Just over two years ago, people across the world shifted the majority of their lives online overnight. Savvy companies were quick to reshape their business models and scrambled to meet their essential functions digitally. Social media platforms rapidly developed features to accommodate the influx of users, including an unprecedented amount of business correspondence happening online. The unpredictable and socially distant professional landscape pushed industry-specific discourse to social media, and manifested in a surge of thought leaders and “thought leadership” as a marketing sub-category. Now that the pandemic is largely behind us and the boom in virtual commerce has reached a homeostasis, marketers are predicting which strategies need to evolve and what new approaches are on the horizon. The thought leadership approach is certainly here to stay, and a content marketing agency can help incorporate it into your strategy to transform your media presence.
The Big Idea
Thought leadership is distinct from other forms of content marketing in that it addresses or raises high-level questions about an industry. The goal of this approach is not necessarily to bring potential customers to your web page because it answers the question they typed into a search engine, but to show readers that you are an expert in your field. Unlike with a direct-to-consumer model, the B2B vendor-customer relationship works more like a partnership. In effect, B2B customers are outsourcing essential functions—payroll, customer service, shipping, et cetera—to third parties. Beyond an awareness of the product or service that their vendors provide, B2B customers need to know that they can trust their vendors to grow with their business and evolve with a changing market. Thought leaders provide their audience with a deeper understanding of what insights they have that make them an expert and how they maintain that position. Focus on the part of your industry in which you have expertise and employ a content marketing agency to promote you as the authority.
Like all content marketing strategies, a thought leadership approach should produce content with value. If your company conducts its own industry research, finding a way to share results and express insights—without disclosing proprietary information, of course—is an unrivaled way to assert yourself as an active and adept authority in your field. Otherwise, analyzing existing research or commenting on recent studies shows an audience of prospective clients that your methods are thorough and data-driven.
Regardless of if your insights are backed by data or anecdotal, thought leadership should go deeper than sharing the outcomes you achieve by parsing out why your processes work. Your content should educate, inspire, and—as a leader—illuminate trends you foresee in the market that might affect your industry. The posts of a thought leader might reveal a personal narrative that influenced their product roadmap, provide an opinion counter to what’s considered best practice, or use data to tell a story of how last year’s startup became this year’s scaleup. Their content should be both forward-thinking and mission-oriented, because articulating a vision for your company and industry will help differentiate yourself from other vendors.
The Company You Keep
In addition to establishing yourself as a thought leader, a B2B content marketing agency might suggest pursuing partnerships with other influential business leaders. In recent years, a trend among LinkedIn members has been to use the platform to share B2B-oriented, industry-specific content, rather than just to make and manage professional connections. The platform itself has taken notice and implemented a program to select official LinkedIn Influencers. They’ve also developed a Creator Mode with tools to expand your audience, which you can leverage to blend your social and content marketing strategies.
By connecting with either official LinkedIn Influencers or members in related industries with prominent followings, you can take part in professional discussions that augment your perspective as a thought leader. Engaging in digital discourse is an accomplishment, but consider taking it a step further by partnering with colleagues to produce a live event. Virtual workshops, presentations, or Q&As are powerful tools that a content marketing agency can help you facilitate to demonstrate your expertise in your field and expand your professional network.
Sharing your insights online is a dependable strategy for transforming the presence of your brand. Whether you plan on positioning yourself as a thought leader or want to work with thought leaders to catalyze industry-wide dialogue, make sure to optimize your approach by leveraging content marketing services.