If you ever read a book on selling things, you will find a section that can be distilled down to the adage of “if you are talking, you aren’t selling.” Given that is the universal consensus, why do companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to talk on stages at conferences?

When you sit in those sad auditoriums with that smell of overcooked chicken and underbrewed coffee, what you are seeing is an arms race in Thought Leadership.

Thought Leadership is the marketing catchphrase for the effort to be perceived as the authority on a topic, get name recognition and, above all, teach an audience that they need something.

To wit, have you ever noticed that you won’t find a lot of talks at conferences about topics where products are already being sold in abundance? What you will see, instead, are a lot of booths focused towards those things.

People don’t need to be Thought Leaders once the world knows there is a need for something. All they need to do is ensure brand awareness, which a circus-esque booth and some ads will accomplish for far less money.

I may sound cynical about this merry go round, but it is not like we don’t ride on it too.

Moving Target Defense, the cybersecurity capability embedded in our products, is still a relatively unknown concept in the commercial market. Never mind that there is a NIST standard focused on it.

We spent over $110,000 in the past six months getting onto stages at conferences to talk about Moving Target Defense. Some of that didn’t amount to much, like at the FS-ISAC Annual Conference, where they had the sponsor talks take place at the end of the event when only a smattering of people were left in the room. But usually it has been quite helpful, like at the SANS ICS conference.

From an entrepreneur’s perspective, my advice is to use Thought Leadership like you would an afterburner. It is wildly inefficient, but sometimes essential.