The Great DECEPTION of B2B Thought Leadership
“Content is king,” we frequently hear.
It implies that if you get the content right, the rest will take care of itself, which is fine but misleading.
The big lie of leadership thought is that.
Although they may attract attention, monarchs do not do so because of who they are as people.
This means that you must have a strong understanding of your audience before you begin.
You must ensure that the topic you are writing about, as well as the language and tone you use, are relevant to your target audience.
Your thought leadership marketing content also needs to be distributed wisely once it has been produced.
This is where performance marketing, social media distribution, and SEO come into play.
We refer to all of this as the “infrastructure” of effective thought leadership programming.
Let’s examine each component individually.
Are you aware of what is significant to the decision-makers you are attempting to influence?
What subjects are occupying their thoughts and conversations?
One of the biggest mistakes in thought leadership strategy programming is to lead from the inside-out, or from what you have to say, as opposed to from the outside in (based on what your prospective clients are already talking and thinking about).
We must conduct research to adopt an outside-in perspective.
A course in secondary research is frequently a good place to begin.
Identifying topics and patterns of discussion entails gathering already published material from clients, rivals, and trade publications.
Social media posts from potential customers and rivals can be a gold mine of information for intelligence; we frequently conduct a round of primary research in order to really drive significant results.
Typically, this entails a survey or series of interviews with current and potential customers.
This is incredibly helpful and surprisingly uncommon.
According to a recent Edelman and LinkedIn report, only one in five businesses conduct customer interviews, and only one in four carry out any kind of primary research.
Finally, search behavior analysis can offer priceless insights in this situation. People frequently differ from what they say in surveys and interviews, what they post online, and what they are likely to search for online.
We can learn what people are looking for online by analyzing search behavior and connecting it to various relevant keywords. Few things can reveal a person’s true interests more than their frequent search terms.
These three methods are complementary and extremely helpful if you want to learn what people are interested in the subject.
Few things can reveal a person’s true interests more than their frequent search terms.
These three methods are complementary and extremely helpful if you want to learn what people are interested in.
The result of this entire intelligence gathering described above is raw material, rather than intelligence itself. We can only gain a real advantage once we analyze what we have found.
Computational linguistic analysis
One way we can extract meaningful insight is through computational linguistic analysis. In projects of this type, we often use computational techniques to analyze vast bodies of text, uncovering and clustering the topics and subtopics, and revealing the connections between them.
Another type of analysis that can be useful at this stage is psycholinguistic profiling. This type of analysis allows us to determine the emotional content of the conversation, and also to extract insights about the character and motivations of our target audience as they are expressed in the text they have written. For example, a client group motivated by concerns about safety may react well to a different tone than a client group motivated by prestige.
Audience profiling and stakeholder mapping
So far we’ve been looking at what has been said by the people we’re trying to reach. But what do we know about the people themselves? Who are they, what are their other interests, and, critically, who are they paying attention to already?
Stakeholder mapping can lead to valuable insights about the target audience and who already has influence over them.
All the intelligence and analysis we’ve described above will help us understand what type of content will really engage the interest of our target audience. But how can we be sure they’re actually going to see it?
This is where intelligent distribution comes in.
Social distribution takes two forms: distributions through actual social connections and established social media network presences.
Actual social connections are an ideal way to distribute thought leadership content. One of the most commonly-cited factors that increase the likelihood to buy in a thought leadership B2B context is a recommendation or referral from someone in the client’s professional network. This is where we can really realize the value of working directly with leading topic opinion leaders as co-authors or consultants on thought leadership. They will naturally want to publicize the excellent content they’ve worked on, posting it on their various channels and driving it directly to their followers – the prospective customers we are trying to reach.
Established social media presences are another important way of distributing. A core piece of thought leadership content, such as a white paper or report, ought ideally to be reflected in a constellation of derived and supplementary content for social distribution. For example, a report could be extracted into:
1. Image-focused infographics explaining some key concepts.
2. Stand-alone graphs or figures.
3. Key quotes or insights for posting as text.
4. Short video interview segments with authors answering key questions on the topic.
5. Appearances on relevant podcasts.
When it comes to social media distribution all these formats and more can be launched in addition to a core piece of thought leadership, all driving viewers back to that core piece.
In B2B thought leadership marketing contexts, thoughts naturally tend towards LinkedIn, but remember that prospective clients are all human, and spend time on other platforms too.
However, with the way that social platforms are configured, paid support will almost certainly be beneficial.
The entire intelligence gathering conducted in the first phase of thought leadership research also generates value in the distribution phase.
With this research, we understand the business problems of your prospective clients, the digital landscape they inhabit, and their needs in detail. That means that we can identify actionable personas for targeting social and search advertising, build user journeys and develop a paid media plan to reach them.
The constellation of social media-specific content described above is then adapted into paid media creative, appearing in the feeds of our target clients whenever they open their laptops, their mobile devices or type in a search.
One of the most important reasons for paid support is that it extends the reach of your thought leadership content strategy – not just through the audience, but over time. If effectively configured, even relatively modest paid support can ensure that your thought leadership content is being read again and again even long after its publication.
We often hear the phrase ‘content is king. That’s fine, but it is misleading; it implies that if you get the content right, the rest will take care of itself. That’s the big lie of thought leadership.
Monarchs may command attention, but that’s not because of who they are as an individual. It’s in the context built around them, the throne they sit on. The palace centered on that throne, the crown, the servants, supplicants, and courtiers who swirl around them. All this is what makes a king command royal attention.
Good thought leadership content is the same. Without infrastructure, your paper, no matter how thoughtful, is a passing note in the cacophony of the algorithmically-driven, social web experience.
Content may be king, but you need to be thinking about the whole royal treatment – from intelligence to strategy and thought leadership tactics, to distribution – to make sure it has the impact that will drive results for your business.