‘Thought leadership’ is a term you’ll see pop up on your LinkedIn quite frequently. However, what does it actually mean? And how can businesses use it as part of their B2B communications strategy?
As one of our B2B experts here at spottydog, Senior Communications Executive Aman Rai is here to give you the 101 on all things thought leadership.
Firstly, what is thought leadership?
A thought leader is essentially another type of influencer — but instead of Instagram posts about their pup or the latest beauty product, their content is usually around thought-provoking topics in niche or technical industries. They’re an expert in their chosen field that can offer unique views, spark interesting conversations, and share in-depth knowledge and insight.
Contrary to popular belief, a thought leader doesn’t have to be a CEO, like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs; they could be someone from the engineering department or the customer service team. As long as they’re an expert in the business, an effective thought leadership strategy will help to position them as a leader that influences and inspires others in the industry.
In practice, thought leadership can take several different formats — and you’ve probably seen many examples of it when scrolling LinkedIn without even realising it! It could be a podcast debating an industry hot topic, a technical blog debunking industry myths, or an educational article for a trade magazine. The limits are endless, but the key is to make sure the content is unique, informative and insightful — and, most importantly, avoids spouting anything that’s overly promotional.
We’ve established what thought leadership is. But, why should brands use it?
It builds credibility
People buy from people, and in a B2B world, having experts that can provide accurate, reliable information on your brand and product offers customers a reason to believe in what you’re selling.
A thought leader will naturally understand the trends and issues that are impacting their customer markets and be able to speak about them with ease and confidence. This will not only help inform your audience on what’s happening in the industry, but it will help position you as a trusted, authoritative voice.
Humans can be distrustful of brands that are always promotional in their communications, so offering valuable information and opinion can make customers more likely to trust you. It’s like you’re conversing with them, rather than selling to them. According to Edelman and LinkedIn’s 2021 study, 65% of buyers said when done to a high standard, it significantly changes their perception of a business for the better.
Ignite the conversation
It comes as no surprise that posting thoughts and articles about hotly debated topics will help facilitate engaging conversations with your audience. Hot topics in the industry are usually where audiences are focusing their attention, so offering an insightful opinion on that topic places your brand right in front of your target customers. This helps to gain an edge over your competitors.
We often do this for our client, Burdens, a specialist in the civil industry supplying underground drainage and heavy construction products. With recent flooding hitting the UK, and many industry professionals debating what the answer is to this environmental issue, we saw this as an ideal opportunity to bring in Burdens’ Technical Sales Manager who is an expert in all things flood management. With his expert opinion offering insight and solutions, we managed to secure two trade hits in New Civil Engineer and BSEE, as well as generating great engagement on LinkedIn.
Create impact across channels
The great thing about thought leadership is the effectiveness it has across channels, making it an impactful tactic within your B2B comms strategy. LinkedIn is a key channel for thought leadership, but brands shouldn’t underestimate the power it has across different media formats: whitepapers, guest articles, blogs , podcasts, video — and so much more!
Brands can also make their content work harder by repurposing thought leadership content. For example, once a whitepaper is created, you could take snippets for social media, create blogs on different sections, and film videos that summarise the salient points of the whitepaper.
We recommend thinking outside of the box when planning where your thought leadership content features, but always make sure you’re publishing it where your desired audience is. For example, for our EV charging client Indra, we wanted to communicate the benefits of becoming an EV charge point installer for a net zero future. We knew that Instagram was a key channel for installers, so we hosted an Instagram live with a technical expert discussing the topic and answering questions.
Need help with crafting an impactful thought leadership strategy? Get in touch with one of our B2B experts here.