Why is it so important for B2B companies to get thought leadership marketing right?
Tap the term ‘thought leadership’ into Google, and the world’s most popular search engine returns nearly 46 million results. Refine the search by adding the word ‘marketing’ and there are just over 17 million results. Yet, despite the growing popularity of the label, there is remarkably little agreement on a precise definition, and less still on the applied discipline of thought leadership marketing.
Thought leadership is the new battleground for marketers fighting to differentiate their brand from the competition. However, much of what claims to be thought leadership is often a regurgitation of existing thinking, not agenda setting insight.
Successful business-to-business brands like McKinsey, Deloitte and Michael Page have long recognised that genuine thought leadership must challenge received wisdom and address the pressing issues affecting clients, prospects and policymakers to cut through the noise, demonstrate expertise and find an effective way to build relationships with clients and prospects…. by showing thought, and leadership. Which is what thought leadership marketing is all about. Showing worth through thought and leadership.
So what do we think stacks up as successful thought leadership? Our research and experience shows that the best thought leadership initiatives share a number of common characteristics. Most importantly, effective campaigns shed new light on a timely issue, providing a fresh perspective on a long-standing challenge. The best programmes are evidence-led, with insight and considered opinion. Likewise, materials need to be engaging and accessible, and are increasingly presented in infographics, video and bite-size reports. And the best reports are action oriented, providing recommendations and firm proposals that make it easier for people to follow.
This form of marketing is increasingly being used to engage and inspire employees, as well as clients and prospects. As an organisation’s biggest potential advocates (or detractors), employees can often do the marketing department’s job, as long as the material they engage with is authentic and the organisation can walk the talk.
Thought leadership marketing isn’t an easy activity to get right. But, done well, we believe thought leadership is the best way for B2B firms to create a long-term platform for owned, earned and paid media success.