Is thought leadership a valid business goal?

I listened recently as two people proclaimed that thought leadership is never the reason to adopt a content marketing strategy. After they were done virtually high-fiving each other for their self-perceived smarts, I raised my hand and objected.

Here’s the thing: they’re not all wrong—but they overreach.

Thought leadership is rarely the end goal of a content marketing strategy.

It can, however, be a very smart step goal. A means to a broader goal, which in most organizations is measured in revenues.

Saying that thought leadership is never a valid goal, however, is like saying:

  • Hiring great employees is not a valid goal because they’re really just there to help the business succeed.
  • Designing eye-grabbing packaging is not a valid goal because it’s only a means to attract market share.
  • Having quality customer service is not a valid goal because you’re really looking for repeat sales.

Starter goals and step goals are valid.

Yes, it’s good to drill down and understand your end goals. But don’t get so focused on the end game that you’re afraid to take a chance or make a move. Amazon didn’t become Amazon overnight.

I worry that companies listen to the absolutes and become paralyzed. (I know I would.) It doesn’t matter whether it’s advice to “be everywhere” on social media or that thought leadership is an invalid content marketing goal. If we can’t take baby steps, how are we going to get anywhere?

Not to mention that thought leadership, done well, pays off. And isn’t that what content marketing is really all about?

Photo by 1stsite (Flickr)