On the surface, thought leadership is all about providing insight to your clients to help build relationships. But it turns out that insight is the golden thread running through the whole thought leadership process. Unlocking insight from within your firm will help you produce incredible campaigns - and watching how your campaign performs will help you convert unknowns into advocates.
The thought leadership process
Thought leadership campaigns have four distinct phases:
- ideation (coming up with the right idea)
- content creation (creating thought leadership reports and campaign content)
- distribution (getting the content into the right hands)
- measurement (and refinement)
Let?s take each in turn and explore the role of insight.
Ideation: Insight on what you want to talk about
Many marketing practitioners talk about HubSpot, BuzzSumo, UberSuggest, Google Trends and other tools for generating topic ideas. While we have nothing against these tools, we feel that the right insight can be derived a little bit closer to home ? through your client-facing staff.
Two questions will start a dialogue around the key issues facing your clients. What is the work you want to win? What business conversations do you want to have to win that work? The answers should point you towards the topic you need to explore to start that conversation.
Reviewing that topic through four separate but interconnected lenses will give you the right hook or angle to ensure the topic resonates with both internal and external audiences.
- Why is the issue important?
- What are your clients already doing about the issue?
- What makes you particularly able to help?
- What are your competitors already saying?
Content creation: Insight on what keeps your clients awake at night
Good thought leadership is built on insight and adds something new to the conversation. We believe that the best way to provide this is through original research and our thought leadership programmes generally do this through surveys and qualitative interview programmes.
Surveys give you the chance to aggregate data around the issue: asking a series of typically closed-ended questions of your audience. They are particularly useful for gathering insight to engage your audience when you have no case studies to rely on.
Following up with interviews provides a means of diving deeper into particular challenges or opportunities highlighted in the survey, allowing you to ask more open-ended, exploratory questions.
The value exchange that I mentioned involves providing the findings back to those that responded to the survey or took part in the interview programme. You can obviously connect with those that did not fill in the survey too.
Content distribution: Insight on how your clients consume content
Insight into understanding how clients want to be communicated with is obviously a key part of the success of a campaign.
Publicly available sources, like our own Value of Thought Leadership Survey are useful. This reveals, for example, the top format choices of the C-suite right now.
You can also involve your clients directly. Clients are more than happy to sit on editorial advisory committees, take part in surveys and/or be interviewed if you ask them, as long as they believe in that value exchange.
Better still, you can ask your client relationship team how their clients like to be communicated with. Or even add a couple of questions in your survey referring to this area.
Content measurement: Insight on what works (the holy grail)
No article covering marketing campaigns would be complete without talking about ROI, and the insight gained from what is working and what is not.
How to measure the return of thought leadership is a question we get asked frequently, but a difficult one to answer in B2B when there is often no framework for measuring marketing or systemised process for collecting anecdotal feedback on success.
Using dialogue as the measure of success can give us a yardstick. Clearly we need to define what we mean by dialogue - do we want to present to clients, meet them at a roundtable or simply ask them to respond to an email highlighting the findings - but that is a useful conversation with the client facing team.
Using these as our measures and refining accordingly will give us an insight into what works and what does not.
The B2B marketing community are, quite rightly, focused on the competitive advantage that data and insight can provide. Thought leadership programmes can provide the platform to achieve this.