Updated: Jul 7, 2022
In today's digitally driven B2B environment, thought leadership content is more important than ever. They enable us to differentiate our offerings and value proposition from the competition by educating customers, providing good ideas, and offering a unique perspective. Every successful company has unique intellectual property and expertise. It is imperative that this expertise be leveraged and systematically packaged in engaging formats and disseminated through sales, marketing, and via digital media channels.
In my last article, I had talked about Message-Market Fit and the fact that a convincing messaging creates great demand. We can talk about a successful Message-Market Fit when the value and uniqueness of your company or product resonates with your target audience and when the messaging moves the audience or target group to action. A working messaging then forms the basis for a thought leadership strategy and related actions or programs that are in alignment with brand/product positioning, target customer pain points and product sales goals. These programs are designed to strengthen demand generation and improve the alignment of your sales team.
Now, in this new article, I want to highlight the importance thought leadership has on customer acquisition, at a time when B2B buying behavior has fundamentally changed. In fact, B2B buyers' need to simplify and streamline their buying decisions as much as possible. More and more buyers are relying on independent online research in the B2B buying process and contacting salespeople only towards the end of the buying process. Therefore, it is imperative that your company or products are present, and your content is noticed during this online research phase. For maximum impact and results, it is also imperative to leverage digital/social media channels for your exclusive content to better reach your existing audience and attract new customers.
I recently asked Google what they mean by sales. The text answer came immediately: selling is a process of persuasion to get a potential customer to act. Selling is finding a need and satisfying that need.
Yes, that's it: finding a potential customer with a targeted need. Or in other words: selling is searching for a potential customer. But why search? We know that if you search for a long time, you won't find anything for a long time. Why shouldn't those who want to satisfy their need come to the provider on their own? That would be much easier than constant, tedious searching.
Exactly! And that's what our thought leadership topic is all about. With thought leadership, you want to increase your visibility and make sure that people find you when they search. Or even better: we are already anchored in the potential customer's consciousness with our competence and expertise before he starts his active search or purchasing process.
Speaking of content: thought leadership is often also mentioned in connection with content marketing, and both expressions have become important buzzwords in the modern business world. They are often used as synonyms as they can both be invaluable in gaining attention and developing brand awareness, but contrary to popular belief, they have distinct differences.
So first, let's define exactly what a thought leader is. According to Denise Brosseau of the Thought Leadership Lab, "thought leaders are the informed opinion leaders and go-to people in their field." The key terms here are "informed" and "expertise." Essentially, the unique selling point of thought leaders is that they are a beacon of knowledge in their respective industries and areas of expertise.
Content marketing, on the other hand, can be viewed as a strategic marketing approach whose primary purpose is to attract and engage a target audience while driving sales. Thought leadership, on the other hand, focuses on positioning you and your brand/company as a true expert or industry leader.
As we just learned, a thought leader is defined by their extraordinary expertise in a subject area and is known and recognized as an authority for it. Denise Brosseau divides these authorities or personalities into 7 different archetypes, for example the Builders, who are motivated to invent new things or show new ways, or the Intellectuals, who are simply motivated to share their knowledge, research, and experience.
Whether it's content marketing or thought leadership: The main goal is to present profound knowledge and to communicate it in an appealing way. The more innovative the content and the greater the impact on the industry, the stronger the thought leadership share.
Drive sales with compelling content that supports your Message-Market Fit and opens new doors and provides relevant reasons to reach out to a prospect, set up meetings and ultimately generate qualified sales opportunities.
Thought leadership can be person-centric on the one hand and organization-centric on the other. That is, both an individual person can take on this thought leadership role as well as companies. Incidentally, the term was first used in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, then Editor-in-Chief of Booz Allen Hamilton's Strategy & Business magazine. Kurtzman used the term to describe individuals who possessed business ideas that merited attention.
So, everything we do, whether thought leadership or content marketing, boils down to getting noticed and being present in the minds of potential customers.
Here are some more learnings:
target your thought leadership content at the customer engagement, lead generation and sales process stages;
take advantage of social networks, online videos and search engine optimization (SEO);
it’s about quality over quantity: focus on developing original ideas that educate customers, provide good ideas, and offer unique perspective and;
demonstrate an understanding of the needs, preferences, and behaviors of their top customers.
In summary, building a thought leadership strategy and culture pays off over time. Companies that produce high-quality content have a notable advantage in revenue generation compared to companies that produce low-quality or no content, according to a study by the 2021 LinkedIn-Edelman B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report. This study also found that decision makers are more willing to pay a premium to work with a company that creates thought leadership content than with companies that do not.
If you'd like to have a conversation about how you can create a thought leadership strategy for your salesforce, my agency colleagues and I are available at email@example.com.