The B2B marketing space is more crowded than ever. While B2B marketing has historically lagged B2C in terms of emotional versus rational messaging, unique messaging points and the types and volume of media used, the gap has continued to close in recent years.
One of the most effective corporate marketing methods remains the expertise and thought leadership created by elevating your CEO as a brand champion.
Why B2B thought leadership matters.
As a brand champion and thought leader, your CEO and other executives within your organization can transcend your individual business and become recognized as an authority in, and voice for, your entire industry.
Whether or not we want to believe it, the global marketplace means that too many businesses are replaceable. Brands are interchangeable. Customers are busy, and they’re more likely to shop first on price than on brand loyalty. This increased competition and decreased brand loyalty has created a commodity mentality among buyers.
How can we, as business leaders, help our companies stand out in what potential customers view as a sea of sameness?
By focusing on B2B thought leadership and establishing your CEO as a brand champion, you create authenticity around your brand. Authenticity builds trust, which helps your brand stand out. Authentic brands earn more high-value customers.
According to Edelman’s 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Study, most executives and decision makers spend over one hour per week reading and reviewing thought leadership. So there is an audience for this content. What’s more, 83% of B2B customers believe thought leadership builds trust in the brands they are considering and influences their brand preference.
While most businesses are replaceable, thought leaders are not.
Many B2B companies and brands offer high-quality goods or services, but only a few of them will become thought leaders. The companies that can elevate their individual brand to the level of thought leadership can become a trusted source of information in the minds of their clients and prospects. They can influence buyers, outflank the competition and expedite the purchase cycle.
By becoming a thought leader, you aren’t just another company within your industry. You become the industry.
Building your B2B thought leadership plan.
CEOs don’t become recognized thought leaders overnight. Creating a thought leadership strategy should dovetail into your existing marketing plan. In many cases, you might find that more of your marketing budget should be spent on thought leadership and establishing your CEO as a brand champion rather than the traditional marketing campaigns your company typically engages in.
When developing a thought leadership plan, start with these four essentials:
1. Define your target audience.
While we would all love to be universally acknowledged as an expert, all that really matters is that our potential customers recognize our expertise, find it useful and see it as a reason to do business with our companies. So when thinking about the target audience for your thought leadership plan, narrow it down more than you feel comfortable with. You can always expand your audience as your thought leadership recognition grows.
2. Create content your target audience will find valuable.
According to Edelman, during the COVID-19 pandemic, low-quality content flooded the B2B marketplace. Instead of having the desired effect, the companies responsible for producing this content diluted the perceived value of thought leadership among B2B decision makers. In fact, 71% of decision makers now say that less than half of the thought leadership they consume gives them valuable insights.
Why bother when roughly 3 out of four decision makers say thought leadership isn’t valuable?
Because there is a hunger for actual thought leadership. More than half (51%) of C-Suite executives say they spend more time consuming thought leadership than before the pandemic began. Think about that. More people want thought leadership and aren’t finding what they’re looking for. Sounds like an opportunity, right?
Good thought leadership is NOT about showcasing how good you are. It IS about making others look good.
If done correctly, B2B thought leadership can turn your CEO into a brand champion. It can turn them into an industry leader. Setting your company apart from the competition. So when planning your content, make sure it isn’t generic. Understand your audience and their needs. Provide them with ideas and inspiration that help them succeed. Make them look good to their managers and peers.
3. Employ a multi-media strategy to reach your target audience.
People are busier than ever, and while they may find value in your B2B thought leadership content, you won’t succeed unless they actually consume your content. That means you need to add value. You can’t provide generic messages. And you need a variety of ways to package your messages.
White papers, articles and blog posts are great. They’re important pillars of any thought leadership plan. Have been for decades. But not everyone has time for long-form content. More specifically, not everyone will make time for long-form content if they don’t already believe they will get something out of it.
How do you combat a glut of content coupled with short attention spans?
Think about your thought leadership content as something more than a single medium. Your message can be repackaged and repurposed so that it reaches more of your target audience.
For instance, pull pertinent facts from a white paper or blog post to create short social posts. These whet the appetite of your target audience and pull them to your larger piece. Or turn your white paper or blog into an infographic that’s easy to understand and pass around.
Video is another excellent choice for B2B thought leadership. And, when done well, is a great way to introduce your CEO as a brand champion. Again, think about your video message as something more than a singular piece of content. Can you edit your larger video into shorter segments that become a series of quick, easily consumed content? What about creating a webinar or LinkedIn Learning module?
The benefit of video over written content is that it puts a face with the information. People are more likely to trust content when it is delivered in a more personal way and not just words on a page. Good video can elevate your lead gen/demand program and be used at every level of the sales funnel.
Creating high-quality video content might seem daunting, but the right partner can make the process easy.
4. Use social media where your target audience lives.
The bad thing about incorporating social media into your B2B thought leadership plan is that there aren’t many strictly B2B social channels. The good thing is that there aren’t many B2B social channels.
For many B2B companies, LinkedIn plays a large role in their thought leadership plans.
Like B2B marketing, LinkedIn has come a long way in terms of catching up to its B2C social counterparts and adding value for its users. In 2015, they acquired online education company, lynda.com, to create LinkedIn Learning. They’ve also become an excellent channel for distributing more visual content such as infographics and video.
Why quality matters when it comes to your corporate marketing.
Earning trust and credibility with Decision-Makers requires strong thought leadership — especially if you are not an established market leader. According to Edelman’s 2021 study, only 15% of decision makers rate thought leadership as very good or excellent. What’s more, another 30% rate thought leadership as mediocre, poor, or very poor.
That means there is definitely room in the market for high-quality thought leadership, which is good news because, after engaging with a piece of thought leadership, decision makers tend to:
- Invite the organization to bid on a project when that firm was not in their original consideration set. [42%]
- Award business to the organization responsible for the thought leadership. [48%]
- Decide to increase the amount of business they did with the organization. [53%]
- Purchase a new product or service from the organization that they had not previously considered buying. [54%]
With increased competition for attention and rapidly shifting buyer preferences, now is a good time to re-evaluate your thought leadership strategy. If you’re considering adding video content to your marketing mix, CROOW Studio makes creating high-quality video content more accessible than ever.