Marketing used to be about “getting in front of” prospects, delivering your pitch, and making the sale.
Today, buyers increasingly distrust marketing “claims” and expect businesses to show, not tell, when demonstrating their products and services. They shun self-serving salespeople and seek businesses that focus on making a difference, not getting a sale.
Thought leadership centers on earning trust and credibility. Thought leaders get noticed by offering something different—information, insights, and ideas, for instance.
Thought leadership positions you and your company as an industry authority, resource and trusted advisor—by establishing your reputation as a major contributor to your industry. The exposure you and your organization will receive by focusing on thought leadership in the industry will earn your prospects' trust and credibility AND strengthen your relationships with your current customers.
5 reasons thought leadership marketing really matters for B2B.
1. Because Prospects Want Your Perspective, Not Your Product
As Jeff Ernst of Forrester Research puts it, “Business buyers don’t “buy” your product or service, they “buy into” your perspective and approach to solving their problems.”
In other words, your myopic obsession with your individual product or service is a turnoff.
Thought leaders take part in conversations that are bigger than the little niche of the market they represent. You want to show you understand their whole world, not just what your product can do for them.
2. Because the Sales Process Starts Early and Ends Late
Buyers are out to solve a problem, not a buy a solution. That process starts long before the active buying process does, Ernst notes. And the actual time to investigating the problem to searching out solutions can take months to years.
Thought leadership helps you get in early, developing a conversation and building relationship with the buyer. This keeps you front-of-mind when you enter that mid-stage and late-stage period of the sales cycle.
3. Because Your Buyers Use Google
These days people don’t expect to scour your website. They turn to peers on LinkedIn and Twitter, Q&A sites like Focus and Quora, and, more often than not, Google.
You need to go where your ideal audience is. Once you’re there, your thought leadership content is one of the best ways to get their attention. Google is putting greater focus on identifying content that delivers real value.
Thought leadership is your key to getting found and spread around.
4. Because Thought Leadership Needs Content, and Content Feeds Social Strategy and Demand Generation
B2B marketing today usually involves a mix of social marketing and demand generation. Both of these require content – compelling content.
The market has a short attention span, which means it’s on you to develop thought leadership that differentiates you from the crowd and gets you heard through the noise.
5. Because Trust Still Matters
Cynics will tell you that trust doesn’t mean anything in today’s ad-saturated business climate.
They’re wrong, particularly when it comes to B2B marketing.
It’s imperative that you build conversations that build trust over time, Ernst says. In B2B, where the purchase decisions get more involved and expensive, buyers want to work with brands they know they can trust.
Demonstrating thought leadership implicitly demonstrates you’re a company that can be trusted.
Adapted in part from Jesse Noyes at Eloqua and Jeff Ernst, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
What does thought leadership mean for you? What strategies have you picked up to become a leader in your industry? Leave a comment and...