29 Jul 2010
I am excited.
I have just read Rob Leavitt’s article based on his impressions as a judge at the ITSMA’s Marketing Excellence Awards, for submissions in the Thought Leadership Marketing category.
If you only read one article on thought leadership this year , this is the one to read.
You can view his full article here http://www.reputationtorevenue.com/2010/07/strengthening-thought-leadership-marketing-five-steps-to-excellence.html but I do cover all his points below because I believe they are worth repeating.
B2B thought leadership gains pace
Most marketers know that while thought leadership is a massive opportunity in the B2B space they also know that what constitutes thought leadership varies widely. Rob points out that until five years ago thought leadership marketing was mainly the domain of the top consulting firms,. Few B2B firms took it seriously.
But based on what Rob has seen judging the entries at the ITSMA awards this year, this has changed dramatically.
Not only does he say that the thought leadership submissions reflect a substantial increase in spending but more importantly that there has been a significant shift in the application of thought leadership as a discipline which is reflected in its impacts on customers and market influencers alike.
He goes on to identify five areas in which the best thought leadership campaigns stand out.
The 5 steps to thought leadership excellence
The reason I am so excited about his analysis is because they reflect what I have been saying on this blog in various posts for over a year. They are:
1. Focus and depth: As Rob points out there are lots of companies out there who practice “random acts of content”, including sending out the occasional white papers, articles, videos, blog posts. His concern is that with little focus or depth they are really providing little value. Companies or individuals serious about joining the ranks of truly helpful thought leaders need to pick one or a few issues, stick with it, and go deep.
I would like to add to this by saying that to be truly successful, thought leadership should become part of the culture of an organisation. If one looks at companies who are innovative or have research as their backbone – they don’t bolt these on. Rather, they are an integral part of who they are how they think and it consumes the entire organisation every day. Thought leadership should be no different.
2. Do the research: As Rob points out, a lot of the so-called thought leadership we see is merely opinion based on experience. However, customers want evidence, and evidence usually requires research.
From what Rob has seen in the entries he concludes that the best thought leadership programs are built around serious research, including things like an analysis of existing literature, new customer surveys, and in-depth case studies.
3. Engage and empower internally: Your organisation and your colleagues are one of the most important keys to your thought leadership campaign. They are and should be its best ambassadors.
Given the pervasive nature of social media, more and more of your employees are engaging directly with customers, prospects, and other stakeholders online. By engaging and empowering these employees with your thought leadership position you give them something valuable to talk about over and above the obvious product or service specs and sales pitch. More importantly if you have done your homework you are providing information and insights that hit the right spot with your prospects.
4. Leverage your best content: Market engagement today is about pervasive presence and ongoing conversations, not just traditional publishing and speaking. Rob says that customers want to chew over and debate your ideas, often without you and often in the virtual room. To help make this happen, he points out that you need to leverage your best thought leadership content by publishing compelling and appropriate formats across the networks and channels where your customers congregate.
He gives the example of a white paper and how you could leverage that into a short video, a blog post, an article, a customer briefing, etc.
5. Invest in expertise: Great thought leadership programs are built around experts in the subjects at hand but also experts in research, analysis, publication, social media, and collaboration.
Rob believes that the most successful programs invest in their people in at least three ways:
· Funding full time staff positions
· Recruiting for necessary skills and helping existing staff develop the right skills
· Investing in partnerships for complementary capabilities (including brand recognition, as with prestigious academics, universities, and/or outside media and research organizations).
Finally, and this is something I have trumpeted for a long time, building a successful thought leadership marketing program is a long-term process.
Rob uses the examples of McKinsey, Accenture, IBM, Deloitte who have spent years doing the research, building market presence, and refining what works. The common theme among them is that they pick key customer issues and stick with them.
They dive deep on these issues. And they invest in their people and programs.
Rob, thanks for some of the best insights on thought leadership I have seen for some time. I can’t wait to see the ITSMA results for the best thought leadership campaigns.
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