Learning to understand how marketing, sales, and thought leadership can work together to create greater success.
An interview with Winston Henderson about revenue alignment; what it looks like, and how to achieve it.
Are your marketing and sales teams aligned to the overall business goals of your company, or is each team focused on their own success?
In this episode, we sit down with Winston Henderson, Founder of ICAD Marketing and ICAD Equip. Winston has worked in both sales and marketing in the past, and now focuses on revenue alignment, and using thought leadership to bring sales and marketing together as a single, unified force.
Our conversation starts with Winston’s definition of “revenue alignment,” and what it looks like when done successfully. Winston shapes our understanding of the power that content marketing and sales have when working together, and how they can define the customer journey – driving revenue for the entire organization. When this happens, neither department is focused on their own metrics or wins. Instead, they unify their efforts, understanding when to take the lead role and when to hand it off, and building a partnership that has exponentially more strength together than either might achieve on their own.
With so many organizations struggling to find this kind of alignment, Winston shares a few of the most common reasons why teams can’t unify – and three things you can start doing right now to bring yours into sync.
In addition, we discuss the role that empathy plays in finding alignment throughout an organization. Winston explains that teams need to be able to step out of their bubble in order to better understand how the other functions in your company operate, and their value to your work and to the whole. Once teams have that understanding, they can better see the system as a whole, and take steps to bridge any gaps that might exist between team functions. That kind of alignment is powerful, and can change the game.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Don’t confuse thought leadership with content marketing. Smart leaders understand the difference, and how to best use each function.
- You can achieve better alignment by spending time with those outside of your role. Learn to understand other functions and perspectives, and your organization will do better as a whole.
- Understand why your current customers are choosing to do business with you. This can help you better fulfill their needs, and build a strategy to increase customer satisfaction, org reputation, and revenue.
If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.
Join the Organizational Thought Leadership Newsletter to learn more about expanding thought leadership within your organization! This monthly newsletter is full of practical information, advice, and ideas to help you reach your organization’s thought leadership goals.
Bill Sherman Is thought leadership content marketing by another name? And if not, where are the edges between the two? It’s a simple question that really deserves a deeper dive, and today I’ve asked Winston Henderson to join me for this conversation. Winston is the founder and CEO of Icad Marketing, and he takes a holistic approach to content marketing with a focus on revenue alignment. So today we’re talking about the edges of content marketing and thought leadership, revenue alignment and outcomes. I’m Bill Sherman and you’re listening to Leveraging Thought Leadership. Ready? Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Winston.
Winston Henderson Hey, Bill, thanks for having me.
Bill Sherman So, you spend a lot of your time talking about the alignment between marketing and sales. My first question is simple. For our audience, what do you mean by that? And why is that something that you spend so much time talking about?
Winston Henderson Yeah. That’s a great question, Bill. When I say alignment, what I mean by that is and it’s a very specific type of alignment, this revenue on line because I call it where. So can marketing and sales work together collaboratively across the entire funnel, across the customer journey with the intention of driving revenue for the company? Right. The reason why that’s so important is over the course of my career as a marketer, I’ve also done sales. I know I’m a CEO of my own company. What’s one of the things I’ve realized is that there is a disconnect between these three functions, in particular the seat, the CEO or leadership function, marketing function, sales function, and how they necessarily work together. And it’s a huge problem because you often hear CEOs complaining, well, marketing doesn’t give us quality leads, leads up marks and gives us our trash. Or you hear marketing say, well, this leads that we passed on sales. You know, they’re not following up. They’re not closing those leads on their marketing. Say, well, you know, I work for a CEO who doesn’t get marketing because we’re trying to get budget and so on. So. It may just give you some context and background. Our own this was 2017 18 variables. I live in Jamaica, so I decided I wanted to do a state of marketing report interviewing. It wasn’t an interview, was more a survey surveying 100 marketers here in Jamaica. Right. Because I wanted to understand what are the challenges that Max does outside of myself where experience. So after conducting that survey, one of the things that the report showed was that 87% of marketers actually said that budget was their biggest roadblock or a hindrance to them achieving the marketing objectives that they have. And then the second aspect of that is when I asked what was the greatest priority for you, about 50 something close to 60% said that some sort of revenue, some sort of sales led activity or priority is what stays for that. But one of the things I noticed from the data and also to my observation and conversations with other marketers, is that there is a disconnect between what they say is a priority, which is revenue and what their focus was, which primarily most of the time is brand awareness, brand building. And it’s not that anything is wrong with brand awareness. You do need that. But in terms of the priorities, there was a disconnect there and I quickly made are connecting the dots to say well, marketers said about 87% of marketing say that their biggest challenge is more budget than they can get about buying. But probably the reason is because they’re not aligned their own revenue. So there is a disconnect there. So that entire idea probably could even be considered the birth of my thought leadership. Our own revenue alignment is what led to where we are today, where I speak a lot about that.
Bill Sherman So one of the things that resonates with me on this concept of revenue alignment is not just marketing but also leadership. Right. And so thought leadership because it’s sometimes used even before traditional marketing starts. Right. To build brand to be out there. It is harder to say, oh, we’re doing this and it ties to this purpose. Right, in terms of sales. So let’s dove in a little bit further on revenue alignment. If I were to push you and say define it in a couple of sentences, what is revenue alignment and what does it look like when it’s done right?
Winston Henderson Revenue alignment. 10/1 of all, I mean, let me just preface the answer is that revenue alignment isn’t just limited to marketing and sales. It could also be customer success. It could also be product market does, product managers and so on. But for the sake of this conversation, let’s limit this response to marketing and sales. So going back to what I said earlier, it’s really simple. Marketing revenue alignment is how do you get marketing and sales to work together across the entire customer journey, across the entire funnel with the intention of driving? And in terms of what it looks like when it’s done well, for me, this is what it looks like. It looks like where throughout that entire customer journey, marketing understands which aspect of that journey they take the lead and when should sales actually come in and take over that lead from marketing? And then marketing actually supports sales to close those deals, right? It’s alignment wrong. Well, who are or ideal clients are our customers. What’s this definition of a good lead so that when that lead handover happens, sales isn’t going to complain? Well, marketing gave us bad leads because at the end of the day, both functions came together on deciding what a good lead is. So there’s no way sales can complain that that lead is bad. They’re the ones I felt that you find that criteria for that lead. For me, it looks like also in terms of the success of that where. It’s not a competition between who gets attributed to the revenue, like is it marketing that that is the result of that revenue growth or these deals being close? Or is it feels like there’s no competition between should the praise are to award boards. So it’s all of us as a team actually help to close these deals on marketing gets the credit they deserve. CEOs get the credit that they deserve. So they are playing on the same team. Right. What do you have for us in Jamaica? We call it football. You guys would consider soccer when a team wins the game, no one says, well, it’s the goalkeeper that the reason why we won the game, because that person saved a lot of the bulls. It’s not the midfielder that was able to pass the ball between oversights of their side. It’s not the person who will score the most goals as a result of us winning. Typically it’s well, it was a team effort on each person played their part. What the team share is the win as a whole. And for me that’s the ultimate, I would say, measure of success where revenue alignment is concerned, where everyone on the team shares in that win do so well. Each person had their contribution and as a result, this is what we were able to do in terms of that revenue growth.
Bill Sherman Well, I think one of the things there is do continue with a sports metaphor for a moment and then we’ll probably pull back. There’s a difference between the overall final score of the game, which everyone contributed to and then the individual performance stats. If you’re the goalie, how many saves did you make? Right. Everyone has individual performance metrics, but you have to balance, especially on attribution, between the individual’s performance and the team’s performance. And so if you put too much weight within an organizational structure on attribution for individual effort, then you start getting outcomes where everybody is trying to maximize their share of the win rather than go after the win.
Winston Henderson Yeah, exactly. You make a very good point in terms of and I think that also contributes to your point. So the reason why alignment often doesn’t work is everyone is so focused on their individual performers. And a lot of the times a lot of that stems from leadership. Right. Because you have leadership so. Well, the reason why we were able to generate this amount of sales are growing. The revenue of the company by this amount is because of what sales is going on. Marketing doesn’t necessarily hold any value. Now the argument can be made as to is marketing really demonstrates and communicating their variable that should are if they are you know is it that the CEO is just someone that’s very egotistical that you know, things they know? It’s all because I mean, it can swing both ways, but that’s not necessarily the conversation I’m going to get into for this episode. But definitely that that individual performance, when everyone focuses on that, not to say that each person shouldn’t be judged on their individual performance because you want to know about each specific function is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, what they’re paid to do. But at the same time, knowing that it’s more, I would say, a benchmark or an indicator if we’re on the right track versus, well, we’re going to judge success. Our failure of marketing separate from sales where revenue generation is concerned.
Bill Sherman Now, I want to pull us into the world of thought leadership here. And one of the reasons I like the clarity around revenue alignment is because when you transport that into thought leadership, there are many different things that the leadership can do. You can have thought leadership that’s focused on revenue, you can focus on attracting talent. You to talk about growing talent, retaining talent. There are many different things you can do through thought leadership. But if you’re not clear on what you’re trying to do with the thought leadership, that’s almost the same problem as not having the clarity around revenue alignment.
Winston Henderson Right. Yeah. And you make a very good point there a while ago, Bill, where you mention about what’s our purpose for thought leadership, because I’m sure you’ve experienced this just as whole. People confuse well, but leadership is just thought leadership. It all fits into one book. It’s the same thing with content marketing, where a lot of people fit content marketing in this one book. So they focus heavily on the top of the funnel metrics in terms of its purpose. It’s just for building brand, it’s just for building community engagement and so on, where the content marketing, just like thought leadership is multifaceted. It’s not limited to just one thing. It serves many different purposes. On how you measure each in terms of the impact depends on what the purpose that it’s aligned or are supposed to work towards.
Bill Sherman So you mentioned content marketing, and this is probably a good place to ask this question. What’s the difference between content marketing and thought leadership in your opinion? Winston I know we could go for and ask many people, but I want to hear your take on. Yeah.
Winston Henderson Yeah. You and I have had this conversation and I really love how you define it for me. Here’s. Here’s the way I look at leadership versus content marketing. And, you know, you’re the expert. So and I’m sure you could you could tell me if I’m right or wrong. What I see thought leadership is we have an idea that we’re trying to put out into the world. So one of two things, either we want to attract the people who believe what we believe in to our circles or our cause, our entire community. Or we want to put the idea out there of showing people, well, the current belief that you’re holding isn’t serving you. Here’s a new belief, and this is for everyone. So I see it more as when I thought when I talk about leadership content, I see it more as. I call it industry R category level content where it’s not focused on driving business. For me, it’s not focused on generating sales or revenue. Yes, it can serve that purpose. But what I see, I see as a way whole, how can we lift the industry to category on a whole so that everyone benefits? Not just my business, not just the people within my community, but the entire category, the entire industry. I know who benefits versus content marketing. It’s very business focused where I’m executing content marketing because I’m trying to grow my business. I want a specific outcome that’s geared towards our benefits, my business in particular. That’s how I look at it.
Bill Sherman So there’s a couple interesting pieces that you said there. One is the concept of category, right? Because I think one of the things you can use thought leadership for is category creation. And you can show people that, hey, there’s a new way to solve this problem, not the old way that you’ve been following before. The other distinction that I want to call out is when you start getting down to the product level or the service level and product marketing, for example, it is very hard to have product marketing, which can also be called call leadership, because when you’re talking about your stuff, it is very hard to stay in the realm of ideas.
Winston Henderson Yeah. And I mean, I know you’re the boss, but I’d love for you to expound on that, because that was a very interesting point that you just raised our role in the whole idea of thought leadership within a product marketing context. I would love, I mean, for my selfish reasons, maybe the audience is interested in.
Bill Sherman Brief here and this is a conversation, right? So in brief, I think when you get into product marketing, you’re talking about benefits. Pain points, solving specific problems. You may even be down on the features level depending on what you’re selling, and it is very hard to insert ideas into that. Or if you lead with ideas and then all of a sudden somewhere midway through you pivot and you start talking about and here’s our solution, all of a sudden everybody smells, oh, here’s the sales pitch. Right. And it’s very different. And it forces a different call to action because you’ve got calls to action which are going to move someone along a customer journey and you’ve got calls to action which are education. And so if you blend those two, it just gets messy.
Winston Henderson Yeah, and that’s a great point. And here’s why I say that’s a great point. Going back to what I said earlier, our role, the purpose of the employing different purpose is for whether it’s thought leadership, when it’s content marketing and being able to make that distinction especially. And this is more for the marketers now where a lot of times, you know, I’ve seen a view of how marketers will want to implement a content marketing program, but they’re very they’re not very clear on well, in terms of the distinction between using your words content that’s meant for educational purposes versus content that’s meant to drive a lead or a sale for the business. So what happens is that they pretty much learn all different types of content into one. And when they approach the CEO or whoever to get buying for this content marketing program in after the first month or two, the CEO will say, well, what happened to other leads? You know, where are the leads? Where, where the business, where’s our way that’s coming from this? And you’re not able to explain that. Whereas if you started out saying, Hey, here’s two, these are two purposes of content, content over here for educational purposes, we’re using that to build brand, to build up our brand equity or brand affinity in the market, which will also help us to reduce sales cycles and will help us to attract higher value deals. It will help to make the sales process for sales more efficient, more effective. Right. It’s not a direct role. Why? It’s a revenue, but it will help to leverage to meet the sales process. On the sales outcome, a lot easier for our team versus over here where you have content that’s meant to generate business, generate demand, generate leads. And let’s say we’re going to spend 70% of our budget on the lead generation aspect of the content, our demand generation, whichever term that’s politically correct to you. And then over here, we’re going to focus on the educational aspect, and that’s 30% of the budget. So this 30% over here, don’t expect that right away from here. But here’s the business case for why this 30% is important. But expect our way from this 70% over here.
Bill Sherman Or what I would say is because thought leadership can get into attribution, it can get into alignment with revenue. It’s on a longer term. Don’t expect revenue on the same time frame as your content marketing. Right? You will see results, you will see a return, but it’s not going to happen at the same scale as a content marketing campaign.
Winston Henderson Right? Right, exactly.
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Bill Sherman So let’s get practical here. You’ve been talking about revenue alignment quite a while now. What are three things that people could do if they are marketers to start focusing on this concept of revenue alignment? What can they take practically back and start doing differently?
Winston Henderson That’s a great question. I’m happy you asked it because I was literally having a conversation with our clients. I mean, a few weeks ago wrote. So. First thing I would say is, well, a lot of the reason let’s start with a lot of the reasons why are few reasons why alignment often doesn’t work from the marketing point of view. One is that marketers are communicating or making the business case in terms of marketing metrics, not business metric. And there’s a difference, right? Marketing metrics are things like lights, clicks. How many people shared it? How many people website traffic that we have. Business metrics are what’s the top line revenue for this was our opportunity to close one conversions and so on. So that’s the first thing.
Bill Sherman The second year CFO is going to look at likes and clicks and say, where do I put them on the balance sheet?
Winston Henderson Right, exactly. Exactly. The second thing is not, say, marketing activities, business outcomes such as revenue. The other thing is our role. Marketers tend to only focus on what they see as volume and not what other stakeholders or a non marketing function see as value. So that’s the first thing. So in terms of answering your question, here are three things. The first thing I would say is that the best way to get by is to use data, right? And I would start with customer research of existing customers to say, hey, why, why? Why did you buy from us? What’s the reason why you chose us over the competitors? Walk us through what that buyer’s journey is like. Right. And I give you give an example of this. I remember I was working with a direct-to-consumer clients and the marketing team there had the hardest time struggling to get by and to get more marketing budget. So I went and I spoke with a few of their customers and I made up a list of top five reasons why they bought from highest to lowest. And I said, All right, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to build our entire marketing campaign. I wrote this and we executed on that. We got some pretty good results pretty early on within the first two weeks. And with that, we were able to take that data back to the CEO to say, hey, we executed on this based on our customer research, based on the data. These are the results that it was able to generate in terms of that return on investment in order to ramp up what we’re already doing through what we’ve tested, we need an increase in budget. And as a result of that, the team was able to a10x the budget that they got for that specific campaign and just the marketing budget overall. So that’s the person doing the customer research to gather data that may serve to make the business case. The second thing I would say is to go and have conversations with non marketing functions. So the CEO, the sales heads, the CFO, customer success, anyone, that’s not a marketer, right? One of the things I have realized is that as marketers, we kind of exist in our echo chamber, what I call the marketing bubble. And the problem is that if, let’s say, for example, using this world, if you exist in an echo chamber that says the wall is red, the wall is red, the wall is red, eventually you’re going to start to believe that the wall is red without actually looking for yourself. So I says, Well, is the wall really red or is it just what everyone else believes? But it’s really blue. So the important thing with that is going to your CEO to say, Hey, CEO, how do you measure the success or the value of marketing? What do you expect from me? How do you see marketing actually contributing to the overall business objectives? Right. Going to the CFO, say the CFO, how do you determine what projects actually get budget allocated to and which doesn’t like? What are some of the things that we should be focusing on to ensure that when that budget is being allocated, that beginning of the financial year, that we can actually get a sizable piece of that budget because we know that this is what you’re looking for and if we can deliver on these things, then it will make that investment worth it. Going to the sales team, say, hey, sales team, you know, some of the things that I mentioned earlier, what decide what makes up good quality lead for you? What are some of the gaps that exist right now in the sales process that you believe we could help with or just even interviewing them? And then through understanding what your function is as a marketer or your role is that you can identify what the gaps are, what you need to do to fill those gaps. So that’s the second thing. The third thing I would say is in terms of getting better alignment and this is this is probably a huge one is just understanding mindset. Right. And I think I kind of mentioned it earlier but being able to develop a business mindset versus a marketing mindset, which is two completely different things because a marketer’s mindset is I’m just focused on marketing. I see everything through a marketing lens versus a business mindset is, well, marketing is just one piece of a business, but how does it connect to other, other different pieces within the organization to make everything function as a whole engine, as a whole system, to move us into the direction that we need to move in and then knowing how to better align with other different functions within the organization.
Bill Sherman And I think you mentioned something here that’s worth underscoring. The difference in mindset is often huge. So if you spend your days in thought leadership and you’re asking yourself the question, how do I get this idea out into the world? How do I take this idea to scale? You have to stop and shift your mindset and say, okay, what is this? Look from a marketing mindset? What does this look like from senior leadership’s mindset? It is very easy to get into that tunnel vision and not pull out. And you mentioned something recently around empathy, which I want to come to, because I think empathy breaks that tunnel vision. Can you say more?
Winston Henderson Yeah. Empathy is huge. Well, I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of conversations I’ve had where I went to an organization to work with that organization. I was I spoke with a marketing team. I spoke with the sales team. And when I’m comparing notes, I realized. The reason why alignment is so difficult is because marketers are seeing things through their television sales and seeing things through their tunnel vision. But no one is really taking the time to come to the table to understand the other person’s point of view. And it goes back to what I mentioned in terms of that second point of speaking to non-marketing functions, because the only way you can get empathy is to understand the other person’s point of view. Our perspective. The only way you can get that understanding is through communication, right? So that communication has to be that first step. And I think one of the reasons and I’ve noticed this with people who have done both sales and marketing, the reason why it’s so easy for them to balance both is because they understand both roles through their own experience, right? So for me, as a marketer, I understand the pressures that marketers go through in terms of trying to get by and for campaigns, trying to get budget time to get the creative freedom to execute the type of campaigns you want. From the sales side, I understand how difficult it is trying to just get on the phone with a decision maker just to have that initial conversation, to get that meeting. The trials that come with following up on the frustrations that come with following up with a prospect, once you’ve met with them, they’ve shown interest and then they call you on the way to the phone. And that pressure that comes with at the end of each month or each quarter where you’re trying to meet your quota because, you know, if you don’t meet quota, you don’t have a page at that, right? So there’s a lot of pressure from both sides. And I think everything in terms of the foundation of alignment between marketing and sales starts with that. Empathy starts with let me let me get out of my own. Shoes are that sort of vision. I put myself in the other person’s shoes. I’m trying to understand where they’re coming from. They are the same or trying to understand where I’m coming from. Or we come to some sort of compromise and agreement that I let’s see how we can help each other to reduce the pressures on the challenges that we face. And we’re both able to meet whatever goals or objectives that are set for us by the CEO of the organization.
Bill Sherman I think that’s a great explanation and it takes conscious effort, that ability to start with empathy and go have conversations and really hear what the other team is saying or members of the other team are saying. You can’t just assume it’s going to happen if you’re a leader. You’ve got to model that behavior. You’ve got to create opportunities for those conversations. And if you’re on the team yourself, don’t wait for others to create that opportunity. Go make it happen. Because I think in today’s world and this comes to the underlying conversation around alignment is if you’re not looking left and you’re not looking right in the organization, you will not be aligned because you don’t understand what’s going on. Because we are so cross matrixed and we have one piece of a big puzzle.
Winston Henderson Yeah, definitely. And I’m just to add to what you just said, one of the reasons why I love your content so much to do, our own leadership is. Thought leadership. I mean, speaking from a marketing point of view, thought leadership to me is the best way if old masters can get by for what they’re doing. Because, you know, this whole idea of putting the idea out there, trying to get by and get trying to get people to believe what you believe and bring them over to your cause. You know, executing on that, what they what schneller means our distribution that you used to get that idea, oh, that would be up to you because you understand your organization what just that the whole idea of well rather than me saying I’m never going to work for a CEO who doesn’t get marketing, you know, switch that mindset so well, my CEO doesn’t understand marketing. How can I position our communicate in a way that that person gets it, that he gets it or she gets it, and really using thought leadership as a way to bring that idea to the forefront and communicate it consistently. Initially, they’re not going to get it when you’re trying to communicate with that. But over time, as that idea is communicated constantly and consistently, at some point they’re going to go, Huh, that does make sense. Let’s talk some more about it.
Bill Sherman And if you can sway someone to share an idea that you’ve been trying to put out in the world, then the world of the marketer becomes a lot easier because when you start talking about product or solution, if they’re starting from a similar starting point and they agree on similar things, that journey is easier.
Winston Henderson Yeah, definitely.
Bill Sherman So as we begin to wrap up, Winston, I want to ask you a question. You’ve been in the world of marketing for a number of years now. What do you wish you knew when you were starting out that you know now? What would you tell your younger self?
Winston Henderson So many things. There’s so many things. I’ll give you three. I know you actually like probably one of the top one without, you know.
Bill Sherman But there is, right? Yeah.
Winston Henderson The first one goes back to the entire theme of this conversation, which is I wish. I spent more time with CEOs and trying to understand their perspective, because it wasn’t until I really started running my own business, being what being a CEO myself, I really understood the pressures of running your own business and what it takes to build it. There’s so many things you have to think about, not just marketing. There are so many other things that you have to think about sales finance. If you have people that you’re hiring, it is a part of your team, H.R. and understanding how to lead a team and so on. So that’s the first thing, definitely. The second thing is to spend more time documenting your successes. I came to this realization when I started freelancing. This is like right before I actually officially registered the business and the marketing agency where I would go in these conversations as a freelancer and people would ask, Well, what body of work do you have? Like, who have you done? Done work for what you delivered results for? It’s not that I hadn’t, and it’s not that I didn’t know the answer, but because I had thought about it and I hadn’t documented it, it made it very difficult for me to communicate clearly and answer those questions. And I realized I lost a lot of deals that I didn’t have to lose if I had actually documented that, where it was just putting it on like a single page website and just saying, Hey, here’s a link to that. You can go and read up on what I’ve done. So that’s the second thing. The third thing is it’s a network a lot and build relationships, right? I’ve realized that my journey could have been made a lot easier if I’d spent a lot more time working on building relationships.
Bill Sherman I think those are the three great pieces of advice and from a thought leadership perspective, speaking for people who are practitioners of thought leadership, the network is huge. You have to be building it constantly and assume that it’s not going to be one conversation and done. You’ve got to be out there every day. Winston, I want to thank you for joining us on this conversation. This has been a lot of fun.
Winston Henderson Thanks for having me. It’s always a pleasure having conversations with you. I always feel like I walk away learning something new when I speak.
Bill Sherman Oh, that’s mutual, Winston. Thank you.
Bill Sherman If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL newsletter. Each month, we talk about the people who create, curate, and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website OrgTL.com and choose Join Our Newsletter. I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.