Thought leadership marketing is one of the most important tools business leaders can leverage in today’s competitive world. Increasingly, customers and buyers from all industries are looking for insights into which companies they can trust. Thought leadership is a way for brands to develop credibility, showcase their expertise, and build rapport with clients.
According to studies, around 49% of B2B buyers said their feelings for a company worsened after reading poor-quality content. Another third stopped considering a company entirely based on bad or absent thought leadership content.
Ultimately, whether you’re focused on B2C or B2B, thought leadership content has the power to boost your brand and unlock new opportunities for sales. The challenge is to make sure you create the kind of content that has a lasting impact on your audience.
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What is Thought Leadership Marketing?
Before we explore the tips and tricks companies can use to strengthen their position in the thought leadership field, it’s worth outlining what thought leadership marketing actually is.
Thought leadership marketing is a form of online and offline promotion designed specifically to solidify a company or person’s position as an expert in their industry.
The goal of thought leadership marketing isn’t to directly “sell” to customers. Rather, companies focus on creating pieces capable of demonstrating their authenticity, credibility, and knowledge. You aim to educate and enlighten your customers so they trust your brand.
While there are still options to highlight your product or service in thought leadership content, the aim is to promote your brand identity rather than your offering.
Notably, thought leadership content can come in a range of different styles and formats. Around 91.4% of companies create articles for thought leadership, 44.1% produce videos, 33.2% build whitepapers, and 36.2% speak at webinars or events.
8 Thought Leadership Marketing Tips
Thought leadership marketing can generate a lot of potential benefits for companies. According to the Edelman-LinkedIn thought leadership study, more than half of B2B decision makers spend over an hour per week reading thought leadership content. 47% of these respondents also believed this content helped them discover a brand and make purchasing decisions.
Unfortunately, around 70% of the respondents also said more than half of the thought leadership content they consume doesn’t provide valuable insights, and 55% believed the content wasn’t effective at engaging their interests.
So, how do you create thought leadership marketing materials that hit home?
1. Find Your Expertise
The first step in creating effective B2C or B2B thought leadership content is defining what you’re actually an expert in. The best thought leadership content is focused, relevant, and specific to a target audience or industry. A good way to begin is to look at the USPs of your company.
Is your brand a leader in cutting-edge software and customer service? Are you always up-to-date with the latest industry trends? Do you know everything there is to know about marketing, branding, or business development? Create a list of the key areas you know you can cover.
For instance, Gary Vaynerchuk’s blog is packed full of insights into everything—from building your own business to seeking out investment opportunities.
2. Identify Subject Matter Experts
For businesses creating thought leadership content, it can be helpful to collect input from more than one individual. The chances are your team is packed with people with different levels of experience and education in different areas. Leveraging their input is a great way to expand your content strategy and ensure you have a consistent stream of content to publish.
Start by looking at the people in your team who have an opportunity to contribute to your content plan. For instance, you might be able to reach out to members of your sales, product development, and marketing groups. Ensure they have clear guidelines to follow on how to produce, edit, and share content, so you can create a comprehensive brand image.
For instance, as experts in Marketing, Sales, and Service, HubSpot produces regular thought leadership content on their blog divided into these categories. Different members of staff use their own experience to provide insights into topics like how to onboard customers or build a sales plan.
3. Know Your Target Audience
Thought leadership marketing should always be focused on answering the questions your customers have about your brand or industry. If you don’t know your target audience, you can’t create a content strategy that makes a lasting impression. In fact, around 47% of buyers today say they believe most thought leadership content isn’t created with their needs in mind.
To ensure you’re tailoring your pieces to the right audience, create a buyer persona. List as much information as you can about your potential customers, from their demographics to their pain points and preferences. You can interview your customers for more insights or consider looking at the content created by the competition for insights.
It’s also worth looking at trending topics on Google Trends for the industry you serve as this can give you an insight into the questions your customers are asking. For instance, Neil Patel creates blogs specifically designed to address customer needs like getting more organic website traffic or improving domain authority for emails.
4. Evaluate the Competition
Most successful businesses spend significant time and effort monitoring their competition. Paying attention to the other brands in your industry is one of the best ways to accelerate growth. You’ll be able to gather inspiration from the kind of content your competitors produce. Plus, you might be able to find potential “content gaps” for topics your competitors haven’t covered.
Make some notes about the key aspects of your competitor’s content strategy, including the timing and frequency with which they publish their content and the effectiveness of their posts. You might also consider using tools like Ahrefs or Wincher to help track the keywords your competitors are ranking for. Another helpful tool to use for tracking trends is the Google Trends API, which allows you to see what topics are trending in your industry.
Remember, it’s important to ensure you’re not just producing the same content as your competitors, with different words. Look for ways to add your own unique tone of voice, valuable insights, and background knowledge.
5. Create Valuable Content with a Strong Voice
Above all else, thought leadership marketing content needs to be valuable to your target audience. This is particularly true for B2B thought leadership content, where buyers are often searching for insights and educational information about an industry.
Think about how you can offer insights your audience won’t get anywhere else. This could include providing anecdotes from case studies and experiences you’ve had in the past. You could include statistics from your own studies in your content, or do extensive research to look at a topic from different points of view.
At the same time, make sure your content showcases your unique tone of voice. Your brand’s personality could be funny and informal, or professional and insightful. Try to avoid anything too dry, as around 87% of buyers say they prefer thought leadership content that’s both fun to consume and intellectually stimulating.
Jay Shetty’s blog is packed with useful insights into trending topics, packed with his own specific insights and unique tone of voice.
6. Develop a Social Media Presence
More than ever, becoming a thought leader in any space requires more than just a good blog page or video collection. The best thought leaders constantly engage with their followers across social media. Having a social media presence helps boost awareness of you and your brand while offering useful insight into what customers are actually talking about.
Start by researching the kind of social platforms your audience is most likely to use. You can use your competitor analysis to see where other brands are thriving in your industry. Once you’ve set up your accounts with the right channels, make sure you’re constantly posting not just links to your latest thought leadership marketing campaigns but also unique snippets of content.
Share pictures and quotes on Instagram, and post short-form videos directly to Facebook. You can even take advantage of different content types. For instance, Sephora publishes guides and videos on Instagram to help engage its audience.
7. Go Beyond Your Blog
While the blog on your website plays an important role in developing your thought leadership campaign, it shouldn’t be the only tool you’re going to access. While 59% of B2B marketers consider regular blogging to be their most valuable content tool, many of your audience members will be looking for other forms of content too, like videos and podcasts. Working with creative firms like podcast production agencies can be beneficial if you want to enhance the quality and professionalism of your content.
Think about how you can expand your content calendar with different styles of content intended to appeal to unique audience members. Case studies, white papers, and eBooks are fantastic for delivering educational and insightful content to B2B customers.
Alternatively, you might want to think about video guides and webinars, including on-demand webinars, for a wider group of visual learners. When you’re experimenting with different content types, make sure you pay attention to the analytics you can collect from each platform so you can track which solution has the best results.
8. Regularly Revise and Update
Being a thought leader means being up-to-date with everything that’s happening in your industry, as well as the preferences and expectations of your target audience. With this in mind, it’s important to make time to regularly review and revise your content plan.
After posting each piece of content, keep an eye on your website and engagement analytics to see which of your posts are generating the best responses from your target audience. Pay attention to the changing tactics of your competitors, and watch for the arrival of new trends in your marketplace.
In a 2019 interview, the technology company Cisco revealed how it makes sure it stays up to date with current trends by allowing content creators to experiment with different strategies and platforms. The company now has a presence on channels like TikTok and Instagram and regularly explores new avenues when delivering B2B thought leadership content.
What is Thought Leadership Content?
As mentioned above, thought leadership is the act of creating content designed to engage with your target audience and demonstrate your credibility in a specific marketplace. It’s one of the most important tools B2B companies have today because it helps to strengthen connections with your audience and sets you apart from the competition.
The thought leadership approach to content marketing involves creating engaging and valuable content which establishes you or your business as an expert in its field. It helps to induce trust and confidence in your target audience and helps you to become the go-to source of information for the community you want to attract.
How to Develop Thought Leadership Content: Quick Tips
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy to designing thought leadership content that works. Your plan will likely evolve with time as you learn more about your target audience and your competitors. Here are some quick tips to get you started:
- Begin with SMART goals: Any content marketing strategy should start with specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals. Decide what you want to get out of your thought leadership content before you start producing anything.
- Brainstorm ideas: Think about your target audience, your competition, and the trending topics in your industry, then brainstorm ideas for the kind of content you want to create. Think about how you can make your pieces as engaging and unique as possible.
- Analyze the competition: Regularly watching the competition and making sure you pay attention to their trends and results will help you to build a more effective content strategy. Make sure you look for content gaps you can fill too.
- Distribute content effectively: Don’t just create content and publish it directly to your blog. Think about how you can get more eyes on your pieces by sharing them on social media or delivering them to customers through email marketing.
- Measure your results: Use your analytics and reporting tools to ensure you’re tracking which of your content campaigns have the best results. Watching your metrics will help you to decide which content strategies to invest in going forward.
Making the Most of B2B Thought Leadership
Ultimately, thought leadership marketing is one of the most important solutions in any company’s toolkit. It’s essential for building the credibility of your business, particularly in the B2B space, and it helps ensure you can showcase your value to the right people.
With the right thought leadership content, you can create a foundation for exceptional customer relationships, and differentiate yourself from other brands in your industry.