The transformation of B2B buying has made Thought Leadership marketing one of the most critical B2B marketing categories today, especially in technology businesses. According to a research by LinkedIn, companies with a strong Thought Leadership position get more RFP invitations, gain buyer preference and simply, sell more. But, what makes a tech company an industry Thought Leader? How to test if your company is?
B2B business has changed from a vendor driven push-process into a pull-process orchestrated by buyers, who today are technology-savvy professionals able to collect and compare information about competing technologies and offerings. Vendors are contacted later after preliminary shortlisting.
This buyer-dominated business process makes a credible and visible Thought Leadership position a question of existence for tech companies. Only vendors with a strong Thought Leadership image will stay on the radar of B2B buyers whenever they activate their buying processes.
The complexity of the B2B decision-making process, the length of time it takes for decisions to be made and the number of people involved makes Thought Leadership marketing an important sales tool of B2B companies. It can help the people involved in the business decision to gain alignment among their peers, which isn’t a walk in a park in any corporate-like organization.
Thought Leadership is a type of content marketing where a company taps into the competence, experience and knowledge inside their business to consistently address the biggest questions and challenges on the minds of their target audiences on topics considered relevant in the whole industry.
Defining an Industry Thought Leader
Thought Leadership is an ambiguous and abstract concept; several slightly varying definitions exist which are all probably equally correct. The Thought Leading companies and individuals in B2B technology markets share some common qualities, which separate them from the crowd.
The content created by Thought Leader companies is recognized by others as innovative, topical and insightful. It provides a depth of knowledge that most companies do not share in public.
Thought Leadership content addresses customers’ challenges and defines the best ways to meet them. Many companies talk about their products and how they are better, but that’s where they go wrong. That is called self-promotion, not Thought Leadership and it turns off the audience. The media will not publish or cite such content.
Companies that are perceived as Thought Leaders are known to possess deep and broad knowledge about their industry, and they are considered to be ahead of the crowd. When they openly share their views, the media publishes their content and writes about them. That enforces the positive spiral effect by increasing their credibility and making them known to a larger audience.
Thought Leading companies naturally have Thought Leading individuals; experts, leaders and evangelists. People in the industry follow them on social media, news and conferences, because they can’t afford not to.
Industry organizations and conferences are the face of an industry, the establishment. The companies considered Thought Leaders contribute to these organizations, and use them to strengthen their image. When the members of a company are invited to speak at conferences, or are a visible figure in an industry organization, it builds the Thought Leadership position of the entire company.
The ultimate Thought Leading companies are like rock stars of their industries, regardless of on how un-sexy field of practice they might be operating. Their customers do not hesitate to appear as their public references and to give them public credit.
Differentiation in tech business is hard. The best performing companies in an industry can use Thought Leadership simply as a vehicle to set them apart from the crowd, to stay in the minds of potential buyers, making sure they will be included in the shortlist whenever a new buying processes activates!
Does your company rank as a Thought Leader? Test it!
Industry Thought Leadership is an abstract concept and difficult to measure. This simple quiz tests you and your company on the key Thought Leadership areas, namely: content quality, social media engagement, earned media coverage, industry organization contribution, and based on your reputation among customers.
Is your company a Thought Leader? Take the Thought Leadership Test and find out!