B2B marketers are forever on the hunt for their next brand-boosting strategy, and nothing is as enticing as thought leadership.
This is the term marketers use to refer to industry expert content – you know, the kind of stuff that’s rife with personal anecdotes, experiments, stats, and data. It’s positioned to elevate the status of the writer and their brand by showing expertise and authority on a particular topic.
In the recent B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study by Edelman and LinkedIn, the term thought leadership was used to describe “free deliverables that organizations or individuals produce on a topic in their area of expertise, when they feel others can benefit from their expertise.”
But here’s the thing: creating and maintaining a thought leadership strategy is difficult. There are no shortcuts and certainly no quick fixes.
In fact, it takes time solidifying your position as an expert.
But, once you’re at the top of the mountain, the view can be incredible – tons of sales roll in, leads become far easier to convert, and your brand becomes the go-to in your industry.
If you’re not already subscribing to the thought leadership trend in marketing, now’s the time. Consumption of thought leadership pieces has rocketed from 50% to 58% over the last year, and 55% of decision-makers in the B2B world admit that they always use thought leadership as a way to vet a brand before they buy.
On top of that, the trend is set to grow.
If you’re not pumping out juicy thought leadership pieces, just know that your competitors are. In a recent study by the Economics Intelligence Unit, 56% of B2B marketing executives said that positioning their company as a thought leader was a key objective.
By ignoring this strategy, you’re basically handing your competitors customers by the bucket load.
But thought leadership has so many other benefits, too.
Your product or service becomes more valuable
Revenue is a key factor in the success of a business and, if you’re like the vast majority of B2B companies, you have targets to smash.
What if we told you that having a thought leadership strategy in place means decision makers would be willing to pay more for your product or services?
In fact, 61% of decision-makers have openly claimed they would pay more for a product or service based on thought leadership.
Here’s the kicker: not many businesses know this, with only 14% believing that thought leadership allows them to charge higher prices than their competitors.
You Can Use It At Every Stage of the Sales Funnel
The sales funnel for B2B products and services tends to be longer than the buying cycle of B2C companies. This is because there tend to be more stakeholders in the B2B buying process, and products are often bought for need or practical reasons rather than purchases driven by emotion.
Throughout the sales funnel, you should constantly be striving to provide the right information to the right people at the right time. This is trickier for B2B brands, simply because you need to speak to more than one person at any given time.
On top of this, executive decision-makers are turning more and more to search to gather their own information before they commit to a purchase. In one Forbes and Google survey, 64% of senior executives are clicking “search” more than six times a day in the never-ending hunt for business information.
Thought leadership pieces can help fill in these gaps in their knowledge with authoritative, expert information that builds trust and credibility – two major components of a successful B2B brand.
In fact, in the Thought Leadership Impact Study, 87% of B2B decision-makers agreed that thought leadership increases the trust factor for a brand, but only 49% of sellers thought the same. This disconnect shows that, if you get in early with a thought leadership strategy, you can start building trust with your buyers quicker than your competitors.
B2B course creation platform Northpass has seen great success with their thought leadership strategy. The platform is for Fortune 500 and growing SaaS companies and they attract their customers by developing and publishing their own reports.
They employ a range of content formats, like interviews with industry experts, tutorial videos, checklists, toolkits, and ebooks, all of which encourage their customers to see them as an authority on the topic of course creation.
How to Add Thought Leadership to Your Marketing Mix
Social media is a great place to build authority and show your thought leadership in your industry. Start by engaging with followers and joining online groups (like Facebook groups or LinkedIn groups) where you can answer key questions and show off your expertise.
Creating thought leadership content is one of the most important steps in becoming a thought leader. It involves writing and publishing in-depth content that has valuable takeaways, anecdotes, and your own personal experiences.
As well as creating in-depth content on your own site, you can also guest blog on influential sites in your industry. The audience there is likely to be the same as your own and, if you are creating really juicy content, people are going to start remembering who you are and navigate back to your site to find out more about you and your brand.
Webinars and Events
The internet is a real help in spreading your expertise and becoming a thought leader. You can run topic-focused online workshops and host webinars to establish your authority and present your expertise to listeners.
Offline, apply to speak at major events in your industry or smaller, more localized networking events. Everything you do will act as a building block in establishing and growing your thought leadership status and, the more you put yourself out there and the more you publish amazing content, the more people are going to come back to you.
Without Thought Leadership, You Could Lose Customers
Great content plays an important role in the B2B sales funnel. At the top of the funnel, executives are searching for relevant information to help them solve a problem, while the bottom of the funnel is packed full of helpful demos, benefits, and fascinating case studies to drive buyers towards a sale.
Thought leadership content has a role at every step of the journey.
But decision-makers aren’t just choosing to work with B2B brands because they have great content; they’re also actively choosing to avoid brands who don’t have a strong thought leadership presence – and why wouldn’t they? If there’s a choice between a brand who’s publishing expert, authoritative content on a topic and one that isn’t, there’s going to be a clear winner every time.
A thought leadership strategy shouldn’t be a “nice-to-have” addition to your marketing mix, it should be essential. Without it, you could lose customers and drastically fall behind your competitors in the race to convert more customers and build a solid business.