The role of thought leadership: Five ways it can impact your business

by Darren Clare

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In a world of fake news and cheap advertising, it’s no wonder that B2B decision-makers turn to thought leadership to gain insights and size up potential suppliers.
In fact, according to the Edelman 2020 thought leadership study, almost half of decisions makers spend at least an hour reading thought leadership a week, with nearly a fifth reading four-plus hours. Many marketers are aware of TL’s role as a value exchange for readers. Still, they can underestimate the important role it plays in other aspects of brand building, sales enablement and (ultimately) conversion.
To be valuable to your audience, thought leadership needs to bring new perspectives and provide unique insight. So, the effort required to produce quality content can seem high compared to other forms of content marketing. But here are five reasons why that investment will pay off for your business.

1. It strengthens your reputation

89% of those surveyed said quality thought leadership enhances their perception of a company. It highlights your understanding of the broader market and the challenges/opportunities your prospects are facing by providing well-written, well-researched insights.
And it sets you apart from the competition.
Our takeaway: When everyone has an email, social media, and advertising strategy, your communications’ quality is much more important than quantity.

2. It positively impacts buying behaviour

Not surprisingly, this increase in perception leads to more tender invitations and business awarded. It also helps retain your current customers and encourages them to take out new products and services with you.
How? It creates familiarity. The more of your content a potential customer reads – the more they’ll feel like they know your point of view. And if they’re engaged, your readers will likely spend longer engaging with your longer-form content, allowing for deeper brand recognition and a better opportunity to build a richer relationship with the reader.
Getting your business front of mind is not art or science but alchemy. You have to say the right things at the right moment in your buyers’ journey. A deep understanding of your target audiences’ journey is critical, but sometimes so is a little bit of luck.
Our takeaway: By producing a steady stream of quality content, you are creating more chances to address someone’s pain point at the exact moment it’s needed to drive their business outcomes.

3. Thought leadership is more trusted than other marketing efforts

59% of those surveyed believe that thought leadership is a more trustworthy basis for assessing potential suppliers’ capabilities than marketing materials or product sheets. Given we’re inundated with adverts both personally and professionally, it’s no wonder ad fatigue is a growing issue. We’re also far more discerning and less trusting of what we’re told. Therefore it’s not enough to tell the world how great you are; you have to find new ways of showing it. And that’s what thought leadership does.
Our takeaway: For businesses selling ideas or services, thought leadership can be the most tangible expression of your ‘product’ and the best way to demonstrate your expertise.

4. It can help you command a premium

Sharing new insights or a unique perspective on a challenge your audience faces can elevate the way the market sees your brand. The discipline, skill and knowledge it takes to create excellent thought leadership can attach a premium to your brand. With many companies offering similar solutions and products within their industry, providing value in other ways is crucial to rising above the sea-of-same most businesses find themselves competing in.
Our takeaway: Quality content conveying your unique perspective is an effective (if not always easy) way of differentiating yourself in a crowded market. So, it pays to do it properly.

5. Low-quality content can have a negative effect

A word of warning, though. In the same study – 38% of decision-makers said that sometimes after reading poor-quality thought leadership, their respect and admiration for the organisation decreased. This shouldn’t scare you from trying, because as you can see above – the positives far outweigh the risks. However, it should highlight how important it is to create good quality content that doesn’t add to the noise – instead, offer intelligent insights to rise above it.
Our takeaway: Thought leadership can’t just be a tick in the box; otherwise, it can end up doing more harm than if you hadn’t bothered at all.

Addressing capability or capacity challenges

The benefits of creating thought leadership are clear but are only realised by investing time and effort in producing high-quality content led by insight. We find our clients may be able to create one or two high-quality pieces themselves. But it’s establishing a regular cadence and building an effective process for extracting insight from within their business that becomes the challenge. This is where we can help. We have expert writers on hand to deliver consistent content that builds better business outcomes.

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