how to build trust with thought leadership

You can lose a customer in a moment – so how do you build trust for a lifetime?


Customers can be won – or lost – in an instant. So how does a brand forge the bonds necessary to survive the rocky moments that happen in any relationship? And how do organizations establish the authority needed to become top of mind when potential customers are making a buying decision?

It all comes down to trust.

In his incredibly inspirational TED Talk based on his best-seller Start With Why, Simon Sinek postulated that consumers aren’t really buying what businesses do – instead they are buying why businesses do it. He suggested that people are more likely to follow or associate with people and organizations who emulate the values that matter most to them.

We’re seeing this concept becoming a reality in the experience economy as consumers recognize the incredible power of the wallet when it comes to driving social change. While governments might be slow to adapt to the will of the people, businesses are much more nimble, and quickly assess what matters most to their audiences – and increasingly what matters most is purpose. 

Thought leadership is critical to aligning beliefs and building respect. 92% of B2B decision makers stated they have increased respect for organizations who focus on thought leadership, and 58% noting that they’d give business to the company that earns their trust via thought leadership.

Can thought leadership build trust? Yes. Can it build trust overnight? No. (See: Rome)

Thought leadership is a term that’s difficult to describe because it has different meanings to different people. Overall, there’s a consensus that thought leadership content is crucial in establishing you or your organization as a leader in your industry via engaging, thoughtful, informed, and factual content. Generally sitting within the realm of content marketing, thought leadership content is crafted across all mediums, from written, to visual, to podcasts.

Though we’re living in a world of constant demand, including access to real-time metrics and expecting instant results, the reality is that trust isn’t built overnight; nor is thought leadership – this makes sense, as trust is the core of true thought leadership content. Merely posting content and calling yourself a thought leader doesn’t create authority – it’s the power of content over time that builds the bridges leading to life-long relationships.

We have scientific proof that content marketing drives big business results, but it’s still hard to get exact insights into how much revenue thought leadership drives. Any marketing leader worth their weight knows that powerful content continues to perform well after a campaign has ended, and that trust-building content is actually a huge contribution to demand generation efforts.

Here are some key points to remember when you’re developing thought leadership:

1. Thought leadership isn’t a sales piece. While thought leadership can grow and become a big driver of demand, it’s not sales content. Keep the copy tight, avoiding constant references and links to only your product. If you’re pitching rather than sharing information, people will easily recognize it, and you’ll actually break trust rather than gain it.

2. Be consistent. Publishing a few posts does not a thought leader make. Being reliable with your content underscores that your brand is reliable – and the effort takes years. You cannot expect that people will continually come back in the hopes of discovering new content; rather you need to consistently provide content on a regular cadence.

3. Offer solutions. Don’t just discuss challenges – offer examples of current solutions, as well as what future solutions could look like. As your strategy evolves, your readers will look to you as an authority – don’t disappoint them by not addressing opportunities for growth.

4. Be real. Talk to your readers as you’d talk to your coworkers. Be authentic in your message and avoid jargon if at all possible. You want your readers to know that you’re an expert, but also that you’re a person, just like them. Admit when you don’t have all the answers, and cite other leaders in the field, too.

5. Trust editors. Engaging content requires great headlines and concise copy – which requires skilled copy writers and editors. Bypassing the honing of content often leads to content not being shared. Remember, you’re an expert in certain topics, and professional writers are experts in how to make your authority resonate via strong content.

Lifelong relationships require lifelong effort. Businesses and brands aren’t exempt from this concept – by creating a foundation that’s solely dedicated to building trust, you’re creating a bond that’s strong enough to overcome challenges and obstacles that will emerge along the way.

Shine in the moments that matter most.
Download our report on the future of customer experience. 

Jenn Vande Zande
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Jenn Vande Zande

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