what is
thought leadership?

Establishing a brand reputation is critical for companies that want to position themselves as leaders in their industry. For most organizations, that reputation must include authority and expertise.  
Thought leadership is a synonym for these qualities. It’s a content marketing strategy that raises your profile and establishes a company’s reputation as the leading experts and authority in your industry.  
The content possibilities include articles submitted for publication, videos through your company’s social media channels, or making your company leaders available to journalists for expert comments on the latest news in your field.   

why does thought
leadership matter?

Well-done B2B (business-to-business) thought leadership significantly influences brand perception and buying behaviors throughout the entire decision process, according to research by Edelman: 
  • 65% of buyers say thought leadership significantly changed the perception of a company, for the better, due to a piece of thought leadership.
  • 63% of buyers also say that thought leadership is important in providing proof that an organization genuinely understands or can solve your specific business challenges.
  • 47% of buyers say thought leadership led them to discover and ultimately purchase from a company that was not considered to be among the leaders in a particular category (i.e., a challenger brand).
The keyword above, though, is “well-done.” Edelman’s research also concluded that a pandemic-induced glut of low-quality thought leadership content is diluting its perceived value among B2B Decision-Makers. Breaking through that glut and producing high-quality content means developing a solid strategy and plan before you begin producing content. 

thought leadership

Your thought leadership efforts need to start with a clearly defined strategy that identifies your desired positioning and lays out a plan on where and how to make your content available—and to whom. 
Identifying your target audience first narrows the aim of your scope and prevents your efforts from trying to be all things to all people. What verticals are you targeting, and then within that vertical, which job functions or titles? Knowing, for example, that you want to reach customer service managers in retail or chief security officers in technology will sharpen the focus of your strategy—particularly when it comes to reaching your audience with your content in the outlets your audience is most likely to read or view. 
You’ll also want to have clear business objectives agreed beyond generating awareness. If the company wants to generate more sales leads, then you will need to know which data sources will be needed to establish specific key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure thought leadership performance. 

thought leadership

With a clear strategy in place, the focus turns to creating content that achieves your goals. Research into the timely issues affecting your clients will help establish your content calendar of topics to build out. This research should include external reports and news, and internal reports from frontline sales and relationship managers, who know what issues and concerns they’re hearing the most from your customers and clients.  
Once you know your target audience, your objective, and the issues you want to tackle, then comes the most critical component of effective thought leadership: teaching your audience something they don’t already know. A primer on a topic or an overview of your capabilities within a certain area are better suited as a page on your website than a thought leadership piece. Unless you’re covering a brand new and emerging topic, there are likely myriad of general overview materials available on the topic.  
Go beyond identifying trends and share specific insights and a point-of-view that only you can provide. Avoid making your content sound like a sales pitch, and instead focus on the questions facing your audience and the answers that you can provide. You want to sound genuine, not promotional. Find opportunities to work with experts, influencers, and others outside your company that can support your insights. Interview someone from academia on your company blog or podcast, or get quotes from analysts to include in your op-ed. 

who should use
thought leadership marketing

Thought leadership is a powerful tool for any company that relies on its reputation to drive business. From life sciences companies and engineering firms, to technology and service industries, thought leadership content can make your company stand out as an esteemed authority within your field. 
Learn more about Inspire Agency’s content marketing services, and contact us for advice and insight on how thought leadership can drive your brand forward.