In his keynote at Pubcon in Las Vegas earlier this week, marketing guru Guy Kawasaki revealed that the key to successful marketing can be found in the online dating world. “Marketing is a Tinder world,” he said. “Not an eHarmony world.”

He’s got a point.

If you want to promote your products and services quickly and cheaply, then adopt a Tinder strategy, because buyers with their ever-narrowing attention spans will respond to the brightest, shiniest thing. Tinder favors the obvious, the short-term, the quick thrill.

But is that the best way to market your ideas? I don’t think so.

Ideas are not products – much as content creators, curators, and providers would like to pretend they are. You can’t buy or sell them like clothing or candy. In fact, ideas are a lot more important than products. Ideas come first.

Lately we’ve started calling people with powerful ideas “thought leaders.” We watch their TED Talks. We read their posts. We buy their books. And we’ve created sorts of social media platforms so that we, too, can blog or tweet our way into being thought leaders ourselves.

But no quick-hit Tinder strategy can substitute for insight, observation, and creativity.

If you want a fast way to reach a lot of people fast, take a Tinder approach. The market is always pushing us to take the path of least resistance.

But to do the hard work of thinking and sharpening your ideas and positioning yourself as someone who has valuable things to say – forget about Tinder.

Denise Brosseau’s excellent 2014 book, Ready to be a Thought Leader ,” takes a strategic approach to broadening your influence. She explains how to build a following for your ideas and maximize your impact. It requires patience, thoughtfulness, and an investment of time. It is not quick or superficial.

Guy Kawasaki wrote the forward to the book. “Achieving the status of thought leader – while it will not happen overnight – is absolutely worth the effort,” he says. “You’ll gain a seat at the table and the credibility you need to build a more successful company or catapult your career to the next level.”

Oddly, Kawasaki doesn’t think much of people who actively try to be thought leaders. He thinks it’s not something they should pursue – it should just happen to them because … well … they are great.

“I think its bulls**t to have the goal of being a thought leader…” he said in a social media hangout this summer. “What you should do is create a great product or a great service, and in the process … you will gain a lot of knowledge that will, in fact, make you a thought leader. But I think only a**holes sit down one day and say, ‘I want to be a thought leader.’”

I agree with Kawasaki that no one sits down and says, “I want to be a thought leader.” But if you want to be influential, it’s not enough to make great products. It’s not enough to think great thoughts. The world will not magically recognize your worth.

If you want to be valued and recognized, you need a strategy for getting your ideas into the world.

Marketing may be a Tinder world. Thought leadership is eHarmony.


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