In a crowded marketplace, it is estimated that we interact with over 3,000 brands in any given day. Understanding the process of how a well-established B2B (business to business) thought leadership marketing strategy is developed and exactly how to convey your brand’s value proposition clearly and effectively is paramount to ensuring your brand voice is heard. When done properly, this can be a powerful tool that is not just another piece of marketing jargon, but instead a way to solidify and position your company as a leader in its field.
A study conducted by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) determined that 83% of B2B buyers believe that ‘thought leadership’ had increased their trust in organizations, with 88% saying they use thought leadership to build a shortlist of potential vendors. The study also stated that approximately 50% of C-suite executives and decision-makers believed thought leadership content had a direct impact on awarding business. 61% of C-suite executives say they are willing to pay a premium to work with an organization that has articulated a clear vision.
The most interesting takeaway from the study suggests that 45% of B2B marketers said they take advantage of thought leadership marketing. This finding presents a unique opportunity and an excellent way to breakthrough barriers in your specific sector, become an industry disruptor and increase your sales and new business.
Thought Leadership Marketing Defined:
So, what exactly is thought leadership? By definition, thought leadership is a method of marketing which positions you as an expert and authority in your industry and conveys that your company or brand has deep understanding of the subject matter at hand. To be a thought leader in your industry is to share the philosophies and business knowledge that your company uses. It can be a unique take or perspective that will create a significant impact on a business model or even the sector’s marketplace at large. Thought leadership builds brand affinity which, in turn, enacts trust. This is an excellent entry point and foundation when employing demand generation as a strategy. Creating awareness and trust, which is one of the core components of demand generation, is often accomplished with thought leadership.
Below, we have outlined three main cornerstone strategies that, when followed properly, are proven to accelerate your industry positioning, and will also propel your company as a thought leader in your industry or sector.
Build Thought Leadership Through Media Relations –
In order to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, you need to reach your target audience. This is where the media can help amplify your message as well as your brand. From traditional channels like business newspapers, B2B industry trade magazines, business radio shows to growing mediums like podcasts, there are many avenues for you to reach and, thus, influence others.
It is important to note that media relations outreach is a separate strategy in and of itself. Working with a public relations firm that specializes in your industry niche is vital to success. Otherwise, you will have to work on the time-consuming process to pitch yourself to media outlets and journalists to build trust and make the case for why you should be featured in an article or interview.
The influx of different channels helps tremendously in these efforts. Focus on niche publications that targets your industry. With patience and consistency, partnering with the media will help you get in front of your audience and establish your place as a thought leader. Once you are featured, you will start to earn credibility and can use your new media placements to show that you are considered an expert in your field. Then, it is more likely other journalists or publications will become interested in connecting as well.
We recommend studying each and every individual media outlet to determine exactly what topic and format is best suited for them. The largest mistake we see people make is the use software to mass (or blanket) pitch the same information to every media outlet out there. This is not the proper way to influence the media outlets to profile or feature your business or interview you.
You’re only a thought leader if you truly showcase expertise in your field and offer valuable insights and opinions. Sound media relations is a catalyst to accomplish this.
Establish Brand Authority on Your Owned Media Channels –
As we discussed above, gaining credibility is one of the foundations of thought leadership. While media engagements require cooperation with a journalist or publication, your brand’s owned media channels allow for self-publication of your thought leadership articles or whitepapers instantaneously. Social media channels, blogs, podcasts, and webinars are a few of the main examples of owned media channels. Defined as brand channels you or the company owns, you and your marketing staff members have the freedom and ability to publish as you see fit.
Thought leadership marketing allows you to get in front of your audience on your own terms. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll want to post and share content on a whim. Creating a content strategy with a posting schedule is an important step toward gaining trust with your audience, while establishing yourself as a B2B thought leader.
First, you have to determine your audience and the sectors that reside within the audience. These are the prospective customers you are trying to reach. Who are your customers and what questions are they asking? Once you establish this, you can begin the process of crafting content that is targeted to this group. This step will also reveal which channels you should use to deliver your message. For example, if your B2B target audience includes professional service companies, you’ll want to focus on blogs and LinkedIn much more than Facebook or Instagram. White papers with broader subject matter may also resonate with them, more so than shorter content that consumer product companies tend to seek.
Regardless of how and where you are publishing your content, it is essential to establish your frequency. You want to publish often enough that people remember and identify you as an influencer; but, you do not want to flood your followers’ timelines and blog subscription email inboxes with content lacking research and relevance, just to hit a number. Each post should add value and include a call-to-action.
Activate New Audiences with Public Relations Engagements –
One search for “thought leaders” on YouTube will present hundreds of videos that feature speeches from various influencers across a wide variety of industries. Speaking engagements work because they allow you to share a message with a specific audience free from other distractions. Seminars and conferences focused on your industry are the most ideal settings for delivering this message, because they are filled with attendees eagerly awaiting your message. Even though the current situation with the global pandemic has caused in-person events to be cancelled or postponed, virtual speaking engagements and events are thriving and are here to stay. With the proper planning and strategy, it is even possible to create your own “industry though leadership” related event or webinar. This is a valuable means by which to reach your intended audience.
Utilizing social media for both pre- and post-event messaging surrounding your chosen topic is another excellent way to reinforce the message you are trying to convey. Another excellent way to share your thoughts is by hosting your own podcast. We wrote a previous blog post about using a podcast as a vehicle for publicity. It contains several valuable steps on how to go about this process. The equipment needed is extremely low cost to put together a podcast.
Any medium that allows you to speak passionately about your authoritative topic or industry will go a long way proving your status as a thought leader. Maintaining the aforesaid steps in a strategy that is consistent is key to saturation for your thought leadership marketing plan.
If you are not leading, you are following. B2B buyers and decision makers want to work with leading brands. It is crucial to build a reputation through strong, compelling, accessible, and impactful thought leadership marketing content. Once you’ve built a strong foundation of trust and confidence with your audience, the rest of your marketing strategy is a matter of ongoing creative and maintenance.
Please contact us to learn more about how our firm works with brands to create successful thought leadership marketing plans.