Five Steps to Building Engaging Thought Leadership

B2B thought leadership can be one of the most effective means of driving potential customers into the sales funnel. Content that educates prospects without trying to sell them builds trust and leads to sales, according to a recent study of 1,300 U.S. business decision makers.

In fact, 45 percent of business decision makers in the survey sponsored by Edelman and LinkedIn said that reading thought leadership content produced by a company directly led them to give business to that company.

Unfortunately, the same study shows that a lot of the thought leadership being produced by companies is of such poor quality that it may actually be driving potential customers away. With a whopping 86 percent of thought leadership considered just good, mediocre or poor, 45 percent of decision makers said they lost respect for a company after consuming subpar content.

If your company is considering embarking on a thought leadership program, take the time to do it right. This includes:

Educating, not selling. There are few things as annoying as downloading a “white paper” only to find that it’s little more than a sales brochure. It’s even worse if the content is gated. Good content doesn’t need to overtly sell in order to be effective. Instead, educate readers by discussing the problem, offering potential solutions (not just your own), and highlighting peers who successfully tackled the issue.

Generating, not rehashing. If you plan to add to the conversation, take time to generate original content. This can include forecasts, surveys, studies, research and data that belongs to your company. We worked with a lead generation firm to create an infographic based on their calling data which showed by industry how many calls it took to generate an appointment, the best time and day to set an appointment, and the prospect title most likely to agree to an appointment. This was new and very valuable information for the industry.

Having an informed opinion. Company leaders can add value to a conversation by understanding the industry, current events and trends. In fact, some of the most successful content pieces we’ve developed have been trend forecasts. In addition to adding thought leadership to content pieces, knowledgeable company leaders can become go-to sources for industry reporters looking for commentary or background on a topic.

Being media trained. If executives will be interviewed for their thought leadership, media training is imperative. A trained executive who is comfortable being interviewed will deliver an interview that will further your goals and will be valued by the reporter. While most interviews today happen by phone, media training should include videotaping responses and demeanor. This is becoming more important as reporters expand their channels to include podcasts and video casts.

Using journalistic rigor. Journalists are held to a high standard when reporting the news. They must have credible sources, practice impartiality and use sharp writing. All these qualities are necessary for good thought leadership. Since contributed blogs and byline articles are a good source of thought leadership, make sure articles are written to reporter standards and are turned in on time.

Thought leadership can be a cost-effective and successful marketing effort. All business leaders must do a better job of producing great content that builds confidence with prospective customers.

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