Five business benefits of survey-driven thought leadership

23 October 2018

Content marketing and thought leadership has taken such a hold in the marketing arsenal that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a company not doing it. It’s set to become a $300 billion industry in the next two years, but that also means there’s a lot of noise. To stand out from the crowd you need to add true value, to have unique insights, and to be able to make a splash. And the best way to do all of that? Surveys.

B2B thought leadership surveys provide insight, demonstrate expertise, enable market differentiation, and support business development and lead generation.

Grist’s own research into the value of B2B thought leadership found 60% of C-suite respondents read thought leadership to enable them to make better decisions, with 48% looking to get an edge over their competitors.

Yet, 58% are turned off by a lack of original insight or ideas, and 63% by content that is too generic.

Basing a thought leadership programme on survey-driven data means you can provide the market with original insights they can’t get from anywhere else, while you can direct the narrative to fit your own brand story.

Well-planned and executed surveys of any size offer the potential to deliver powerful, tangible benefits as well as demonstrate real ROI for your board.

Focused surveys can be used to develop thought leadership outputs offering new insight and fresh thinking, which you can overlay with your business’s own expertise and point of view.

So what are the real, tangible business benefits of survey-driven thought leadership? And how does this help you to sell-in your desired programme to the board?

1. Gain exposure

Here’s the dreaded ‘brand awareness’ piece. It might be the one marketers struggle to find a metric for, but the exposure you gain from a well-crafted thought leadership survey can be the benefit your C-suite notices the most. The right data handled the right way by your PR team can get you in the news or trade media; the content resulting from your survey can spread through social media. And when the C-suite’s peers in other companies mention they saw the results? That’s the exposure that will help you to sell-in the next programme more easily.

2. Build credibility

Before you even think about survey questions, you should start your planning by understanding the challenges your audience faces and build from there.

How can your business help with those challenges? Now, how can you demonstrate you understand those challenges through a survey of the audience?

Once it’s done, you can overlay your survey results with your business’s own strengths and strategy to build credibility for your brand. Use the data as a means to talk about issues important to your target audience from a place of authority and credibility, reinforcing the perception that you understand them and are on their side.

3. Influence the market

That’s a big statement, ‘influence the market’, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you want to get the market to do a 180-degree turn.

Survey-driven thought leadership can shine a light on the market, hold a mirror to it and make it think in a different way – or show it what it needs to do next based on real insights from market participants.

Where a survey differs from, say, internally-produced thought leadership is that it is inherently about someone other than your business.

It questions leaders and experts in other companies, then brings all of that together, with your own expertise, to introduce a unique view or a round-up of industry thinking.

In this way, your company is seen as the one who made this happen, who brought new insights, and therefore is influencing market thinking.

4. Support business development

One of the biggest reasons to produce thought leadership is to generate leads. It’s a business development tool that enables you to engage with clients and prospects in a more direct way. In fact, you can get two bites at the cherry – first by engaging the audience to answer the survey, and then once it’s complete by reaching out to them with the findings.

A meaty piece of survey-driven thought leadership is a strong reason to gate the content – putting the results behind a form for interested parties to fill in, and their names going straight to your CRM as potential leads.

B2B brands can also use survey results as an engagement tool, perhaps even offering a benchmarking or diagnostic service to clients and prospects to gauge how they measure-up against competitors.

Really, though, the metrics speak for themselves here: Forrester research found 57% of marketing leaders reported top-line benefits such as increased sales or revenue from thought leadership.

5. Provide a focus to content

It’s the battle cry of the marketer: Go forth and produce content! But what? And how? Often we end up producing random acts of content; it’s content for content’s sake.

By planning a thought leadership programme, though, you provide a focus to your communications efforts. The whole team is working towards the same objective, and you have a ‘big rock’ piece of content on which to hang your regular output.

That one piece of survey-driven thought leadership can be repurposed as infographics, videos, articles, blogs, social posts and media outreach. You name a tactic and the survey can wrap around it. This can help your team not only to drive towards the same objective, but also to ease content planning and make production more efficient.

But that’s not all

Because of all of the above, great thought leadership can also help you gain a recruiting edge, boost company morale, open lines of communication, and foster trust in the brand.

While these business benefits are harder to measure, they can all help take your business to the next level – through gaining and retaining top talent, through more engaged and productive employees and through more inbound conversations.

Survey-driven thought leadership can add so much to your business strategy, be it visible, tangible or conceptual. Presenting all of these to your board in a way that resonates with your own business strategy can help get the support you need to proceed.

For more tips and advice on how to sell-in thought leadership download our new guide 'How to get buy-in from the board for thought leadership'.

Author: Andrew Rogerson

Andy is a co-founder of Grist, and account director for many of our professional services clients. His recent projects span the full range of marketing communications, including integrated content marketing programmes, web development, thought leadership and video. Prior to founding Grist, Andy was marketing director at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London and New York.

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