(If you decide to add thought leadership marketing in 2022, or if you need to improve your thought leadership program next year, it’s time to start planning now. This post describes three steps B2B marketers can take to advance their thought leadership efforts in 2022. .)
It is now clear that compelling thought leadership content is a vital component of effective marketing for many B2B companies. Several studies conducted over the past several years have shown that business buyers rely more and more on thought leadership content and that it has a significant impact on purchasing decisions.
The most recent important research on this topic is Thought Leadership Impact Study 2021 B2B by Edelman and LinkedIn, which were released last month. This study included a survey of 3,593 global CEOs across a wide range of industries and company sizes. The survey was conducted in June and July of this year and included respondents from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia and India.
The new Edelman/LinkedIn study underscores the importance and value of persuasive thought leadership content. For example:
- Fifty-four percent of decision makers* 48% of C-level survey respondents said they spend more than one hour per week reading and reviewing thought leadership content.
- 63 percent of survey respondents said thought leadership is important in providing evidence that a company understands or can solve its business challenges.
- Sixty-five percent of respondents said they had significantly changed their perception of the company for the better because of some part of the thought leadership content.
It is also clear, however, that many companies need to improve the quality of thought leadership content. In an Edelman/LinkedIn survey, only 15% of decision makers* They rate the quality of the thought leadership content they consume very well or excellent, while 30% rated the quality as AverageAnd poor or so poor.
Producing thought leadership content that earns and maintains the attention of potential buyers is no easy feat. Thought leadership content marketing has many of the same requirements as other forms of marketing. Marketers need to understand who their target market is and what their companies’ value propositions are. Like all other forms of marketing, thought leadership’s marketing efforts must align with the company’s overall strategic goals and plans.
But thought leadership marketing also has some important characteristics that distinguish it from other types of marketing. Here are three steps B2B marketers should take as they develop thought leadership plans for 2022.
Set high standards for thought leadership content
The massive proliferation of content over the past several years has made it increasingly difficult to create content that will cut through the noise and attract the attention of potential buyers over marketers. Thought leadership content can do just that, but only if it constitutes “real” thought leadership.
Several studies have identified the characteristics that make thought leadership content compelling. While the exact descriptions used in these studies vary somewhat, research findings consistently show that three traits define true thought leadership and distinguish it from other types of content marketing.
relevant – Real thought leadership content addresses topics and provides insights that are relevant to the target audience. Of course, all marketing content should be appropriate for its audience. What distinguishes true thought leadership from others is that it addresses topics that can have a significant impact on the business or professional success of its target audience.
a novel – Real thought leadership content provides truly new information and insights. Merriam-Webster defines the novel as “new and unlike anything previously known or used”. So to qualify for real thought leadership, the content resource must provide information or insight that adds something new to the body of knowledge on a topic. In other words, true intellectual leadership provides the audience with information that they cannot find anywhere else.
reliable – It is important that all types of marketing content be credible, but thought leadership content must meet higher standards. As thought leadership content introduces new and innovative ideas, it is imperative for content developers to support these ideas with sound and compelling evidence.
Most B2B marketers have demanding jobs, and the never-ending pressure to “feed the monster content” can make it tempting to take shortcuts when developing thought leadership content. But it is essential that marketers do not make compromises regarding these three criteria.
Set realistic expectations
Producing relevant, fresh, and credible thought-led content always requires a great deal of original research. Original research actually plays two key roles in the effectiveness of thought leadership content. First, new information needs to be revealed and new insights developed that make thought leadership content new. Second, original research provides the evidence that thought leadership content is reliable.
Original research takes time, and this is especially true when it consists of primary research such as surveys, focus groups, or interviews. Therefore, marketers need to set realistic goals for the amount of thought leadership content they can produce over any given period of time.
Set a Knowledge Scene
Once marketers have identified a list of potential topics for thought leadership content, it is important to do enough research to determine where, if any, “white space” exists in relation to these topics.
Marketers cannot decide which topics are appropriate for thought leadership content until they know what topics have already been covered. To develop truly new thought leadership content, marketers will typically want to avoid topics already covered.
However, there are three notable exceptions to this general rule.
- First, a broad topic may already have been discussed, but specific aspects of the topic may not have been fully covered. These particular aspects can be good topics for thought leadership content if they are relevant and important to potential clients.
- Second, if a topic has not been addressed for a long period of time, it may be appropriate to take a fresh look at that topic.
- And third, if a topic has already been addressed but existing treatments are defective or incomplete, it may be an appropriate topic for thought leadership content.
*The Edelman/LinkedIn study identified decision makers as company managers “..who consume thought leadership and are involved in recommending and/or making final decisions about their company’s choice of professional service or product providers.”
Image courtesy of Erdonzello via Flickr (Public Domain).