The energy today is a little low, but the insights still pack a punch. Doug is still a little sleepy from his trip to Florida for his daughter’s graduation. Congrats Dylan! Hopefully, Doug will be able to hibernate for a few days coming up to get that energy back. Though we’re all jealous that he got to spend a few days at the beach.
Let’s all pretend we’re sitting with a drink in hand listening to the waves crash as Doug and Jess talk through thought leadership versus point-of-view insights. We’re putting thought leadership on trial today.
What is a point-of-view insight?
Actually, let’s define thought leadership first. Doug likes to think about thought leadership through a compare and contrast. Thought leadership is all about highlighting your knowledge. The purpose of thought leadership, the design of thought leadership is that it gets exposed to someone. The takeaway of thought leadership is, “Wow, these people are smart.”
Insights are frame-breaking and change how someone thinks about something. The takeaway of a good insight is, “Oh, we might be thinking about this wrong. We might be doing this wrong.” Both thought leadership and insights are educational. Thought leadership is more simple, more solution oriented. Insights are more problem oriented. Insights are changing how you think about the situation. You aren’t going to get a lot of disagreement on thought leadership, and the problem with thought leadership is that it doesn’t actually influence decisions. It actually tends to reinforce the status quo. It reinforces the path that people are already on.
If you connect thought leadership and look at it from a data perspective, similarly to what Gartner did, they found that thought leadership actually has a negative correlation to successful sales outcomes. The reason being WYSIATI - What You See Is All There Is. When you come in with thought leadership, people plug it into their existing frame of reference. The other thing with thought leadership is that it has become so noisy and watered down that it’s hard to sift through all the content.
Thought leadership is great for search because it’s based on established information. What do people search? They search for the things they want to know about. No one searches for the thought that they know nothing about. Once we have an idea about something, we seek information that contains what we’re thinking.
Why do point-of-view insights cause people to change their course?
If the content doesn’t change how you think about something, it’s thought leadership; it embeds answers. Insights provoke questions.
People are unpredictable, and they’re also very predictable. If you can figure out what the questions are that people are asking themselves, there’s a lot of predictability there. If I can change how you think, I break how you view something. Your decision might change.
Insight is designed to upend the status quo. An insight is striving to teach that we’re wrong - politely and explicitly. The moment you get someone to say “OH SHIT!” everything changes.
Is search the only benefit to thought leadership? Are there any other benefits to thought leadership outside of driving search?
Thought leadership can be good in a top-of-funnel space as part of your attract tactics. There’s an idea of establishing 3-5 insights. Doug doesn’t think that every piece you write should be an insight because that’s intense. There’s a lot of power to how-to pieces (which are far more thought leadership driven.) Doug has an entire rant on thought leadership here in this post.
If you go back a couple of decades ago, thought leadership was key. That was enough to stand out. The problem with thought leadership is that it is not anchored to a strong insight. If you want an analogy here, insights are the medicine and thought leadership is the spoon full of sugar. Insights are where you establish your expertise or credibility.
Why choose 3-5 insights?
Why not 3-5? If you had 10 different insights, at some point you become a conglomerate. It’s just too much. From a go-to-market standpoint, you’re better off going deep in a few areas than in many. There’s no juice for the squeeze to have more than about 3-5 insights. Any more and you might end up confusing your market.
How do you go about picking insights?
Let’s take a step back and talk through how insights become point-of-view insights.
- The insight is about the customer. It’s all about the unknown or misunderstood problems or opportunities that a customer is facing.
- An insight is relevant, important and specific. Just because you say it’s relevant and important doesn’t make it relevant and important.
- It challenges the prospect’s existing viewpoint, mental model or mental MO and reframes the conversation (this is what makes an insight a POV insight.)
- It’s designed to initiate or deepen an investigative conversation or journey
A POV insight has a perspective; there’s a slant to it. There’s an angle that you’re taking; you’re advocating a perspective.
Another reason to have 3-5 insights is that they take a lot of work and reinforcement. It’s not like you can put out an insight and be done with it and move on. These are the anchors that you build your content around. They are what you build your business around.
This is what community is about. When we talk about community-led growth, there’s no point of view for the community. Then is it really community-led growth?
How do you create an insight?
There are a couple of things to ask yourself:
- What do your customers fail to fully understand about their business, but should understand?
- What do they misunderstand that’s important?
- Start off with the questions above.
- Identify which ones connect to you.
- What are the 1-3 things that your customers think they know that ain’t so?
- On each of those things, what do you know that is both counterintuitive and impactful?
Note: when you deliver insights, they’re not greeted with cheers because people don’t like being told they’re wrong. You have to remember that we are biologically programmed to resist differences in our thoughts.
What insight does early is it creates curiosity. Though leadership satiates curiosity.
Thought leadership needs to be anchored in insight. It can attract, but the job there is to circle to the insight. No item of thought leadership should be more than one step away from the insight that it’s based on.
- POV insights lead to a deeper conversation and thought leadership isn’t going to get you into that deep conversation because it confirms our bias or common knowledge.
- Thought leadership isn’t going to stimulate conversation.
- Insights is the medicine and thought leadership is the sugar that helps it go down.
Follow Jess, Doug & Imagine on socials for updates on the show or other insights: