The ‘A-ha!’ moment is the key to great thought leadership

Matt Erspamer By Matt Erspamer, Senior Copywriter & Movie Buff, Extra Mile Marketing

When’s the last time you had an ‘a-ha!’ moment?

Maybe you heard a song on the radio and couldn’t place it until minutes (or hours) later. Or maybe, like me, you’ve been watching the TV show Columbo (or any other detective show, really) and spotted the one thing that will give the killer away and help Peter Falk catch them.

‘A-ha!’ moments are almost everywhere, and come in all shapes and sizes. When I left the TV news industry to join the Extra Mile Marketing team as a copywriter, I was devouring all the information I could to understand how this new career path would work. I was in need of all the ‘a-ha!’ moments I could get.

One of the best ones I can remember is when I was on a video call with Lori Stutsman, EMM’s President, talking about a recent virtual workshop she organized for Microsoft and Cloudera. She explained the concept of “the Fed Ex test.”

It works like this: If you swap out your client’s name for Fed Ex and what you’ve written still applies, you haven’t effectively established what truly makes your client special. It may seem like a simple concept, but for someone who continues to sharpen their marketing skills, it was a different way of looking at things - an ‘a-ha!’ moment that really helped guide me on future writing projects.

When trying to establish your organization as a thought leader, always be in search of those ‘a-ha!’ moments. You want to make things click for your audience in a way that they haven’t before.

Establishing your organization as a thought leader in your industry is an effective way to establish credibility. It can also do a lot more than that, though.

According to a LinkedIn/Endelman survey, successful thought leadership can build your business and bring you opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise get. Nearly half of business decision-makers and C-suite executives who participated in that survey said they were willing to “pay a premium” to work with organizations that could clearly articulate their vision for the future.

The flip side of the coin is also worth examining. Nearly a third of executives who were surveyed said poor thought leadership could remove an organization from contention for a piece of business.

In other words, the right thought leadership can help you stand out in a crowded marketplace, and ineffective thought leadership can pull you out of the running entirely. That makes it especially important in these uncertain and challenging times.

The three-pronged approach to Thought Leadership. 

This summer, EMM had the privilege of helping six Microsoft partners in the thought leadership area. We used a strategic three-pronged approach to showcase unique aspects of each company, allowing them to tell exciting, informative stories about their solutions in different ways to different audiences.

The first, and largest, portion of our package is an in-depth informational eBook.
Some of our eBooks center around a main character at a fictional organization who has a problem that ultimately is solved by our client’s solution. This approach focuses on a specific story with a distinct Hero, enabling us to embed the solution into a realistic setting, showing the target audience that our client has a deep understanding of not just what they do, but what their clients do.  

In the case of OneStream, our eBook told the story of a finance leader who used  OneStream’s Corporate Performance Management solution to shift his organization away from time-consuming, process-oriented work and toward more strategic, data-driven decision making. 

The second component of our Thought Leadership Package is an infographic.
Infographics allow our clients to speak about their solution in numbers, though our approach is anything but by the numbers.

Developing an engaging infographic is just as much about design as it is data. Telling a thought-provoking story with data means conceptualizing an effective design and structuring the infographic in a way that makes your storyline clear and interesting. With BNY Mellon, we told a story about their Data Fabric Cloud solution as the weaving together of seemingly disparate pieces of data into a cohesive whole.

EMM researched various pain points that organizations have surrounding data, as well as pitfalls of taking a haphazard approach to data analysis.  We then wove together key statistics and proof points in a sleek, engaging design to show how the BNY Mellon Data and Analytics Solutions offers a great solution to these common issues.


While the first two components of our Thought Leadership Package are single entities, the final piece of the puzzle is actually several pieces.

To wrap up these packages, we create a series of blogs that address issues or big talking points within a client’s industry and offer an authoritative perspective on them.

In 2 articles in our 3-blog series about Smarsh’s Enterprise Archiving solution, we illustrated core issues around compliance that their solution addresses, like streamlining legal discovery proceedings and the importance of being able to archive the many different types of modern communications.

For the third and final blog, we wrote an interview-style blog with a Subject Matter Expert at Smarsh. This allowed us to showcase their extensive knowledge about the field in an informal, conversational setting.

When writing blogs, and thought leadership material in general, you need to write with thought leadership in mind.  You’re not directly advertising your product. You’re showing that you have substantial knowledge in the area in which you operate, and the ability to share that knowledge in an interesting and accessible way to a reader.

At EMM, we like to think of ourselves as thought leaders in the thought leadership space. Over the past 20 years, we have helped dozens of organizations sharpen their messaging and tell captivating narratives around their solutions. 

If you’d like to see examples of great thought leadership, send me an email at  I’d love to share some of what we have learned.


Nearly a third of executives who were surveyed said poor thought leadership could remove an organization from contention for a piece of business.

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