Trust plays a critical part in shaping your company’s brand perception. It also impacts buyer confidence in working with your company. One of the primary drivers of this trust is authentic thought leadership.
Thought leadership content surfaces your company’s earned secrets of unique perspectives, experiences, and resources you have. You share those thoughts with your audience through content to be a leader in your industry. It helps you build credibility, earn trust and gain loyalty with your customers and prospects.
Business-to-business (B2B) marketers are in a great position today to build relationships with future customers with thought leadership content. The real value of thought leadership is often assumed, but it’s rarely measured.
According to research from Edelman and LinkedIn, most marketers significantly undervalue the power of thought leadership. As a result of dismissing thought leadership, marketers see their demand and lead generation efforts suffer.
Edelman and LinkedIn interviewed 1,300 C-suite executives and business decision-makers. The results underscore that marketers who produce thought leadership content consistently underestimate its impact on demand generation and impacting the buyer’s journey.
Marketers don’t realize the power of thought leadership on demand generation
The Edelman and LinkedIn study shows that 26% of marketers believed thought leadership helped them close business. Furthermore, 58% of decision-makers said thought leadership influenced them to work with that company.
As a result of underestimating the power of thought leadership, marketers have less impact on helping their companies win business from current customers and potential new customers.
The bottom line is that thought leadership helps your sales team participate in more requests for proposals (RFPs) and helps your company make the shortlist of final vendor candidates.
The Edelman and LinkedIn thought leadership study highlights some key points:
- 55% of decision-makers read thought leadership content to vet potential vendors
- 82% of decision-makers say thought leadership increased their trust in a company
- 90% of decision-makers believe companies need to create thought leadership content
- 79% of C-suite executives want thought leadership to show them new trends or issues
The study shows successful thought leadership content contributes to building your brand, opening new doors with potential customers, and closing deals in your pipeline.
Strong thought leadership content conveys the quality of your work. It boosts the reputation of your company.
Thought leadership can help you amplify demand and lead generation strategy.
Thought leadership is an integral part of your marketing strategy and improves the marketing and sales alignment. These five tips can help you create better thought leadership content.
1. Create a Vision
According to the Edelman and LinkedIn study, decision-makers want you to have a vision for thought leadership. So much so that 88% of decision-makers felt it was important for companies to lay out a future vision.
Decision-makers know in advance what they want from your content before they consume it.
To paint that vision, start with a vision statement. It’s a statement that looks to the future, envisioning how your company will look in three, five, and 10 years from now. In a short paragraph, it communicates your goals for the future and unites your company to work for a common purpose.
The vision statement needs emotion and passion, not a boring list of corporate goals. It needs to spark them to take action. Don’t confuse a mission statement vs. a vision statement.
A vision statement is based on the future (where is my company going?), while a mission statement is based on the present (what does my company do?).
To create a vision statement, get others involved, display it proudly, make it concise, and be specific. A good example is Microsoft’s vision statement. It’s a short, sweet, and powerful statement that inspires a feeling of success.
2. Make it digestible, readable, and easy to find
It is essential to create content that is easy to digest, scan, and comprehend. Think of your thought leadership as Google does. Google will rate your website high in its search results if your content is useful. The search engine wants to help its searchers quickly find what they are looking for.
Google has one goal: searcher task accomplishment. It learns each time a user searches via Google Search. Google wants to give each searcher answers to their question(s) as soon as possible. They reward websites that quickly help the needs of their searchers with excellent thought leadership content.
Your thought leadership content should be at an 8th-grade reading level.
According to the Edelman and LinkedIn thought leadership study, 72% of decision-makers say being short and easy to absorb makes thought leadership very compelling.
Besides having thought leadership content be digestible and readable, it should be easy to find. According to the Edelman and LinkedIn study, 47% of decision-makers find it through their LinkedIn feeds and Google search.
Additionally, 32% of decision-makers find it through colleagues, conferences, or opted-in sources while 18% find it through paid and earned social media and search channels.
3. Quality over quantity
Quality is more important than quantity for creating successful thought leadership content that drives results. Don’t create content for the sake of having more content. It can backfire on you.
Insightful and value-driven thought leadership content is critical to building an audience that trusts your company.
As good rule of thumb is to create fewer higher quality thought leadership pieces of content than making a lot content that doesn’t provide much value.
According to the Edelman and LinkedIn study, marketers who produced thought leadership content said 25% of their content was “very good” or “excellent.”
Decision-makers in the study agreed. They cited that 18% of thought leadership content was at the level that marketers thought.
4. Reframe the conversation
According to the Edelman and LinkedIn study, 55% of decision-makers use thought leadership content to vet potential partners and vendors. This statistic shows if thought leadership content is produced right, it boosts the reputation of your business. So, how do you do it right?
You reframe the conversation that is occurring right now about a topic. Change a decision-makers’s mind with your new point-of-view with reliable data.
This unique perspective should give them a scenario that resembles their situation. It should focus on the real source of their problem.
If decision-makers don’t understand how your thought leadership content makes their lives better, they won’t care. They want content that helps them excel at their jobs, helps their company save money, improves work processes, and helps them find a competitive advantage.
A simple shift in that perspective can make your thought leadership more effective.
You want to get your decision-makers to say: “Wow, I never thought of it like that before.”
After extensive research across a whole range of industries, the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), a subsidiary of the global research firm Gartner, found that successful salespeople who are challengers are more successful.
Because they provide unique insights, help their customers avoid pitfalls, and challenge their thinking.
5. Educate internally
According to the Edelman and LinkedIn study, 26% of marketers thought such content was directly responsible for helping them close business. In contrast, 58% of decision-makers said thought leadership led them to award business to a company.
With most B2B sales cycles getting longer and bigger in size, it’s essential for marketing to educate and empower salespeople to use their thought leadership content. Marketing can enable sales to have better conversations with their customers and prospects.
The modern sales process today is about education, consultation, and effective communications.
Marketing plays a significant role in the sales process.
Thought leadership provides an excellent place for your company to bring together its collective ideas and insights to life.
Your thought leadership content should have additional elements such as internal talking points, sales scripts, and checklists about the importance of the thought leadership content. It should also include multimedia tools such as a video to explain further the ideas presented in the thought leadership content.
After you create your thought leadership content, your work isn’t done because your sales team needs to be empowered to deliver the message.
Bringing it all together
A poorly executed thought leadership plan could have an opposite effect, leading decision-makers to remove you from consideration, so it’s important that you do it correctly. Thought leadership is most likely untapped at your company. It shouldn’t be because thought leadership can boost the size and scope of your sales deals.
Building trust with your customers and prospects is problematic because it takes time and effort. By utilizing thought leadership, you can enhance your overall marketing efforts.
To improve your thought leadership, create a vision, and make it digestible, readable, and easy to find. Also, make sure you concentrate on quality over quantity, reframe the conversation, and educate internally.
As a marketer myself, I’m asking you — my fellow marketers — not to undervalue the power of thought leadership content.
It significantly impacts your demand and lead generation efforts, helps you show the value of marketing, improves marketing’s alignment with sales and helps your company grow.