28th March 2021

Why you should measure the success of your thought leadership strategy

by Darren Clare

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Although many companies include thought leadership in their marketing arsenal, a lot of them still struggle to assess its effectiveness and link their efforts to business outcomes.
The 2020 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought leadership Impact study found that 74% of those publishing thought leadership don’t link their strategy to future sales or wins. According to a Thought leadership Network report, one reason for this is the difficulty of showing an apparent link between thought leadership strategies and more traditional sales and marketing objectives. Marketing teams tend to default to measuring statistics with a more explicit link to a sales or marketing outcome rather than finding ways to measure their thought leadership content’s less tangible impact.
In the previous article in this series, we shared tips for creating high-quality thought leadership content. This post looks at the importance of measuring your thought leadership strategy and explores some tools and processes that can help with this.

The benefit of measuring your thought leadership strategy

Defining the key metrics of success at the outset of a content planning process will keep all participants aligned as you progress through the campaign. By establishing what success looks like, agreeing on how to measure it (and the appropriate timeframes for doing so), all stakeholders will have a shared understanding of what the programme is trying to achieve and by when. Clear expectations on all sides can help ensure buy-in and engagement from stakeholders across the business.
Although thought leadership programmes can take some time to bear fruit,  it is also important to find ways to measure impact on an ongoing basis, so your team can learn from it in real-time. The learning cycle can be used to support your shorter-term sales efforts by providing faster feedback on where best to focus your resources.

The tools and processes to use

Thought leadership strategies are as individual as the businesses that implement them, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to which metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to use. But there are some tools and processes that can help you determine the best ways to measure your content’s success.

Output

Measuring the number of published pieces of content can be a way of monitoring the momentum of your thought leadership strategy. A caveat is that you’ll also need to find other ways to measure your work’s impact, so the focus is on quality and quantity.

SEO metrics

It’s easy to use analytics tools to monitor SEO-based metrics, making them a popular way to determine what content is popular and driving the most traffic to your site. You can also analyse how people find your site. Monitoring bounce rates can help you understand how many of your readers make it to the end of your articles and visit other pages on your site.
Another way to understand how your thought leadership content contributes to your SEO objectives is by tallying the number of quality backlinks from relevant websites to see whether influential sources in your industry are sharing your thought leadership content. Identifying which pieces of content are shared and linked most often can help you learn which themes and topics resonate most with your audience.

Press coverage

Using media monitoring dashboards or even simple tools like Google or LinkedIn alerts can help your team keep track of notable mentions of your thought leadership content in the media. Also, consider keeping a record of the number of invitations for speaking engagements and awards received since the beginning of your thought leadership strategy. While it might be a challenge to attribute each of these opportunities to specific content pieces, keeping score can give you a valuable picture of overall sentiment over time.

Qualitative data

Alongside quantitative metrics from SEO and other distribution strategies, surveys and brand evaluations can provide rich qualitative data from your target audience. Survey results can give you with deep insights into specific issues and help discover other perspectives that you might not have explored. It’s important to remember that this is a long-term play as often brand surveys or net promoter scores are only run once a year.

The customer lifetime value

Think about your customer’s lifetime value throughout your marketing funnel, rather than just focusing on gaining new customers. Thought leadership can significantly impact customer retention and brand loyalty – so why not include KPIs that measure repeat business from your existing customers?

Create a culture of continuous optimisation

One of the most important aspects of measuring your thought leadership programme’s impact is making sure that anything you learn is rolled into the next round of idea generation and content planning. If you find that your audience responds well to longer-form content, create more of it. If a specific topic or theme gains a lot of traction, find different angles to explore the themes. In this way, your KPIs can also help you optimise future content and demonstrate the return on investment of your existing content.

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