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What is true b2b thought leadership?

  • by Charlotte Howard
  • 21st Nov 2017
    • Content, Lead Generation

Sharing specialist knowledge of your business sector, whether it be logistics, tech, distribution, manufacturing or something else can give you a competitive edge.

Prospects can see that you are pioneering progression and getting ahead of the curve in upcoming trends, and sharing this insight with your audience through a piece of content has the potential to propel your brand to new heights.

Grab your clients’ attention

Thought leadership content isn’t about showing the technical skills your business has. It is about understanding what is affecting your audience and becoming known for sharing insights that are aligned with current and upcoming trends.

The Thought Leadership Manual by Tim Prizeman defines thought leadership as the following:

  • Original ideas
  • With important implications
  • Backed by evidence
  • Clearly expressed
  • Publicly discussed
  • That strongly influence the opinions of others

Putting time and resources into creating thought leadership content might seem like a big investment. Will this content really differentiate you from competitors in your sector? Or, is it a waste of time? But if you think about it, if you’re not well known for being ahead of client challenges but your competitor is, you’re going to lose out to them.

Clients want to know they are dealing with a company who has their best interest[s] at heart. It’s hard to distinguish between two businesses whose offer is seemingly identical, so having strong expertise in your market and expert know-how for solving business challenges can only help you stand out. Companies that present original ideas, with important implications, backed by evidence that strongly influence the opinions of others have a great chance of achieving both commercial and brand success.

Ian Brodie, marketing advisor to small and self-employed consultants, is a fantastic case study of achieving commercial success through thought leadership. When Ian set up, he had ideas that hadn’t been shared elsewhere. So, he began to share them. Almost instantly it paid off. It made it easier for people to find him, and those that had found him through his book, webinar or podcast had already bought into him and respected his reputation. He says, ‘I would rather put lots of effort into creating intellectual property so that people already know me and that makes me higher in their estimation.’

Achieving success in thought leadership

To produce successful thought leadership content, you must be able to say yes without hesitation to the following two questions:

  • Does this have new insight or important implications?
  • Will it influence the views of others?

To be at the forefront of new thinking in your industry and influence the views of others, your original ideas must relate to something you genuinely know a lot about. High risk subjects aren’t the right choice for thought leadership.

Once you’ve got a topic, it’s time to do research. Read publications, set up Google Alerts, go to sector-specific events and networking opportunities – you have to be immersed in the subject and be able to discuss and debate your chosen idea.

An idea is just a starting point. Spend time pulling it apart and theorising what has value and what will be your main angle. The intention of thought leadership content is to discuss and ultimately prove something of worth in your sector, so your angle should be an interesting, relevant and challenging viewpoint.

Your perspective that covers an area of importance and that is backed with well-researched evidence will be the pillar to thought leadership with longevity and influence.

GlobalExpense (since bought by Concur), an outsourced employee expenses management service and an early innovator of cloud services, used its access to huge amounts of expense claims data to create a benchmarking report. Previously, this was a waste by-product of the service, but once aggregated and anonymised it revealed nationwide trends on employee expenses. These insights became their main annual lead generation initiative, and an invaluable tool for the sales team who used the data in business pitches to prove they understood the challenges of their clients.

Encouraging the next step

The outcome of thought leadership content is to influence behaviours, and the most desired outcome is to influence the reader to get in touch with your business, leading to a financial return.

Measuring input, output and outcome of the campaign will reveal the overall success rate. Input measures how much resource and time was spent on it, output measures the number of pieces gained from the research, and outcome, which is arguably the most telling indicator of success, will measure changed behaviours as a result of the campaign.

We have only just scratched the surface of what thought leadership should be. It requires time and insight to truly lead the discussion in your sector, but if done right it can provide high-quality outcomes.

Want to get your teeth into more content marketing insight? The Upp B2B Content Marketing Cookbook is packed full of easy-to-follow recipes for lead generation success and is free to download below!