By: John Lavey | Hammock President/COO

Often in a first meeting, I sit with a pad and a pen, listening and taking notes. Paging back through my notes, two words emerge from first conversations with healthcare business-to-business marketers more than any other: “thought leadership.”

Marketing to healthcare providers—which might have the entire C-suite of a hospital involved in a purchasing decision over the course of a sales cycle—means trying to compete with a lot of other voices. Thought leadership appeals to marketers who want to transcend a product-centered message (“let me tell you about the features of our product”) and cut through the noise to connect with their prospects.

It’s a worthy goal, to be sure, but what does thought leadership mean? To borrow a quote from the classic film, “The Princess Bride”:You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Here’s what thought leadership doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean a blog post written by your CEO. It doesn’t mean filling your website with a certain amount of content and then moving on to the next sales and marketing priority.

What Being a Healthcare Thought Leader Actually Means: Before the creation of the web and blog posts, “thought leader” was a term reserved for consultants, analysts and academics whose jobs focused entirely on researching one topic, analyzing the data on that research and using it to provide their audience with actionable insights.

You likely have a thought leader within your organization. But they may not be in the C-Suite. That possible thought leader is an expert on a very narrow topic they’ve studied for decades. They are already asked to appear on industry panels and regularly have papers accepted to professional journals. Rather than attempting to create or package up someone you’d like to be a thought leader, it’s time to support your existing thought leaders with better tools that help them reach the wider audiences they—and your company—deserve.

(Originally published April 2016)

Photo | Getty images

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