In today’s socially connected world, establishing thought leadership in the B2B space is more important than ever. As brand reputation is generated across numerous channels and countless online interactions, a strong thought leadership presence not only helps to raise awareness and generate leads, but more importantly, strong thought leadership builds brand preeminence and trust across the tightly connected social network within your industry.
However, in today’s highly connected and active social environment, thought leadership requires more than just simply publishing an occasional white paper. Building a thought leadership platform that highlights individual thought leaders and establishes longer-term brand preeminence requires an overall strategy as well as specific executional tactics.
Exceptional thought leadership is built on the foundation of highly credible thought leaders combined with timely and interesting content. Creating this type of breakout content does not begin by focusing on how much you know – but by discerning what your customers actually want to know. Through participation in online forums, conference attendance, and search monitoring, it is possible to identify and prioritize the top areas of customer concern and interest.
Remember, if you want to be interesting, be interested!
These customer-focused results help to inform the direction of future content development and the editorial calendar. This ongoing monitoring also allows for “rapid response” content to be pushed out quickly as breaking news and/or social trends develop that have impact on the industry.
Once your customer content needs have been clarified, the next step is to identify and then socially activate and amplify your thought leaders. Through training and consistent guidelines, as well as content collaboration, your key thought leaders can establish and maintain their social presence. The following channels are especially critical for generating engagement and interest:
- Thought Leadership Blog and Quarterly Newsletter
As long-form content is developed, it should be centralized on a blog site and/or landing page at the brand.com. This helps with SEO and provides a destination link for thought leadership to be socialized. This same content can then be pushed out via an email marketing newsletter and/or quarterly newsletter.
- LinkedIn & Twitter
LinkedIn and Twitter serve as powerful brand amplifiers in the B2B space, both at the corporate and individual level. Within these channels, paid sponsorship can be targeted toward very specific audiences during very specific timeframes, allowing for incredibly efficient micro-campaigns.
- Interactive Infographics
For complex B2B offerings, interactive infographics offer a way to quickly synthesize and communicate key messages. These infographics can be distributed across a variety of channels, serving to build brand awareness, generate leads, and differentiate your messaging.
- Conference Participation
As digital activity has increased, it has paradoxically placed an even higher premium on the impact of face-to-face interactions. Actively securing conference and panel speaking opportunities for your thought leaders provides a powerful platform to further amplify thought leadership messaging, while also monitoring for future content streams and recruiting leads for your eNewsletter.
In addition to building awareness and trust and answering specific customer questions, thought leadership across all of these channels should be an extension of the brand. The tone, look and feel, and overall design of individual thought leadership pieces should be readily identifiable as part of your brand identify.
Most importantly, quantifying the success of a thought leadership campaign depends on defining clear goals and objectives at the outset. For example, are you trying to drive awareness, capture leads, and/or establish credibility for your sales team within a particular industry niche? Once the goals are clearly established, then ongoing monitoring, measurement, and course-correction should be an integral part of your thought leadership initiative.
Once you have implemented a strong thought leadership platform and begun to nurture your individual thought leaders across various channels, the final critical success factor is to be consistent over time. This will facilitate growth of an engaged audience of current and potential customers who associate your brand with timely and interesting insights, meaningful advice, and actionable recommendations. The impact of engaging thought leadership will soon exceed your specific goals and objectives, bringing unanticipated business, new contacts, and a far-reaching halo for recruiting additional top-tier talent. Hopefully you will find these results to be very, very interesting indeed!