Authoritative terms like expertise and thought leadership abound in articles concerning B2B inbound strategy. Good content informs and educates while providing trenchant commentary on the industry and world surrounding it. But there’s a stark difference between providing an audience with valuable knowledge and bloviating at B2B buyers ad nauseam.
Being a thought leader is an important part of winning over prospects in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. At that time, the researchers and decision-makers of a B2B buyer are looking for information above all else. They know they have a problem to solve or an improvement to make and are combing the internet for options. Good B2B content delivers the knowledge they seek when and where they’re looking for it, which in turn positions your company as an expert in the field.
These are the four qualities of thought leadership content that drive responses and, thus, measureable results:
1. It needs to be specific to your target prospects
Keep in mind the purpose of your inbound content—to drive sales by attracting better leads and improving conversion rates. The only way content achieves that, though, is by being relevant to those buyers most amenable to what you’re offering.
It starts with knowing what your ideal prospects are searching for, which by extension comes from knowing who your ideal prospects are. Thought leadership content focuses on the specific needs of each decision-maker that you have enumerated in your buyer personas.
Hone in on every possible question or concern they may have at the awareness stage and use it to create plentiful expert content. Avoid covering too many different topics in one article or video. The point is to thoroughly discuss one at a time in each piece and make sure they come away with a better understanding and awareness of the solutions available to them.
2. It needs to be shareable and accessible
You don’t become a thought leader by endlessly shouting into the void. To build that reputation and the subsequent trust with your audience it creates, leverage social media platforms as a way of getting thought leadership content in front of as many eyes as possible.
Perhaps the largest, most proliferated myth in the B2B world is that social media is irrelevant. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and especially LinkedIn all have their place in a B2B inbound strategy, not to mention more specialized communities on the internet focused on an industry or job title.
The defining quality of B2B thought leadership content is that the audience learns something from it, whether it’s in the form of a blog post, video, infographic or case study. Then readers will pass it around among their contacts on social networks. Combining shareable topics with SEO strategy will help your content rise in search rankings and therefore become more visible.
3. It needs to have a point to make
The cardinal virtue of call-in radio shows has always been “have a take,” meaning that callers are supposed to have a concrete point to make when they get on the air. The same is true with B2B thought leadership content. It’s important not to bury the purpose—focus on the core concerns of prospects mentioned in the first point of this article at the outset of your content and use the remainder of it to make intelligent points in support of that thesis.
Blog posts are the default way to create B2B content, and for good reason. They’re easy to share, easy to read and good at both succinctly and thoroughly providing information. But when a prospect begins moving further along the buyer’s journey, they begin to seek more tangible information. When addressing those needs, produce more erudite content in the form of whitepapers and case studies. Don’t be afraid of getting a little academic in your tone if you’ve got a serious point to make about the industry you inhabit or B2B business on the whole.
4. It needs to be fresh
It’s important to have a clear brand voice—your company’s perspective and ethos embodied in your inbound material. This gives your material a relatable and unique point of view that helps it stand out from the rest of the crowd.
This, particularly, is where commentary can come into play. Use the material produced by media outlets or other thought leaders in the field and expand on the point they’ve made. Think about what your prospects are reading, watching or listening to in addition to your own content. Then use that to come up with topics that may not have been immediately apparent through your brand personas or past experiences.
The key is to not resort to navel-gazing. Speaking about your own company’s abilities, successes and virtues belong in other forms of content best utilized with leads on the verge of making their purchasing decision. When propping yourself up as a B2B thought leader, it’s best to actually leave yourself out of the conversation and take an objective tone with your content.
Becoming a thought leader in the B2B world takes some careful cultivation and patience. Keep plugging away at creating content that informs, educates and provokes an intellectual response. By doing so, you’ll build more trust with your leads and also with your current customers. Ascending to the status of B2B thought leader requires setting a foundation of intelligent content and building upon that through a continuous stream of information that provides your prospects, peers and the B2B world at large with useful knowledge.