member insights
Thoughts opinions and ideas about membership marketing.

Creating an Association with the power to influence

Creating an Association with the power to influence

What distinguishes an association that is truly leading by example, driving opinion and shaping the future from those merely working within the constraints of commonly held ‘wisdom’ in their industry?

The answer is courage and humility in equal doses. It takes courage to put everything on the table and tackle uncomfortable taboos or sacred cows head-on. Yet it takes humility to take on all opinions in a debate and explore what is not yet known, together. Thought leadership is not about spouting rigid doctrines or having all the answers. It’s about the exploration of possibilities – wherever that takes us.

Elevate your thought leadership beyond your everyday business

To build this kind of influence credibly, you need to separate thought leadership activities from regular, revenue generating activities. The people who you are seeking to connect with on a thought leadership level are there for your ideas, not your everyday products and services. So, your ideas shouldn’t be spun into a sales pitch for the ‘commercial’ arm of your organisation.

This isn’t to say that good thought leadership wouldn’t encourage people to ‘purchase’ from you. They may come for your ideas and stay around for other things. But the reason they sought you out in the first place was because they were interested in how you are approaching an issue that’s important to them. They are going to want to continue exploring this with you.

Your ideas aren’t something you can or should charge for in the same way as your commercial offering. It won’t generate income but it will bring value and credibility to your brand, which will make it easier to widen your circle of influence as well as sell more of your products and services.

You’re not selling it but you still need to market it

To build influence and draw people into a debate requires something beyond just generating ideas and policies. You need a well thought out and executed Content Strategy activated by clever marketing that makes use of every communication channel and platform available.

The more you place your ideas so they can be found and shared, the wider your influence will extend. Without a mechanism to gain this kind of exposure you’ll continue talking to a small group of people you already know rather than attracting the new people you want to meet.

Thought leadership should help people

If your ideas don’t help people to either do something better or understand something more clearly, they’re not likely to give up their valuable time to engage with you. Your lofty ambitions for a better future or a higher standard have to translate into an advantage for your audience.

If they get this kind of benefit from your ideas, chances are they’ll want to become more involved with you in other areas. 

Thought leaders do more than just talk

Ideas are good, but they also need to be able to spark debate and action. The kind of ideas you’ll be putting out there as part of your influence building may be too radical or exploratory to put into action immediately. But while the debate goes on you can nurture their path to fruition.

Become a key player in that debate by joining committees, boards and other bodies. Create your own forums and platforms where interested parties can come together and exchange views. If your association is committed to a particular cause, start a foundation that formalises your role as thought leader in that area. In other words, don’t passively release your ideas, get involved and active.

The bottom line is that organisations who project authentic, inclusive thought leadership which adds value to their audience’s work or life will attract more followers, members, customers and stakeholders. It will draw people in who want to participate in the debate and access the benefits associated with that organisations offering.

And, who knows, they may all play a part in a bigger change for the better that would have been impossible without the rallying influence of a true thought leader.

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