Mastering the Art of Thought Leadership: A B2B Decision Maker's Guide to Creating Compelling Content
January 11, 2023
Every industry continues to see businesses position thought leaders in their B2B digital marketing strategies. Thought leadership is a strategy for disseminating knowledge from the viewpoint of seasoned leaders. It also offers forums for the distribution of best practices, the exchange of useful information, the sharing of real-world experiences, success stories, and social responsibility. The development of thought leaders’ own organizations and the promotion of community building within their respective disciplines can equally benefit from their expertise. The company that introduces thought leadership first stands to earn significantly from this public currency, as well as from increased attention and the positive impacts of marketing goodwill, much like with novel products and services.
Edelman and LinkedIn conducted a study that supported what most people already knew to be true: high-quality thought leadership content has a major impact on business decision-makers. Since then, the world’s events have only increased the demand for reliable, trustworthy information and direction.
Business executives must work through a great deal of unpredictability. Companies that produce useful material that actually helps and supports their users will leave a lasting impact. However, the terms “thought leadership” sometimes seem vague. What attributes define superior thought leadership? And how can B2B marketers increase their visibility and influence among the top executives and decision-makers? Let’s delve into demystifying thought leadership content.
Why thought leadership remains critical to customer engagement
Self-education among B2B buyers continues to be on the rise. According to Gartner’s research, 83% of the standard B2B buying process—which includes evaluating options, ranking solutions, and benchmarking prices—takes place before a client interacts with a provider directly. One-on-one, in-person sales are becoming less common: During the course of a customer’s B2B purchase, a sales representative has access to about 5% of their time. More decisions are being made online, and 70% to 80% of B2B decision-makers, according to McKinsey, prefer it that way.
In light of this, thought leadership content has emerged as an indispensable factor for reaching and influencing the C-suite and other decision-makers early on in their decision-making process. Thought leadership has a special capacity to persuade the C-suite, who are focused on coming up with fresh concepts to keep their company ahead of market trends. Strong thought leadership is necessary to gain the trust and credibility of decision-makers, especially if you are not an experienced market leader.
Easing the complexity of B2B decision-making
A fundamental component of B2B sales and marketing has always been sharing and imparting knowledge. The path from the first touchpoint to the last purchase is long and difficult — one that involves many stakeholders. Thought leadership content marketing is simply justified by the complexity of B2B decisions.
Demonstrations, brochures, sales calls, meetings, and seminars are examples of traditional approaches that aim to educate both prospective customers and existing clients. For the most part, they are confined to a brand’s products and services. Thought leadership involves much more than simply promoting one’s products and services. It also includes possessing the sector or market that a company operates. The positioning of a brand inside its sector, industry, or niche is strengthened by thought leadership content. This helps establish thought leadership as the go-to resource for leads, stakeholders, and customers.
The material can cover concepts, perceptions, opinions, forecasts, and analyses of matters of interest to those involved in your niche. It must address the problems that surround the issue that your product or service solves as well as the pain points of your customer. Additionally, the content must highlight your knowledge and experience, in the area directly relevant to your product and complementary fields.
Thought leadership emphasizes quality over quantity. Offering beneficial insights and encouraging practical ideas are crucial to creating thought-provoking material. Essentially, it must do it in a way that is captivating, engaging, and comprehensible, just like any other content.
Strategically repositioning B2B brands in the marketplace via thought leadership
According to the study conducted by Edelman and LinkedIn, there are multiple scenarios in which thought leadership could be crucial for a brand:
- Gaining recognition as a challenger
Challenger businesses looking to overhaul the status quo should focus on thought leadership. 60% of consumers believe that when a brand is entering a new category, thought leadership increases credibility. Furthermore, 57% of consumers claimed that thought leadership increases brand exposure for unpopular or new products. 47% of consumers also claimed that thought leadership has helped them locate and eventually, buy from a business that was not regarded as a leader in a given industry.
- Changing perceptions of your brand
Thought leadership can affect how your audience perceives your capabilities and potential; according to 65% of customers, thought leadership content significantly changed their perceptions of a brand.
- Earning trust and credibility
Relying solely on company performance to develop a solid reputation is no longer adequate. The best businesses ought to have opinions on significant business and even societal concerns. When evaluating an organization’s capabilities and competencies, 64% of buyers feel that its thought leadership content is a more reliable foundation than its marketing materials and product brochures. Thought leadership can also help you establish yourself as a valuable partner rather than a supplier. Moreover, according to 63% of consumers, thought leadership demonstrates that a company is equipped to resolve your unique business difficulties.
- Covering media blind spots
In addition to newsrooms getting smaller, media credibility is also deteriorating as a whole. According to 54% of consumers, thought leadership spotlights issues that are significant in your business but are rarely covered by the mainstream media.
- Recruiting top-tier talent
Given today’s unstable job market, thought leadership is becoming a significant tool for connecting with potential employees. 50% of purchasers believe thought leadership can prove successful in luring top-tier talent.
Thought leadership that performs well strikes a balance between being authoritative and provocative, while still maintaining a human tone and, occasionally, even a hint of fun.
Uncovering the top priorities for B2B executives in thought leadership content
As a business-to-business (B2B) executive, you are constantly seeking out valuable, informative, and thought-provoking content that can help you make informed decisions to stay ahead of the curve in your industry. So, what does one look for in thought leadership content?
- Relevance to your industry and business: B2B executives want content that addresses specific business challenges in their industry. This helps them identify the immediate value and relevance of the material and how it can be applied to their situations.
- Insights and actionable takeaways: B2B executives want thought leadership content to provide new insights and ideas that they can apply in their work. They want content that goes beyond surface-level observations and offers practical, actionable takeaways that can be used to drive results.
- Credible sources and expertise: B2B executives place a high value on content that is backed by credible research and written by experts in the given field. They want to know that the content they are reading is based on solid data and real-time experience.
- Engaging and easy to understand: B2B executives are busy professionals with limited time, so they want thought leadership content that is intriguing yet easy to understand. This would entail avoiding jargon and technical language and instead, using clear, concise language and engaging formats such as infographics and videos.
In today’s business world, thought leadership has become increasingly important and relevant. This is because several B2B companies are recognizing the value of positioning themselves as experts and thought leaders in their industry. By demonstrating their expertise, and offering innovative ideas to challenge the status quo, they can differentiate themselves from their competitors and capture the attention of important decision-makers.
Having said that, effective thought leadership content must be authentic and genuine. B2B executives are savvy and can spot inauthentic or self-serving content from a mile away. Hence, it’s important to focus on creating content that adds value and helps solve problems rather than simply trying to sell your products or services.
Thought leadership content can also help B2B brands build trust and credibility with their audience. By providing valuable insights and ideas, brands can establish themselves as trusted sources of information and position themselves as thought leaders in their industry. This will help capture the attention of potential customers and make the B2B decision-making process easier for them.
In a nutshell, the time is ripe for B2B brands to focus on creating thought leadership content. Authenticity, innovation, and proficiency are key attributes that will give B2B leaders an edge over their competitors.