How to Become a Thought Leader - like a Neanderthal

June 18, 2019 / By Bruce McDuffee

This is a story you may use to help explain to your cavemen executives or cavemen sales team why a thought leadership content marketing strategy works and how to become a thought leader. Simply put, if you are willing to share your expertise with those people in your target audience with no strings attached, they will place your firm at the top of the credibility list leading to more business because you get TOMA, credibility and reciprocity. Great content marketing helps to make the lives of your target audience better in some way. The story of Ugah, the Neanderthal thought leader, explains how the concept of thought leadership is a highly effective marketing strategy. This story is meant to be fun and even a little whimsical to help gain the attention of your internal audience and spark some discussion around the topic. Let me know how it works out for your tribe.

Hello, my name is Ugah and I’m a Neanderthal who lived about 30,000 years ago in the areaneanderthal.png now known as Croatia. Obviously, I’m telling this story from the great beyond, but my story is about how I went from the smallest, almost extinct, tribe to the most powerful tribe in all the land. I accomplished this amazing feat by giving away our secret hunting tactics. That's right, I said we gave away our intellectual property. I believe you Neanderthals in the modern age would call my method ‘content marketing’.

In the days of the original Neanderthal, survival depended on the size of your tribe. The larger your tribe, the more hunters and the more mammoth meat you could obtain. The well-fed tribes were stronger and able to defend themselves better than the smaller tribes. I was running the smallest tribe in the land. As the leader of the tribe, my primary responsibility was to develop a strategy for growth or, sometimes, just survival. The bottom line (as you modern humans call it) was the amount of mammoth meat we acquired and, occasionally, were able to store away for a rainy or snowy day. My strategy of double-digit increases in mammoth meat was failing miserably. We struggled to feed the tribe. We were on the verge of failure.

We were determined to survive and even thrive. I got together with our elder tribesmen and formulated a marketing plan. We embarked with a goal of attracting more, high-quality members. We put all of our meager resources behind the campaign.

Our pitch included what we thought were our best and most unique features:

  1. Great location
  2. Nice, friendly cavemen and cave women
  3. Global leader in hunting mammoth
  4. Cutting edge technology
  5. Best hunting grounds
  6. Ease of joining

Who wouldn’t want to join a tribe with those features, right? I painted pictures on the cave walls at all the common Neanderthal meeting places. Our paintings were beautiful and talked about the great features of my tribe. I bragged about our capabilities and about our more prominent members. I told what we did, how we did it and where we lived.

It didn’t work. Nobody joined us. Zero ROCI (return on caveman investment).

The outlook was grim. It seems other tribes were also advertising their tribal features, competing for the same high quality cave people. And, guess what, their list of features looked very similar to my list of features. All the tribes paintings and all the tribes talking points sounded exactly like ours.

I called a meeting with the tribal elders for a brainstorming session around the conference boulder. One thing I knew we had that the other tribes did not have was a unique and different hunting technique. We were experts at hunting mammoth. If we could get to a mammoth herd first, we were quicker and more effective. Our ratio of mammoth kills to tribe members was higher than any other tribe in the entire region. This fact and only this fact is how such a small tribe was able to survive at all in the harsh Neanderthal world.

As things were so grim, I decided to give it one last try using a radical, out-of-the cave idea. I proposed that we give away our secret mammoth hunting method. I proposed to the Elders that we teach anyone and everyone, whether in our tribe or not in our tribe, how to use our unique hunting method. The Elders told me I was crazy.

They said, “Ugah, are you nuts? Why should we give away our secret hunting technology?”

The Elders said, “Ugah, if we tell other Neanderthals in the other tribes about our hunting secret, they’ll just steal it and use it against us, we’ll die out for sure”. I said, “no”. I explained to them that by educating other cavemen, our tribe will become known in all the land as the experts. We’ll achieve top of mind awareness and credibility. Neanderthals from all over will want to be part of our tribe and will leave the bigger tribes who are not willing to educate them and teach them to become great hunters. We will offer real value and ask for nothing in return.

The Elders were highly skeptical. They said no other tribes were doing it. They wanted me to put hire more Neanderthal salesmen and tell them to increase visits and face-to-face meetings where they talk about our great features and the benefits of our tribe. But I said, “No". More sales Neanderthals on the trails is too expensive, they eat a lot of mammoth meat, they whine a lot, and they require a lot of maintenance.

The product specialist Elder said, “Let’s develop some new tools and some new ways to keep warm. Surely, these new products would attract more members to our tribe.” The Product Elders and the Sales Elders were the most powerful in our tribe mostly because they were the loudest and most extroverted of the tribe.

mammoth painting.png

In the end, because I was the leader, I had final say. I made the decision to proceed with sharing our hunting expertise with all the Neanderthals in the land. I dispatched our more creative members to draw cave paintings depicting our special hunting technique. We held evening meetings around the cave fires teaching others how to hunt better and more efficiently. We showed them how they could use the time they saved to grow some food and make a more comfortable home.

Soon, more and more cavemen were showing up at the hunting seminars. Neanderthals from all around the land were seeking out our tribe after they had seen the cave paintings (we always included a map with the drawings so they could find our tribe). Slowly but surely, our small tribe grew and grew. Within one year, we were the largest, strongest, best fed and happiest tribe of all the Neanderthal tribes. It turns out that by teaching cavemen and cave women about something they valued and that made their lives easier, the perception of our tribe became one of higher value than any other tribe.

We became known all around the region as the go-to experts in mammoth hunting and general better Neanderthal living.

One thing the Elders were right about was how the other larger tribes tried to copy our hunting method. The technique took time to perfect and they could not reproduce it quick enough. They ramped up their cave painting activities, talking about their global leadership, new tools, great locations, best-of-breed, world class, industry standard, robust, turnkey, groundbreaking, people and caves, but it didn’t matter to the target audience. It turns out the target market were asking themselves, "What's in it for me?" and only my tribe had a good answer. The rest of the tribes liked to talk about themselves and their leaders hoping this would attract new members, but it didn't work.

We became a medium size tribe, then a large size tribe. Quality of life was high and everyone prospered. Neanderthals from all over the region walked hundreds of miles to seek out our tribe and learn how to use our hunting technique. The more we gave, the more we received back.

The elders in sales and product eventually admitted that educating and helping people was a successful way to grow and enrich the tribe. They realized that other Neanderthals didn’t care about our tools or our location or our other attributes. They even began to believe it was their idea to give away the hunting secrets. That’s OK with me.

To all you modern marketing Neanderthals living in the 21st century listen to Ugah. If you want to grow your tribe, share your expertise. Educate your target audience. Give them something they can use to improve their lives. I guarantee your tribe too will grow and prosper.

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