My 15 Seconds of Fame in The Herald Sun

You may remember a few weeks ago I wrote about Thought Leadership in this blog . Well my friend Paula at the Herald Sun read it too, and called to ask if I'd be happy to be interviewed about thought leadership as a marketing tool in small business. I considered her request carefully for about six milliseconds before acquiescing. Check out what she wrote in last week's paper.

Pennies for your thoughts

When global chemical distributer Univar launched in Australia in 2007, the company realised a dash of creativity was essential to thrive.

The traditionally conservative industry was stable and well established in Australia.

"We needed to offer value above and beyond what was already in the marketplace" general manager Leighton Hopper said.

So the company went in search of creative and innovation training and stumbled upon the concept of thought leadership as a marketing tool for small business.

"This business is not just about giving customers a drum of product" Mr. Hopper said. "Value is also generated by supplying our customers' knowledge requirements - from how to formulate with the chemicals, to environmental issues including the safe handling and disposal of the product.

"Through thought leadership, we can meet our customers' needs and establish a point of different between us and our competitors".

Melbourne-based thought leaders mentor, Peter Cook said thought leadership in any field meant extending the thinking in that area.

Part of Matt Church's thought leaders' network, Mr. Cook helps small and medium-sized enterprises use the concept as a marketing tool.

"You elevate key staff as thought leaders and use that positioning to grow your business", Mr. Cook said.

Thought leaders are coached to prepare white papers on a topic and to speak about their area of specialisation at conferences.

"They ultimately become known as go-to guys," Mr. Cook said.

"And they get to visit clients - not just to flog them something - but to give them information and advice they will find helpful."

But thought leadership would only help a business success if it addresses the needs of its target market, Mr. Cook said.

As a global distributer, Univar has specialist knowledge in logistics and purchasing efficiency. As both are important to its customers, the company plans to help key employees establish thought leadership in these areas.

"It's really exciting to be on the cutting edge of innovation and that's where we believe we are in this industry," Mr. Hopper said. "Thought leadership is opening up new areas of potential for us to achieve above-market growth."

Mr. Cook said thought leadership could also improve the culture and morale of an organisation.

"The team is much more engaged because they see themselves as experts and thought leaders, as well as sales people," he said.

But the concept might not apply to some businesses, for example, franchises or simply retail or food outlets.

At Univar, management hopes thought leadership will help it tap into customer needs more closely.