“Thought leadership” and “source of authority” are terms that get thrown around a lot in B2B marketing, but sometimes it’s not clear what people mean.

Let’s make it easy: When your brand is an authority, that means people – not necessarily your customers, but people throughout your industry – are interested in what you have to say. It means that when you publish a new piece of important content, your readers are immediately interested to see what you have to say. It means that when an important piece of news hits the industry, there are people who think, “I wonder what [your brand] will have to say about this.”

Being a thought leader is an enviable position. You have a built-in audience – and Google absolutely loves it when it comes to SEO. It’s also an ideal way to pick up a larger audience and find new business partners. Plus, this sort of value is long-term. Once you’ve built up a reputation as an authoritative voice, that label lasts for years and keeps on bringing in benefits! So let’s drill down and focus on the top things you can do to become an authority.

Focus on Longer, Richer Content

The first step in becoming a thought leader is creating the right online content. If you’ve spent any time reading industry publications or popular whitepapers/reports, then you already have a good idea about what this content should look like! First, this type of authoritative content is longer – not just for the sake of length, but because it has to be long to properly analyze and report on data (we’ll talk a bit more about this below). Typically, good authoritative content is around 1,000 words or longer: In the case of larger reports, it could be much longer.

Second, this type of content is usually very rich. By that, we mean it uses visual data and information displays very effectively: The content includes useful charts, helpful infographics, clear bullet points, before and after photos, and anything else it needs to effectively communicate its point. Practice in these areas, and you’ll be ready to create content that makes people sit up.

Focus on Data Analysis

Not sure what to actually write about? Authoritative content can take many forms, but one of the best places to get started is data analysis. Take a recent study that has come out, and use your content to discuss what it means. Don’t just leave at the surface level and say, “Well this is good/bad.” Dig deeper and talk about why this data means what it does. Point out ways that the data could be misinterpreted. Talk about what signals to watch for based on the data. A complete analysis will explain a study in a new light, and provide valuable advice on what to do about it. This is also great training for continuing to create top-notch content in the future!

Conduct Your Own Surveys and Talk About the Results

Another excellent sign of thought leadership is original data. Fortunately you – no matter the size of your business – can create new studies with the right tools! A great place to start is with surveys. Surveys are easy to create and share, and a great way to gather information from your audience about a specific concern or topic. When the survey is finished, create a report talking about your findings: Make sure the information you provide is relevant to the larger community, and you can publish the results proudly!

Make Predictions About the Future

Not sure what your analysis should be about? When in doubt, thought leadership tends to look to the future. Talk about what potential reactions to the research may be. Mention if this trend is likely to continue in the future or stop – and why. The future is your friend when it comes to analysis!

Pick One Subject, and Round Up All the Research on It

This is another popular approach to yields great content: Pick a subject, such as “The State of [Blank] in your Industry.” Going back no more than a few years, look for all authoritative research and studies on that topic – government studies are especially good for authoritative data! Then collect all your results in one post that clearly examines just what this subject looks like, backed up by complete data every step of the way. This is also a great option for infographics and similar types of powerful visual data.

Encourage and Participate in High-Level Discussion

Share your great content far and wide! Post it on LinkedIn discussions, link to it on popular forums, and make sure it has a great blog post or download option on your own website. You want as many people to read it as possible to help build your reputation. However, this is just the beginning: You should also encourage online discussion about the piece, and take part in that conversation wherever possible: Provide comments on the research and additional thoughts wherever you think it’s appropriate.

It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to post this content online only once. High-level reports like these often benefit from repeat posting again in the coming months.

Don’t Stop

A single report isn’t going to make your name as a thought leader. The key is to keep going! Produce this type of content regularly. Once every month, once every quarter – whatever schedule you choose, keep to it, and make sure your content has the quality it needs to really establish your brand in the right circles.