In B2B marketing, everyone wants to be seen as a thought leader. And why not? What better way to demonstrate true value and strengthen relationships with customers than to provide deeper insights and advice that have value beyond the offering of products and services. While thought leadership can take multiple forms, online formats (websites, microsites, online libraries, blogs and social media) are the most commonly used formats. But before you head down any of those paths, you should know the key mistakes to avoid.
1. Failing to listen. Don’t provide content that’s of no interest to your targets. Make sure your choice of topics is relevant. Talk to a few customers and then use your online venue to test content out. See what topics are getting the most views or are generating the most comments. From there you’ll get some momentum for developing new topics of interest.
2. Failing to expand the conversation. The most valuable answers in life are those that cause you to ask smarter questions. Connect your audience to other similar topics or correlated content they might be interested in. You’ll keep your reader captured, expand the thought leadership of your brand and might even cross-sell into something unanticipated.
3. Failing to stay fresh. You might be surprised at how many companies launch a site and then leave it alone for months. Becoming a thought leader isn’t a one-time deal. It’s an investment of time, effort and a continuing point of view. If you want readers to keep coming back, start thinking like an editor and be ready with new ideas and content regularly.
4. Failing to interact. I love getting to the bottom of an article and seeing other opinions and thoughts on the topic at hand. Even better when those comments spark an online discussion that really gets you thinking. And for those of you worried about having to constantly come up with new ideas or content, here’s a great way to get some – directly from your readers!
5. Forgetting to connect to solutions that you can provide. We all know that being pushy or overtly selling can turn readers off. But when developing content, don’t go so soft on the sales message that you fail to provide any linkage whatsoever to possible solutions you can provide.
I just visited the thought leadership site of a large investment firm. The site was well put together – simple in design, focusing on a single economic topic (in this case the world’s water supply) and providing a compelling video of an analyst discussing in layman’s terms the importance of the topic to our global economy. The hook brought me in, but then I thought the site would direct me to information on how I, as an investor, might consider water technology in my own investment strategy perhaps within the context of their funds or ETFs. But they simply ended with a call to action to visit their general home page (with no specifics towards water) or to call a general 800#. It felt like a failed opportunity to more closely link their products to the investment opportunity.
Thought leadership doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require ongoing efforts. Make sure that you’re putting the right plans in place to make the most out of this valuable strategy.