Dominate Your Space….
You, As a B2B Thought Leader
Here is what’s happening in the real world:
- In 2022, publishers lost $22 billion due to ad-blocking software.
- The EU is in the process of severely restricting ad retargeting practices. And if you think it won’t happen in the anglosphere and elsewhere, think again.
- Invasive advertising produces resentment.
- Marketing tricks used by Neil Patel and others annoy many people and won’t be tolerated (for example, pop-ups).
- Consumers don’t want ads and are increasingly choosing to do the research on their terms with them in control.
- Consumers don’t want to be annoyed by spammers, scammers, and sleazy marketers.
- More content than ever before is being created, yet most people ignore it.
- Typical listicles and other commoditised content (including that produced by AI tools) often have little or no value to readers and will be disregarded. Taking a lazy approach to content will diminish your brand.
A Better Alternative
Yes, it’s content again, but not any old content. Instead, let’s go NEXT LEVEL and embrace high-impact Thought Leadership content.
What is it?
It’s content that positions you as the go-to person in your space. Content that educates, persuades and pushes back against the status quo.
I’ve written about my Pick a Fight technique in other articles and posts. I mention it now because effective and impactful Thought Leadership content should pick a fight with an enemy. You faced the dragon and smote it with your trusty scimitar.
Here is how you might do that….
The world is full of people who have a view on how things should be done. Some are wrong, but they cling to these outdated ideas like a kitten clings to its mum.
Think of the world of business. Many practices are no longer relevant, especially in these disruptive times.
But, sooner or later, an upstart competitor will confront traditional businesses and try to knock them off their lofty perch. We call these people Challengers. Is that you? Do you have a special way of doing business superior to your competitors? More importantly, are you prepared to challenge the status quo and ruffle feathers?
Good, shout about it. But don’t be loud and trashy – do it with class and style through your content.
What is Thought Leadership?
Some people think it’s a type of content, but it’s more of an aspiration than anything else.
To be clear, not everyone should be a Thought Leader or want to be one. A true thought leader creates a new pathway and doesn’t follow established routes.
Whilst not everyone can be a thought leader, many more can and should become subject matter experts (SMEs). Anyone with a valuable skillset should publicly demonstrate subject matter expertise. They should be passionate about what they do, who they do it for, and why it matters.
I’m not trying to dissuade you from the less travelled road to the thought leadership destination. Still, it requires a certain attitude born of the conviction that you have a superior way to do business and enhance customers’ lives.
In summary, anyone with expertise and credibility can be a thought leader. But more than this, you must also see yourself as a disrupter who wants to challenge the prevailing zeitgeist.
Is that you? Good, keep reading…
Thought Leadership is NOT This
It’s not a thinly disguised ruse to sell products. It’s nothing like using traditional marketing tactics such as pay-per-click ads or email marketing.
Does that mean that Thought Leadership won’t drive sales? Not at all. Many products can be sold as a direct or indirect result of the cumulative effects of thought leadership.
Examples of thought leaders who developed big followings and drove significant revenue for their businesses include Richard Branson, Simon Sinek, Tim Ferris, Tony Robbins, Seth Godin and even Elon Musk. Not that you need to be like them. You can create your own thought leadership magic with small cohorts of like-minded people and grow from there.
Aussie Maverick Confronts the Establishment, Now a Billionaire.
Recently, I watched a documentary about an Australian entrepreneur, Richard White. He’s now a billionaire thanks to his software company, WiseTech Global.
He knew there was a better way to help logistics companies manage goods and information across supply chains. So, he developed a seamless method and took the fight to his old-school competitors. Today, his company has 24 of the top 25 global logistics companies as customers.
Here is a guy who took on the big suppliers to global logistic companies and kicked their asses.
From a business standpoint, having an enemy (or antagonist) is good. Have you identified yours?
How did Richard White grow the business? Different ways but one of them was via a relentless messaging campaign that took on the old way of doing things. Was it traditional thought leadership? No. But if you want to do the same old things in the same way, you’re reading the wrong article.
The main point is that you must have a clear Point of View (POV) and the confidence and courage to promote it.
Is Thought Leadership the Same as SEO Content?
No, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feature a TL post or three on your blog.
The essential difference between the two is that search engine optimized (SEO) content is written to keep the search engines happy, whereas thought leadership content is focused entirely on the reader and to hell with the search engines.
The Big Issue With Most B2B Content
I hate to say it, but B2C content is often better than B2B content. In the world of eCommerce or direct response, you live or die by the potency of your content.
But in the B2B world, not so much. In this arcane world, bland, formulaic content reigns supreme.
But more than this, the volume of content is a major problem. It’s unsurprising because over 90% of B2B companies now use content marketing.
So, people keep seeing similar content over and over again. It’s mind-numbing for them, unsatisfying for the creators, and disappointing for the businesses that pay for it. And the problem is compounded by the emergence of AI tools. Frankly, it’s a nightmare.
How to Solve the Problem
You can upgrade your content and make reading easier and more satisfying. You could also add stories, analogies, metaphors and examples. All of these will help and should be done.
But it might not be a game-changer. The best way to put the cat amongst the pigeons is to create content based on new ideas and thinking.
Hopefully, you already have that – you have a unique product, idea, method, or system and want more people to know about it.
Learning to create content around your unique thinking should be the next priority. Remember, new ideas grab people’s attention, but most people have no clue how to articulate them via the written word.
And by the way, “the new idea” doesn’t have to be revolutionary. On the contrary, sometimes all you need is one key point of difference and create content around it with all its permutations.
The Benefits of Good Thought Leadership Content
Good thought leadership content should do these two things:
1). Build Your Personal Brand
The goal should be to position you as an authority in your space. Ultimately, you’d want to establish pre-eminence in the minds of your audience. Pre-eminence is the key to gaining and sustaining attention. (Pre-eminence: surpassing all others, superiority.)
It starts with superior content and ends with an audience-building strategy that ensures that the right people see it.
But pre-eminence takes many years, so focus on winning people to your cause, one person at a time, at least for now.
2). Directly Benefit Your Business
Benefits can manifest in different ways. But if you’re a sales-driven organisation, generating leads from your Thought Leadership activities would be a major benefit. But here is the perverse thing about it. You will fail if you try to turn your content into a glorified sales pitch. Trust is a fragile thing, and even covert pitching won’t work.
Other business benefits include:
- Easier to attract high-quality people to join your team.
- Easier to raise capital from investors.
Consider This Question:
Are you a Thought Leader with something to teach or an operator with something to sell? The point is that you need to be the messenger, not the message. Remember this: the purpose is NOT to show people how smart you are, but to shine a light on their key problems and how to solve them. If you do it well, they will automatically assume you are smart.
Want Kick Butt Thought Leadership Content?
There are two vital thought leadership ingredients:
1). Don’t be Bland, Take a Stand
Survey Monkey created a Thought Leadership Report based on their thought leadership survey responses. It found that 64% of SurveyMonkey’s respondents expected thought leadership content to “challenge the way they think.”
Choose a side for the best thought leadership pieces, and then include personal stories and anecdotes to bolster your argument.
The best thought leadership content should demonstrate that you (and, by extension, your company) aren’t afraid to stand for your values.
The good news is that you don’t have to be Elon Musk to be perceived as a thought leader. But your content should have several of the following elements or goals:
- Be educational
- Drive action
- Leverage data
- Say something new
- Provoke discussion
David Ramos, senior SEO analyst at AAA, says this:
“Thought leadership pieces should never be afraid to lean into an opinion, even a controversial one. Use it to draw in your target audience and repel everyone else.”
Perversely, I see it thought leadership content as a way to empower people on one hand but also to bend them to your will.
2). Tell Stories – Yours and Others
All good content should do that, but here is the difference between data-driven white papers, reports, SEO blogs and old-style case studies……
Thought leadership content should engage your audience emotionally based on your experiences, insights, perspectives and expertise.
You don’t have to be well-known to become a Thought Leader. As indicated earlier, you need three main attributes:
- The strength of your ideas.
- Your commitment to prosecute the case for change.
- Your communication skills, especially the written word. (And yes, we can help you create great content.)
You know plenty already, so let’s bridge the communication gap and the quicker, the better.
How to Generate Leads From Thought Leadership Content
Step 1. Create the Right Content
Four content types:
- Pick a Fight (Stir ‘Em Up)
- Teach Them Something
- Make a Case
- Tell a Story
Step 2. Distribute Your Content
One to many (the basics):
- LinkedIn posts
- LinkedIn articles
- LinkedIn live events
- Your blog
- Other people’s blogs (guest posting)
- Podcast guest spots.
- Various forums.
Step 3. Multiply Your Results
One to Many (on steroids):
- LinkedIn paid traffic
- Air time – radio and TV interviews
- Print media (features and mentions)
- Publish a book