It sounds like it’ll get you where you want to be, but what, exactly, is B2B thought leadership? Some say it is one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing. Is that true?
We’ll put you straight. In this article, we’ll take a good look at what is considered to be thought leadership. We’ll explore the purpose of thought leadership, provide some clear B2B thought leadership examples, and reveal the ins and outs of thought leadership content. By the end, you’ll know what’s needed to position your business as an expert in your industry, and why it matters so much.
What is Thought Leadership?
Think insight, expertise, and wisdom, defining the essentials behind thought leadership. Thought leadership is a clearly articulated, expertly-informed understanding of a subject from a person who knows their world intimately from top to bottom.
Thought leaders clearly communicate often challenging new ideas, support them with evidence, and often have strong points of view. They tend to be likeable. They publish great content consistently, are frequently mentioned by other people, and are not scared to take a stand. It’s a powerful combination.
As an informed opinion leader, you contribute valuable expertise to advance the understanding of issues and enrich debates. It’s all about being a genuine expert, respected by everyone from the B2B consumers who buy the company’s goods and services to suppliers, peers, colleagues, and the sector as a whole.
You’re the go-to place for expert advice and guidance. And when potential customers have problems or questions, you’re the one they rely on.
You can imagine how what is considered to be thought leadership drives unusually powerful content marketing. When it’s done well, it’ll solidify your position as an authority in your industry. This feeds into better brand equity and brand recognition, ultimately creating a brand that’s seen as better than the rest. You’ll inspire people, overtake competitors whose expertise isn’t as obvious, and score more commercial success.
Thought leadership helps businesses like yours grow a trusting relationship with potential customers. You become the source of innovative ideas, impactful solutions, and valuable innovations.
Give it time and you’ll attract a steady stream of dedicated followers out there in the wider business-to-business landscape, a place where reputation matters to bottom lines. You see past existing processes and procedures. You understand the big picture, the helicopter view, just as well as you ‘get’ the small stuff, the fine detail that matters so much to this particular sort of deep, holistic expertise.
The purpose of thought leadership is to inspire and motivate audiences. Your business will benefit from the trust, confidence, and professionalism it inspires. As a result, you get an even better understanding of exactly what your customers and prospects want.
Why Thought Leadership is Important for B2B Marketing
It’s tough out there, and it’s getting tougher. No wonder thought leadership matters so much in the context of B2B marketing. Let’s explore why thought leadership is important for B2B Marketing.
Thought leaders share information. The quality of the information they share changes attitudes and influences prospect and buyer decisions in an unusually powerful way. It’s no surprise thought leaders are sometimes also called ‘opinion leaders’.
Thought leaders in B2B markets make ‘amazing’ possible. They advance cutting-edge ideas and drive change, from small changes to profound ones. They’re people’s go-to destination in their field of expertise. They become top-of-mind trusted advisors – voices everyone appreciates. They’re the foremost authorities on industry issues, informed in an in-depth way.
This is very different from social media influencers, who influence B2C decisions in a social network context. While thought leaders are known for wisdom and expertise in their landscape, influencers tend to chase a different kind of publicity.
While thought leader shares their opinions, ideas, and insights based on experience, knowledge, and research, an influencer encourages people to buy products or services by recommending them to a social media audience. There isn’t always any expertise involved. Sometimes they promote things on a whim, other times they’re paid to promote services or products.
Did you know there are important SEO benefits to being recognised as experts, a business that’s authoritative and trustworthy?
Thought leaders are always relevant, and relevance is a big deal in SEO. So is authority. Strong opinions matter, and when people talk about them, your profile is raised. People link to your content, discuss it, and share it. Google’s algorithm acts accordingly by giving popular content better search visibility.
The same goes for the original research you publish, the columns, articles, and books you write, the podcasts you make, the quotes you add to other companies’ blog posts, and more. The same goes for presentations, courses, and anything else you output in the role of a thought leader. The many ‘mentions’ you get add real SEO value to the business as a whole.
Put simply, thought leaders drive better SEO outcomes by being leaders, sharing their perspectives, setting fresh agendas, and challenging the relevance of the way things are.
How to Develop a B2B Thought Leadership Strategy
It’s important to know your thought leadership content has to address recognised issues and challenges, provide value, and be both engaging and interesting. You could be the world’s most talented thought leader but if your thoughts aren’t expressed in a way people like, enjoy, and can easily understand, you miss the opportunity.
Let’s look at how thought leadership is the foundation of a successful B2B content marketing strategy. Here are some B2B thought leadership examples, and key pointers to creating an effective B2B thought leadership strategy.
Clearly define goals
Like any marketing, advertising, or promotional activity, you should clearly define your goals upfront. What, exactly, do you want to achieve from your thought leadership? What should the thought leadership strategy bring to the business?
Understand the target audience
It’s also vital to understand the target audience or audiences most likely to respond positively to your output. You need to pin down their attributes, then figure out if there’s a demographic component to them – which there usually is. Then try to understand their issues, challenges, and pain points. It makes sense since you can’t solve something for someone if you don’t know what’s bothering them in the first place!
Learn what your existing audience wants
Find out the questions being asked by your existing audiences. Are they the same or different from the target audiences you’re chasing? And what are your competitors up to? Who are they anyway, what’s their messaging, and can you take what they’re doing, run with it, and do it a whole lot better? Hopefully so. Are there any particular strengths and weaknesses you can take advantage of, mirroring the strengths and avoiding their weaknesses? It also helps to analyse what types of thought leadership content your competitors are creating, how frequently they do it, and how they promote their efforts.
All this makes it easier to determine new and exciting thought leadership content, formats, and angles designed to engage and hold people’s attention.
Think about what you can do to stand out. Consider what will appeal to your target audiences most. Then create outstanding content, share it, and promote the heck out of it.
Don’t forget to carefully explore and analyse your own content performance to find out what’s working best – which’ll give you clues about how to develop an influential strategy.
Get inspired with our thought leadership expertise
Now you know what it means to be a thought leader, what thought leadership is, the purpose of thought leadership, and why it matters so much in B2B marketing. You know it’s one of your most powerful tools when swimming in competitive B2B waters.
It can be complicated. It takes careful thought and analysis. But we provide all the B2B marketing services you need, backed by years of expertise and a deep familiarity with everything great marketing involves.