How to build thought leadership in the B2B space
Thought leadership is a powerful tool in B2B marketing. It establishes brand and personal legitimacy, keeps you on your customers’ radar screens, and drives business by bringing more prospects into the sales funnel. The problem is that when everyone’s an expert who can easily publish content, no one is.
So, how do you stand out in your space? The answer is more challenging than some might think – but also quite simple.
Thought leadership is more than showing off. True thought leaders demonstrate their expertise by developing and sharing insights that help others. Of course, B2B marketers want to sell, but the smart ones know that sales are a result of many variables – and that reputation is one of them.
The value of thought leadership
Expert voices in the B2B world create demonstrable value. When done right, the value add can be measured directly: new sales leads, additional media exposure, and increased brand awareness and brand equity.
Thought leadership builds reputations. It facilitates name recognition by connecting recognisable brands and individuals to expertise that is helpful, relevant, and unique. Thus, thought leadership complements other positioning efforts by marketing and sales—all without having to nudge your way past competitor advertisements or messaging.
The business case for speaking up
Becoming a thought leader isn’t easy, but it can make a huge difference for your business. That’s because thought leadership is big business. There are 90 million senior-level influencers on LinkedIn, sharing their insights with 303 million active monthly users. One study found that almost 60% of decision-makers engage with the platform’s thought leadership content for as many as four hours a week. More than half of them used this content to help select future business partners.
Thought leadership rarely develops by accident. Most thought leaders develop through concerted efforts to sharpen their thinking and amplify their voice. Companies with influence invest time, money, and effort to make it happen. That’s because there’s significant upside in breaking through the noise and capturing peoples’ attention.
If you’re thinking about building thought leadership for your company, there are a few must-dos to give yourself the best shot at success.
Content is critical
Thought leaders share their thinking through content – a lot of it, in fact. But because the sheer volume of available and competing content is staggering, the quality of the content you share is paramount. You need to publish high-value information to break through the noise, and you need to do it consistently to stay on the radar.
That’s no easy feat – especially for businesses without a team of dedicated writers.
Like any other content hub, you’ll need to develop a unique mix of topics and perspectives and agree on a publishing schedule and promotion tactics that gets your content in front of your target groups reliably and regularly.
Your content will probably include short and long forms, blogs and other online articles, white papers, and ebooks, as well as effective social media posts to promote it. You will want to consider how you can repurpose and repackage some of your original content to stretch its usability and your budget. You will most likely want to add video to your repertoire, too.
And remember: if your content isn’t better and more attention-grabbing than what’s already out there in your field, why bother? Your intended targets certainly won’t.
Keep it factual and avoid self-promotion
People are adept at sniffing out a sales pitch. If you want to become a thought leader, you’ll need to be helpful, stick to the facts, offer novel insights, and – above all else – avoid the temptation to use your platform for sales pitches.
Although it sounds counterintuitive, the best way to harness thought leadership’s marketing and sales potential is to avoid promoting yourself or your brand. Instead of plugging your own business, speak to the needs of your customers. What keeps them awake at night? Which challenges prevent them from meeting their objectives? How will emerging trends impact their industry?
Focus on these big ideas rather than hyping up your business’ ability to solve them. Let your expertise do the talking. The strength of your insights is what will sell the brand and support lead generation.
Sharing is nice – and so is engagement
Even the most insightful and though-provoking content is of no value unless people can find it. That’s why it’s so important to share your content in a way that will get noticed. Thinking audience engagement into everything you do so is also critical to get social media algorithms to work in your favour. Fortunately, there are good ways to do both:
- Find ways to keep at least some of your content topical. Making space in your editorial calendar for topics that will be in the news is one way to do this. Reflecting on current events with original, helpful content is another
- Co-create content with recognised industry leaders to help raise your profile to their level
- Use social media wisely and think of ways to increase engagement – for example by asking for feedback and opinions, creating polls, getting colleagues to share and like, etc.
- Create links to your content wherever it’s relevant on your website
- Create content that people want to share. Infographics are one way to do this. Another is recording a webinar and making it available on YouTube
- Share content directly with existing customers, leads, and others in your CRM. Send it to relevant individuals, establish regular outreach mails, and include it in newsletters
- Don’t forget the power of PR and working with others with inroads into your target audiences. Some trade publications would love you to write a free article or two for them, while others might provide opportunities for sponsored content. Done right, journalists might even start calling you for perspective on stories they are covering
You’ve got a strategy—now what?
Everyone has an opinion. Whether that opinion is insightful or helpful to others is the real question. A good thought leadership strategy is only as strong as your content. Research and solid planning will help you develop compelling material and broadcast what you have to say. Remember, our content-saturated world has no need for lackluster insights, haphazard publishing, or information that doesn’t resonate with readers.
To position yourself as a thought leader, you have to make sure you’re actually contributing to the conversation. This means being timely, insightful, and approachable – all while being easy to understand. If people don’t comprehend or care about what you’re saying, you’re wasting an opportunity to be heard.
This is where excellent, timely copywriting, and strategy come into place; you need to dedicate resources and effort for the whole process to work. CBC’s team of expert copywriters and strategists have developed thought leadership campaigns for B2B companies across a host of industries. If this is something you want to add to your marketing mix, reach out to us to get the conversation going.
Topics: Thought leadership