Going Beyond Thought Leadership to Commercial Insight

Insight selling enablementAs B2B marketers, we know that truly connecting with prospects in a meaningful way requires connecting with them on an emotional level.  Content based marketing employs just this strategy by creating messaging which resonates, identifying timely and relevant issues that address such things as challenges, needs, and values.  A thought leadership strategy takes this approach further by putting forth provocative ideas to challenge conventional thinking.  Insight selling, however, distinguishes itself from thought leadership by focusing not on what prospects could do in some future state, but rather on the limits of their current thinking – and the cost of inaction.


Granted, it’s somewhat of a nuanced shift in framing, but it does take advantage of what psychologists have learned regarding risk assessment and decision making – that risk is processed as an emotion, triggering a subsequent decision and action based on its perceived relevance and the immediacy of its impact.  Accordingly, insight selling calls for messaging that goes beyond provocative, to be downright disruptive to the buyer’s initial mind set. By changing or disrupting the buyer’s view to take into account other attractive considerations, priorities can be changed in favor of your solution. Movement through the buying process is then triggered by clearly identifying the cost/risk associated with inaction.


As we’ve blogged before, the buyer’s journey has changed dramatically in the digital age, resulting in B2B marketers needing to find new ways to rise above the noise that is the Internet.  Today, buyers can engage with numerous suppliers online while assessing their options.  This means that during the research of their business context, issues, and options, as well as the defining of their needs, they give each supplier only a small fraction of their attention.  Couple this with the fact that buyers seek information from many sources other than suppliers, and the likelihood of your message breaking through diminishes.  As a recent CEB write-up stated, “…depending on how many alternative suppliers are being considered, any given supplier will likely receive no more than 10-15% ‘share of mind.'” 


Studies indicate that sales reps that challenge conventional thinking by providing buyers with unique insights often perform better than their (purely) relationship-buildering peers, gaining share of mind and thought leadership status.  CEB suggests marketers too can readily apply these techniques by adapting their content to:


  • Spark concern – create an emotional response to a business issue lacking visibility
  • Scope the problem – outline your case with evidence, testimonials, etc.
  • Personalize the pain – create a sense of urgency by ensuring the previously unconsidered problem resonates with your prospect
  • Disrupt with commercial insight – challenge conventional thinking with your insights of material value and “reset…purchase criteria” in your favor.


That said, CEB is quick to point out that too much mediocre content already exists in the market – so how do you unearth insights of “commercial value?”  A deep understanding of your target market is critical to developing such insights – a great place to begin is by going directly to the source with a carefully crafted prospect survey.  In fact, Kronos, a SimplyDIRECT customer, surveyed upper management in the food service industry regarding their workforce management systems.  Kronos’s goal was to determine how prepared the industry was to accommodate pending changes in healthcare regulations.  The commercial insight Kronos obtained as a result of their survey, was concerning the industry’s collective inability to efficiently distinguish between full-time and part-time employees – a key aspect of effectively managing healthcare changes.  Creating a cost-effective solution to this imminent problem for the food service industry provided Kronos with a message of material value for their market.


Read how Kronos used SimplyDIRECT’s demand-gen surveys to improve their customer insight. Download the Kronos case study now – click the button below.

Kronos Discovering undiscovered needs

What commercial insights are awaiting you?


  • ·         The Challenger™ Marketing eBook, Introducing Challenger™ Marketing, Corporate Executive Board (CEB), 2013