According to a 2016\u00a0survey\u00a0by The Economist Group, at least 7 out of 10 executives will be more inclined to do business with organizations that are perceived as thought leaders.\u00a0\nBut what, exactly, does it mean to be a thought leader?\nBack in the 1990s, I worked at Rodale, Inc, publisher of Prevention, Men\u2019s Health, Bicycling\u00a0and more. The company was well known for what we then called \u201cservice journalism.\u201d The idea was simple \u2014 give people practical, useful information and inspiration, and they will become customers.\nTwenty years later, under the umbrella of \u201cthought leadership,\u201d we\u2019ve ripped a page from the consumer publications playbook and applied it to B2B marketing. Tech companies across the country, from IBM and Oracle to app developers just getting off the ground, are competing for the coveted position of go-to authority (read: go-to solution) on their market\u2019s challenges, earning the trust of customers with every word they write. Businesses become their own publishers, and social media and marketing automation platforms like Hubspot have risen to the occasion, making it easier than ever to distribute guidance on everything from software to security. This, in turn, leads to warmed-up prospects who ultimately turn into paying customers.\nBut with great popularity comes great competition. The internet is now jammed full of e-books, how-to\u2019s and blog articles.\nTo be successful in today\u2019s noisy thought leadership arena, you have to achieve what Joel Kuntzman, editor-in-chief of Booz, Allen & Hamilton magazine, had in mind when he coined the term \u201cthought leader\u201d back in 1994. You need to have ideas \u201cthat merit attention.\u201d\nThese ideas will be different for every organization, but here are some of the common strategies I\u2019ve seen from attention-grabbing thought leaders in the technology space.\nOwn it\nThe first step to getting started is identifying your organization\u2019s thought leader (and your content byline). This individual should genuinely have something to say \u2014 and not be afraid to share it. The best candidate may be your organization\u2019s CIO or chief technologist, but they won\u2019t always be the one with the time or skill to write consistently and effectively.\nAs an alternative, consider a lead developer or another knowledgeable executive who might be comfortable playing this part. Or, in the spirit of true service journalism, consider teaming up with a ghostwriter from within your marketing department who can regularly interview your thought leader. Using the exec\u2019s opinions as a guide, the writer can then infuse some additional research to produce a draft for review and revision.\nStay plugged in\nOne of the hardest parts about producing engaging content is knowing what to write about. Many marketing automation services offer prepackaged, generic (often poorly written) content to use for SEO purposes. But do not be fooled: providing copy for copy\u2019s sake is not practicing effective thought leadership.\nYou want what you put out there to be authentic and representative of your organization. It should be your own words \u2014 and words you are willing to defend. That\u2019s why it is important that your thought leader and marketing team stay plugged in to industry trends. Ideas can come from anywhere: colleagues, a tech publication, conversations at a networking event, a troubleshooting session with a client. Train yourself to look for these opportunities so you can provide a thoughtful take on the issues your customers care about most.\nKeep at it\nUnfortunately, there is no auto-pilot setting when it comes to thought leadership. You need to have a plan for content development and dissemination: a mix of short, medium and long-form content and a strategic timeline for publication that aligns with trade shows and product releases. You need a defined sales funnel and a way to nurture your leads through it.\nAnd you need to be okay with this not being a \u201cplan\u201d in the traditional sense. This is different than a software road map or Gantt chart. This plan will require you to be flexible, nimble, and willing to scrap the plan altogether when opportunity arises. If you\u2019re in the middle of writing an e-book but your PR manager calls with a placement opportunity in this month\u2019s Harvard Business Review, then it\u2019s time to stop the proverbial presses and get writing.\nBe patient\nLook, if you\u2019re looking for a quick fix, this isn\u2019t it. This is a long-term play that will, in time, result in better visibility and more credibility for your organization. Success may come in fits and starts. You might get a week of retweeting and phones ringing off the hook after that article in Harvard Business Review, and then crickets.\nNot every piece of content is going to hit it out of the park. But steady self-publishing will raise your visibility outside of your bubble, increasing the odds that you\u2019ll pique the interest of reporters, industry publication editors and trade show organizers. Not only that, it demonstrates your commitment to helping your customers and your ability to guide them on a wide range of issues they care about.\nIf you\u2019re seeing a rise in website traffic and LinkedIn as a top referral source, then you\u2019re doing something right. But data isn\u2019t the end-all, be-all. Keep your ears open to how people are talking about your organization at trade shows. Do people know your thought leader\u2019s name without having met him or her? Are you seeing more engagement in social media comments or customer feedback?\nUnlike running display ads or pay-per-click campaigns, you can\u2019t really throw money at this. It takes commitment and it takes patience to see a return on this investment. But at the end of day, you\u2019ll be able to say you outsmarted and out-hustled your competitors rather than outspending them.