Examining the concepts of owned ideas and recruiting help. An interview with Deborah Levine…
How to Effectively Manage Outbound Thought Leadership
An interview with Peter Winick about the differences between thought leadership and marketing
Welcome to this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership! Today’s guest is our very own Peter Winick, Founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage, a firm that helps thought leaders of all kinds develop strategies for branding, marketing, technology, and sales.
The episode begins with Peter outlining the similarities and differences between marketing and thought leadership, particularly as it pertains to sales. While some comparisons can be made, thought leadership targets a small, very selective audience, giving timeless advice directed toward specific challenges. Sales, on the other hand, commonly relies on wide reaching, less focused tactics, marketing consumer products to a broad audience and relying on wide appeal.
Peter tells us that the true art of thought leadership means your offerings are unrelated to 99.9% of business problems, but laser-focused on solving the issues of a sharply defined target audience. In that space, your insights and products can deliver solutions that change the client’s world. Peter and Bill outline the reasons that seeking a “necessary minority” is important: people who truly need your solutions get maximum benefit from applying your thought leadership. Plus, they discuss reasons that thought leadership practitioners should create touchpoints, low time commitments that display the benefit of their insights, before expecting a potential client to spend valuable time reading a white paper or book.
We wrap up our conversation with some great advice for those just starting a thought leadership journey. From reintroducing yourself, to expanding critical relationships, from asking for help, to finding the right cadence for publishing your content, Peter and Bill share a vast amount of experience on thought leadership and sales. This episode is a beginner’s guide — and an expert’s handbook, all in one!
Three Key Takeaways:
- Thought Leadership needs to be focused on a small and specific audience where it can truly shine.
- Thought Leadership ideas should be introduced in small chunks, leaving discussion of larger offerings for after the audience leans in.
- New Thought Leaders should reach out to their network and reconnect, explaining their new venture, their offerings, and the solutions they offer.
Join the Organizational Thought Leadership Newsletter to learn more about expanding thought leadership within your organization! This monthly newsletter is full of practical information, advice, and ideas to help you reach your organization’s thought leadership goals.
And if you need help scaling organizational thought leadership, contact Thought Leadership Leverage!
Bill Sherman Marketers speak of inbound and outbound marketing, and what they’re really getting at is the degree of targeting they use to reach an audience. Something similar occurs within thought leadership, where instead of broadcasting to many, it’s narrow cast to a target audience or even delivered a speech spoke thought couture to a single individual. Today, in a special episode, I sit down with my fellow co-host, Peter Winick. If you follow this podcast, you know him as the founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. When Peter is in the podcast host chair, he interviews independent thought leadership practitioners. I’m Bill Sherman and this is Leveraging Thought Leadership ready. Let’s begin. Hey, Peter, welcome to the show.
Peter Winick It’s nice to be on this side of the money. Exactly, yes.
Bill Sherman So I wanted to sit down with you and have a conversation about thought leadership from the perspective of inbound versus outbound. And I know a lot of folks think about it from a marketing perspective, but I know we’ve used these terms to talk about it in terms of thought leadership. So maybe you want to kick it off and sort of distinguish where marketing and thought leadership are different. In terms of inbound outbound.
Peter Winick So there’s a parallel, but there’s a different so traditional marketing, you have branding, you have campaigns, you have call to actions. You have all these things. Not all thought leadership falls under those. Some does, right. Some do. So there are places to put your thought leadership out there and you say, Well, why am I doing putting this piece of thought leadership in this modality out at this point in time? Well, it could be somewhat general. I need to have my voice out. There would be more of a branding or an awareness, etc. And then you move all the way down to the other end of the spectrum, creating bespoke content that’s really targeted, very, very targeted for specific audience. That audience could be one. It doesn’t have to be massive race to get a reaction that you’re really looking for.
Bill Sherman Right. And so one of the big differences on that is how are you putting the content out there in sort of the classic inbound approach? You’re putting it out there in the hope that the right person will come across it, read it and say, Oh, that’s interesting. We need to talk to these folks or we need to adopt this idea. But on the outbound approach, it’s almost white glove valet sort of concierge level service where you’re taking an idea and saying, Hey, here’s an idea that I think you need now to help you either deal with something that you’re dealing with now or soon in your future. Right? It’s a very personalized.
Peter Winick Yeah. So I would think a couple of other variables are, you know, timeless versus timely. Right. So certainly elements of anyone’s thought leadership are fairly universal, don’t really change over time. Or, you know, here’s my model, here’s my framework, here’s my definitions, etc. But customizing it to you. Why am I reaching out to build today to explain to him how I can help him with some sort of an intervention based on my models based on something I know about you? You just went through a merger publishing a book. There’s something going on, and I know I can be super-duper helpful and need to put that to light to you and be clear about that.
Bill Sherman There’s almost a responding to well, if it would be crisis sort of management would be a piece rate is one opportunity where you could look and say, OK, there is an issue which has gone from someday maybe to white hot, right?
Peter Winick Yeah, so even look at COVID now. So there have been a bunch of domain experts in remote work from home. I’m thinking like the guys from 37signals, I’m drawing a blank, but there’s another consultancy in the Midwest that’s always done work from home. Then all of a sudden everybody goes through Cobra and guess what? Everybody’s working remotely and whatever. Those things just become exponentially more relevant due to external factors. So some of it is there’s nothing wrong with being opportunistic. Meaning, you know, when is the demand change? Why are more people having this conversation? We’re having a lot of conversation now is just talk of some of the other day. You know, what’s one of the outcomes of the great resignation? Well, the war for talent needs to be fought, not nontraditional places, neurodiverse or disabled, et cetera, where we’ve always looked in those places for talent. But now we really, really, really need to look in those places for talent, and organizations need to be honest with their self and say, we kind of don’t know really how to do that all that well. Who else can help us and hold our hand?
Bill Sherman And so I think some of the examples that you’ve been showing is that there is an opportunity to deliver an idea when the audience is ready for it.
Peter Winick Yeah. And that’s really the bane of many thought leaders is if you look at, you know, supply and demand, hey, I’ve always got the supply. I’m always going to help. You always have the resources to help you. It’s hard to predict in certain things where the demand is at. So you have a lot of amazing conversations with a lot of fire. But, you know, dot dot competing agendas, time is just not making it to the top three list. How do you, as a thought leader, constantly keep your radar altitude go? Is there something going on that would make me more important or less important based on things that are beyond my control?
Bill Sherman Yes. And so you have to keep your sort of antenna out there. But I think also you can be proactive and you can say, OK, who are the most important people that if they leaned into this idea, if they responded in the way that I want them to act. The way my world would change, the world would change.
Peter Winick So I think that’s a great point, bill, and I think what happens is it’s sometimes far easier to use mass marketing strategies when but they’re not effective. So we see this in our work all the time. Someone puts a book out and it’s on leadership. And, you know, lots and lots and lots and lots of people could benefit from a new perspective or a better perspective on leadership. That’s all fine and dandy, but your question is really, can we get them to a place to say, let’s identify 100 people, not fantasy people by name, by title, like function, by company, by whatever. That if we got this book in their hands and they took some sort of an action, whatever that action might be could be a game changer. You know, and this to me, is sort of a hand-to-hand combat of thought leadership where it doesn’t happen with newly minted managers. That’s a vague, amorphous group of people. But who’s in charge of leadership development for newly minted managers at technology companies with over 100000 people that aren’t millions of those people probably dozens, maybe hundreds, not millions. But once you can get it down to manageable numbers, you can find them. You can get it out to them. You can put it in their hands and show them what I wrote this book for you.
Bill Sherman So a couple of weeks ago in the United States, there was the Major League Baseball did the Field of Dreams baseball game based on the field of Kevin Costner, and the whole mantra of Field of Dreams was, if you build it, they will come. And I think a lot of thought leadership is sort of based optimistically on if I have smart ideas, the right people will come.
Peter Winick Well, yeah, it’s a great movie. It’s a god awful strategy. Yeah, exactly.
Bill Sherman Exactly. And so you and I have joked over the years that thought leadership is the art of being deeply irrelevant to ninety nine point ninety nine percent of the world, but that 0.01 percent that of the world. Who needs to hear your message that it’s timely for God to be relevant to them?
Peter Winick Yeah, I think that’s right, because a lot of marketing not to beat up on marketing because marketers do a lot of things really well, are marketing consumer based products that have such a wide appeal. Think about paper towels, think about food products. Think about the things in your pantry and kitchen. Yes, there’s, you know, generic pasta and then there’s gluten free, but you know, there’s ranges there, but pasta by and large as possible, and that’s a mass market appeal. You know, the market for that is, I don’t know, whatever it is, 70 percent of the population based or whatever. It’s a big number. I think thought leaders need to be honest with themselves. And once they come to the realization, like, you know what, I’m irrelevant to so many and thank goodness because I can focus my energies on a tiny, tiny, tiny percentage that are incredibly relevant. And that’s what I need to stay up late at night, figuring out how to get to them and to be more relevant to them, how to expose my ideas to them, how to have conversations with them.
Bill Sherman Well, and I think it shapes also the conversations you have, the assets that you create when you focus on that. One hundred and fifty people, you’re not trying to create for the least common denominator where everyone is a potential audience member, you accept that they’re going to look at it and go right by.
Peter Winick Yeah. And I think, you know, you and I had an interesting conversation with the group the other day about is the age of white papers over. I don’t think it’s over, but I think the reality is when you look at what some big professional services firms do, they invest a lot of money, energy, effort, time and resources into these amazingly well done, well written, well research, beautiful graphics, 80 page white papers. But they don’t ask themselves the questions. Who’s reading this? What is the expected outcome? Are there different versions of the thought leadership that can be extracted from this investment? Be that an executive summary, be that an infographic b, then an assessment tool like whatever. It’s like white paper, one size fits all. I like a good white paper now and then I can tell you in the last five years is about one or two that actually look out for on a regular basis. The rest, I would rather have like some sort of quick infographic USA Today chart, but I can go, Oh, that’s interesting. And then maybe I’ll dove in deeper.
Bill Sherman Well, and I think you speak to something that even on the people who are avid readers and I know you and I fall into that category, we were diving through books on a regular basis. We don’t want the 40 to 50 page white paper as our first touchpoint with an idea.
Peter Winick Yeah. And I think that’s right. I think that, you know, why is it so hard to sell books today? The world, according to me, what do I write? Well, I don’t care about the 20 or 30 box. I mean, we waste more than that on a daily basis, on a more frivolous thing. The exchanges, I’m committing to six to eight hours of my life. That’s incredibly valuable, right? So if I can get a kernel of an idea from a three minute interaction with a graphic or something? That’s where I start, because it’s a low exchange rate like three minutes of my time, whatever I can wasted on picked up. Then you move up and go, why that’s really interesting, what else you got from me? Oh, here’s some articles you did. What else do you have for me? And then maybe it’s a build up to the book. I think you and I are odd birds in that many, in many instances our default in the book. But that’s not how most people sort of interact with thought, leadership and content.
Bill Sherman Well, and I think if you’re the person who’s responsible for developing the ideas and you’re creating them or you’re nurturing them as a curator, it almost feels cheapening the idea to turn it into an infographic of because you see it all in its complexity. Yeah.
Peter Winick I think some of that is cultural. You know, if you come from an academic bent, you sort of roll your eyes and look down your nose at, oh, an infographic like it needs to be a research paper with 87 pages of footnotes. Or, you know, if you were a former McKinsey consultant, you sort of roll your eyes at that. We’d never really deliver that to a client. Well, it’s kind of a little bit of time to get over, get over yourself and realize that people are time starved. Do you want to get my attention or do you not? Because if you only come in one flavor, which is give me eight hours of your time before you’ve justified my willingness to make that investment, I’m going to move on to the next.
Bill Sherman If you are enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about the podcast, please leave a five star review and share it with your friends. We are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all major platforms, as well as at LeveragingThoughtLeadership.com. Yeah, and so you have to recognize that no matter who your audience is, they’re being bombarded by so many messages because of social media, marketing, etc. You’ve got to find a way to signal to them quickly, Hey, this might be something that you want to explore further. It doesn’t matter how good your message is, whether it’s something the world needs, or it’s going to make the world better for a group or an individual. It could be the most transformative. But if you’re not getting people’s attention, you failed with the idea.
Peter Winick Yeah, and a lot of that is not just, I think oftentimes thought leaders get it a little bit high on their own fumes. They’re so passionate, so in love when they’re so, they’re so close to it and so deep in it that they need to catch their breath and say, Wait a minute. The reason Bill should spend some time with my work is that this is what it will do to make his life better, to solve a problem that he’s wrestling with. You take him to a place that that that he’s, you know, having troubles with, and I think it’s harder to make those connections like, who benefits the most from this? What is the pain suffering, whatever that alleviates? What does it replace? What is it do better than a current situation and really think about those things strategically, which is obviously a big part of where you and I spend our days?
Bill Sherman Well, and I think the place that gets exciting is when you can put yourself into the shoes of someone else and you can think about what is their day like and the best way I know all of that is go have conversations with people, don’t think of a target audience is just this abstract, amorphous thing that you put it out and put content out for them to read instead. Right, for people, create ideas for people that you know and go have conversations with them and then ask them, Hey, what did you think of this? Was it worth your time?
Peter Winick Yeah, I think the highest compliment anyone could get on a piece of thought leadership they put out there, whether that’s a video, a blog, an article, whatever it is, when someone says, Oh my God, you did this just for me, it feels to me as if you wrote this or created this piece just for me, and in many instances that that could be true. And yeah, based on I mean, you and I sort of do this all the time based on real time things that we’re seeing with real clients will extrapolate, you know, change names to protect the innocent or guilty and put it out there. And then you find out, like 50 other people have the same problem, right? You know, it’s there’s usually things that happens in pattern.
Bill Sherman Well, and that’s something that you and I have learned coming off of all the conversations that we have, right? It’s easy to take a note at the end of a conversation and say, Oh, I’ve answered that question several times before. Let me create a piece around that because if I’ve answered that once or twice and I found a good explanation or a good way of bringing that idea to life, that could be a video that could be a blog post. That could be a tweet. There is so much content that comes out of the conversations you have with your clients and customers.
Peter Winick Yeah, I think the other thing is, to be honest enough or self-aware enough or introspective enough to realize you as our everyone else are the worst judge of what you put out there relative to what will stick. Right? Sometimes we work on some, work on something, work on something. Oh, wow, this is this is it? This is going to be the bomb. Wow, this is going to change the world and you put it out there and no one has any interest. And then there all the time you put something out there, it’s
Bill Sherman like, you know, you get a response of yours and you’re like, But this is the greatest answer. This is what the world needs and everybody is looking anywhere but your idea?
Peter Winick Yeah. So they will tell you by inaction, like if it’s not getting a response now, it doesn’t mean one and done. Maybe there’s some tweaking modification. You put it out at the wrong time or whatever. But by and large, if you put out something you think was the great, you know, the greatest thing and it doesn’t work, it’s not the greatest thing. Conversely, occasionally you put out something, you go, You know what? I’m almost embarrassed to put my name on that, or this is sort of silly or, you know, I could do better and you put it out there, and that’s the thing that sticks and you’re like, Oh, but that’s so sophomore or juvenile I could do better. It’s like, No, no, no. The market will tell you when you hit, when you’ve hit a nerve, when you’ve done something that resonates and you have to stay there and separate your ego, your identity from the idea.
Bill Sherman Mm hmm. And other times, if you have an idea that you’re passionate about, but the world isn’t picking it up, that’s a time where you say, OK, I can continue to beat with the sledgehammer, or I can get deeper into my audience’s head and figure out what is it that they will resonate with? What do they need before they’ll connect and they’ll see the importance that I see?
Peter Winick Yeah, that’s exactly right, and I think there’s a time for grit and stubbornness and perseverance. And then there’s a time to listen and respond. You know, and I don’t know what that time is. I can tell you, I’ve seen clients spend 10 years fighting the battle. They shouldn’t have fought and should have given up earlier. And I’ve seen others quit too soon, you know, because they didn’t get that immediate sugar high.
Bill Sherman So what sort of and I want to riff with you on this in terms of allocation, in terms of how much of your time should you be spending putting content out there in sort of an inbound way where you’re putting content out into the world and planting those seeds for people to find you and discover you? But then how much time should you be spending on that direct outreach with ideas?
Peter Winick I don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer to that, so I think it depends on your strategy and your business model. So for example, if your business model is I provide high ticket coaches to very few over a period of time. I’m a high-end advisor, coach, etc. You know, you’re doing a small number of transactions on a high value rate. So that’s different than I have a an assessment tool or a video based training system or something like that that has more of a mass appeal where I’m doing high ticket, low value transactions. So I think it’s a function of your business model, your distribution model, where your product roadmap is, etc. But I think that if you’re spending all your time on outbound and you’re getting a yield, that’s OK. I would argue that you should shift a good chunk of those resources the other way. Right? So if you if you’re dominant on one side, there should be some level of a balance and that’s also a function of how long you’ve been at it. So in the beginning of your journey as a problem, you’ve got to do a lot of outbound to put your flags out there. So people sort of have it. And oftentimes that just gives people more reason to believe in you, right? So they see something that you wrote and it’s one if it’s one piece of brilliance backed up by nothing, you’re like, Oh, OK. But you know, if you’ve got a library of more things, that’s helpful as well.
Bill Sherman So you talk about that if you’re early in your career, getting people early in your career with the ideas as a thought leadership practitioner write the introductory process. You may have known me as the engineer or the trainer or the leadership coach or the company that did X, Y and Z. But we have a new stake in the ground, and I need to tell you about that, right?
Peter Winick Yeah, now that’s huge. So I mean, for a lot of people, their expertise comes from something else, right? So I was a world class salesperson in it and sold zillion dollar deals, or I led a sales group at these type of organizations. And then then you have to be honest and say, OK, you woke up one day and said, Now I’m going to be a thought leader in sales, I’m going to be an author, I’m going to be a speaker and whatever. Well, no one got the No. One got the letter right. No one got the announcement. That Peter is no longer a high-performing sales leader in technology identifies as X. Right? So the burden is on you to reactivate and reintroduce yourself to your market, your network. I know, you know me as X. But let me let me give you an update on what I’m doing and why I’m updating you on that. And some of it will make sense like, well, of course, it would make sense for me to update Bill because his criteria are similar to my client avatars. But there’s also lots and lots of other people that we don’t even know what they’re up to these days that we should make aware because you have equity in the relationship. They know you, they trust you from other things, but now they have a different reason to ring you up.
Bill Sherman Exactly. And so that first sort of practice on the outbound, you don’t have to go after your ideal customer or your ideal person for thought leadership. You can reach out to the people who know you and say, I’m going down this road and let me tell you about it, right? And that initial conversation prepares you for doing that high touch, outbound work that’s necessary when you’re focusing on individuals.
Peter Winick And it’s not just let me tell you about it, because oftentimes the response to that would be, Hey, Bill, that’s awesome. I’m glad you’re writing a book, right? Relations, how can I help you and how can I help you? Is it’s meant as the night as, Hey, how are you feeling today? Which means I don’t really care. It’s sort of a pleasant treat, but the how can I help you as a sincere motion? But if you don’t have a way to specifically answer that tailored to me, you can say, Well, Peter, actually, the way you can help me is, I know your network has a lot of people that look like this, and I’m looking to talk to people like this. Would it be OK if you made an introduction to Charlie, friend and Bill? Because I’d like to talk to them like, Oh jeez, that’s an easy thing to do. Happy to do that.
Bill Sherman And that specificity of the ask, I think that’s something that when you get into that direct outreach, you always have to know. And very much like a sales minded sort of approach, you’re not selling asking for dollars, necessarily without leadership, but you’re selling an idea. Then even if that person isn’t a buyer of the idea, they may be a connector or an influencer.
Peter Winick Yeah. And I think there’s a specificity of the ask. And an appropriate nurse would be asked if I were to ask you to introduce me to a friend or colleague that I know you have a relationship with because I would like to meet with them and assuming you respect me and are on my team, you’d be glad to do this. But here’s the flip side of that that happens to me all the time. That annoys me. I’ll get in the mail or email a manuscript from someone that either I don’t know or I haven’t talked to in 15 years. And the request will be, Hey, my book coming out in a couple of months. Could you read this and give me your feedback or whatever it’s like? No, actually, I’m not going to speak like, I don’t, you know, I remember we had a coffee at a conference 12 years ago in Scottsdale. I haven’t talked to you since. And now you’re asking for eight to 10 hours of my life like that just doesn’t seem there’s a proportionality.
Bill Sherman And it wasn’t. Yeah, call for them to say, Hey, can I send you this right? And you say, Yeah, sure, send it over and I’ll take a look.
Peter Winick Yeah. And why? And I know this is a big ask. You know, maybe start with I’m right. You know, did you read the, you know, the first chapter? Or here’s a summary of it. Maybe this would be of interest you like, you know, don’t shove 300 pages down my throat and ask me, not only asked me to read it, but to give you feedback, and that’s two or three days of my life if I’m actually going to do that. Thoughtful?
Bill Sherman Absolutely. So we could continue talking about outbound thought leadership work for a long time, but I think we should leave it here. Thanks for joining, Peter. Thank you. If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL Newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website orgtl.com and choose Join our newsletter. I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening, and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.