The faster the rate of change, the more buyers will continue to value thought leadership as a means to understand the possibilities that technology might create for their companies. It also helps in avoiding poor or limiting purchase decisions. Yet for marketers, developing “thought leadership” content is not a simple task. Creating B2B marketing content that truly illuminates the possibilities for improvement in prospects’ business operations or company strategies requires a good understanding of the challenges and goals of your target segment(s).
For example, how might a technology solution help a retail company attract more customers to its stores or help drive down its purchasing costs? Or improve patient safety in a hospital or improve medical outcomes? Those are some of the key drivers for the retail and healthcare businesses. Addressing them will likely garner far more interest from prospects in these sectors than talking about “doing more with less” or simply “improving ROI”.
But taking a quality not quantity approach to your content strategy is only a first step. To have the most impact, the concepts you put forth need to be intriguing and innovative, and based on good, original research. And because not every thought about the future will become reality, the point is to be interesting and highly relevant, if not 100% accurate in your vision. A great example here is “Y2K” – the prediction that many computers and processors would grind to a halt at midnight on December 31, 1999. Huge sums were invested to ensure that it didn’t happen. And when the clocks ticked over into 2000 life/computers continued on. Quite an anti-climax! We’ll never know if the “thought leadership” predictions were accurate, but we can imagine that few IT Managers were prepared to risk it after being informed of the possible consequences.
Today’s thought leadership marketing strategies emerge from a corporate culture, which encourages out-of-the-box thinking – it’s about change and creative problem solving. So properly understanding the context of your industry and the perspectives of your prospects are prerequisites to developing creative solutions and the related communications.
Marketing can facilitate these exploration efforts by creating opportunities for idea generation (ideation) with desk research, brainstorming sessions, contests, etc. To ensure relevance and importance, the ideas generated should also be tested among the various stakeholders and experts within each segment. For example, feedback and unique insights can be obtained by sharing ideas during customer meetings and by conducting surveys and focus groups.
In exploring new ideas, be clear where the boundaries of your capacity to help lie. You may uncover and discuss challenges that you have no way of helping with. It’s important to say so. No company can be all things to all people, and over-selling is not something that leads to success. Focus on areas of unique value and build thought leadership content around those. As with product differentiation, it’s important that your thought leadership content also be differentiated – try to develop a unique perspective.
Properly done, thought leadership marketing engages its audience early in their problem-solving process. By its very nature, thought leadership content doesn’t push a particular product or service, but rather focuses on connecting with prospects through provocative, insightful thinking and having viable suggestions on the challenges they face. Thought leadership promotes genuine conversations about people, problems, solutions, and those unique perspectives, prompting out-of-the-box dialogue. Good B2B thought leaders are influencers who help prospects see unique business value in the investments they are considering.
Understanding the possibilities for, and aspirations of, your prospects and creating the right content, allows marketing to change the prospect’s perception of sales from vendor into advisor. Someone that offers trusted advice and who can be called upon to give an opinion on a wide range of investment questions, not just those associated with a specific product. This is what gives the sales person the edge and early visibility and consideration during the buying process.
Get more thought leadership ideas about the future of marketing. Read Reshaping Field Marketing in the Digital World. Click on the image below to download this thought provoking white paper.
What strategies have you leveraged to develop compelling B2B Marketing Content and Thought leadership?