John Jantsch: The Referral Engine The first is a direct method of gaining referrals. I highly recommend John Jantsch’s book The Referral Engine if you want to learn how to do this. The key here is to design a deliberate strategy to make this happen and not let it be a random thing.


2 Content Marketing

The second is an indirect method of sharing your ideas through content marketing. I shared this in the post, ‘Share what you know about business success’ with the example of the TV chefs. By giving us free recipes, we become fans of their cooking which leads to us wanting to eat at their restaurant. 

My big tip here is to have more people using your IP and your ideas. To achieve this, you’ll need to share your best ideas with more people and remember, it’s who knows you know.

3 Make Marketing Profits

Strategy #3: Turn your marketing into a profit centre and not an expense.

Businesspeople know they must market their products and services to attract new clients, and they know this costs time and money. But what if you could get paid to promote yourself?

Now, that would be a double bonus – you get paid to promote yourself and you then find clients who pay you even more money to work with them.

There are three different approaches to marketing with regard to our time and money.

1 Advertising

First, if you were to advertise your Thought Leader services in a magazine, on TV or on Google, would this be income earnt or an expense-paid to someone else? Normally, it’s an expense given we pay for it.

2 Content Marketing

Second, if we were to share our ideas online through Content Marketing in the form of an article on Linked In or a blog post like the one you’re reading, would that be income earnt or an expense-paid? It’s probably neither. Sure, it will cost you some time and effort but you’re not paying any money to create or share your content.

Profitable Marketing - get paid to promote yourself

3 Information Products 

Third – and this is where it gets interesting – you might write a book to promote yourself (I’ve written more than ten of them). While it might cost you a few dollars to print your book, you can earn money through book sales.

This an example of an information product we can sell that earns us income and at the same time serves as a powerful marketing tool. Once more our TV chefs show how to do this.

While that’s fantastic, hold the steak knives, it gets better.


How would you like to market your business to a roomful of people and be positioned as the expert in the room? That’s a good description of a professional speaker – someone who is paid to present ideas. (You know you are a thought leader if someone is paying you money to share your ideas.)

Provided you add value through your content and don’t do a sales pitch there are three ways to make a profit on this activity.

  1. Be paid for the presentation.
  2. Deliver the presentation for free and earn money from selling your books and information products.
  3. Have both – be paid to present and sell your books and information products.

There are two big opportunities here.

  • First, being positioned as an expert.
  • Second, the audition in front of potential clients.

This is one of the great Thought Leadership marketing opportunities of all time and a chance to make a profit and be paid to promote yourself.

Summary: Thought Leadership Marketing

Let’s wrap up what we’ve covered here: Three strategies for Thought Leadership Marketing.

Thought Leadership Marketing - Three Strategies

First, the key to selling your ideas is to build your business around a consistent brand ideal that presents a clear picture of how the future of your client’s lives will be better from working with you. 

Second, the best way to sell yourself is to have other people do it for you. This is exactly what thought leadership is all about. Sharing ideas so other people gain value and ultimately refer business to you.  

Third, instead of your marketing being an expense, turn it into a profit centre by selling information products or presentations. It will further the spread of your ideas and earn you money too.

The five brand ideals you can build 

Now for the five brand ideals from Jim Stengel’s book, Grow that you can use to build your Thought Leadership Marketing brand.

Five Brand Ideals from Jim Stengel, Grow

1 Enable connection

Make it easier for people to connect with each other and the world in meaningful ways. This may suit Thought Leaders who talks about communication, leadership and belonging.

2 Incite joy

Stimulate experiences of happiness, wonder and limitless possibilities. This suits Thought Leaders in wellness, plus customer experience design.

3 Inspire exploration

Help people explore new horizons and new experiences. This is perfect for thought leaders who share future trends and new technology or scientists.

4 Evoke pride

Give people increased confidence, strength, security and vitality. This for thought leaders in personal development or growth area. It’s also where Anywhere Experts belongs with our brand ideal being ‘freedom’ in the way we live and work.

5 Impact society

Make the world a better place by challenging the status quo and redefining what is possible in health, business, environment. This is ideal for any Thought Leader thinking about social change, climate change and global events.

The Right Brand Ideal for You

To find the right one that suits you, think about which one naturally aligns to your area of thought leadership.  You’ll need to ask yourself: What is the deeper benefit of what I provide for my clients?

For example, around my business Anywhere Experts the goal is to help business experts turn their insights into IP so they can earn money from what they know, from anywhere. To find the brand ideal, we need to ask, ‘Why do they want that?’ Ultimately, it comes back to freedom, autonomy and choice about when, where and how we live and work.

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