Thought leadership – cringe-y buzzword term or reputation game changer? With B2B in my brand DNA, I’m of course, going with the latter.
- By helping your audience and sharing your expertise, you build authority and become the go-to in your space
- You start meaningful conversations with customers
- You create another touchpoint to build trust and credibility in an increasingly complex sales cycle
Edeleman and LinkedIn’s 2019 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study shows that 55% of decision-makers use thought leadership to vet organisations they wanted to work with; on average, business leaders read three pieces of content before making a purchase decision. The same study previously found that while 50% of B2B marketers believe thought leadership builds trust in their organisation, for buyers, the figure was actually 83%.
5 steps to becoming a thought leader
With so much content available, your audience is more discerning than ever. For B2B businesses, thought leadership has to be about quality, providing value and responding to your clients’ big questions. There’s simple ways you can start:
- Have actual thoughts – Yep. Critical thinking, a viewpoint and a commitment to amplifying your ideas. How? Your blog, your PR profile, a LinkedIn series, video or whitepapers. What matters is its original and ownable to you.
Reacting to industry news is another way to share your thinking. For me, Social Chain founder Steven Bartlett is a Harvard Business School case study in leading his industry (caveat to avoid comparison-itis – he has a significant agency behind his prolific output).
- Really know your audience – Thought leaders have empathy for their customers. They’re driven to help by relating personally to their audience’s priorities and challenges through high value perspectives and ideas.
This can happen in short form, too. It’s why Twitter’s still a hub for thought leadership with creative and contrary exchanges. Edtech go-to commentator Vivi Friedgut is a masterclass in pithy, powerful Twitter conversations – with a healthy side of humour.
- Tell your story – shaping a narrative around your ideas is how you infuse your thinking with, well, you-ness. Stories move people. I always come back to Philip Pullman’s quote here, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, storiesare the thing we need most in the world.”
Your stories help your audience relate to your personal experiences, your foibles, your lessons, with a little humour, a little humility – it makes you all the more relatable, builds trust and relationships. Business origins, what your biggest failure taught you… people love to learn through metaphors and personal stories. And remember, the best stories are lived.
- Be consistent – Choose your platform, stick to it, repeat. If you don’t have the bandwidth for your own podcast, how about a monthly LinkedIn article? Not a writer? Commit to speaking at six events this year – as a panellist, at a networking group or industry conference. Start where you are.
Be smart about elevating your thought leadership. A blog post can be repurposed for LinkedIn, Twitter and Medium. That panel you spoke on? Share the key takeaways across your social. Show up consistently so your audience knows what to expect. Copywriting high priestess Ann Handley delights readers with a fortnightly newsletter. A busy speaker, author, digital marketing pro, this is what’s sustainable for her and her tribe pays close attention when it lands.
- Build relationships– Thought leadership is about cultivating relationships; conversational relevance is your superpower here. Clients want to see personal engagement and real-world experiences to build trust and confidence in buying from you. I loved Nick Coleman, CEO and founder of Snaffling Pig’s recent LinkedIn videos of his successful crowdfund. Natural, on point, Nick shared behind the scenes and his personal experience alongside his expertise, bringing on a record-breaking number of investors in the process.
All powerful communications strategies are about staying the course. Thought leadership’s no exception; you can’t dip in with two weekly blog posts and expect immediate results. You have to lead: stay loyal to your platform and your audience, maximise your reach and create valuable thought-provoking content, intentionally; ideas grow stronger when they’re shared.
If thought leadership is the next step for your business, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch for a chat below.