Social Media for small biz leads to interaction w/industry pros & thought leadership

My favorite chat session B2BChat has produced again.  Below is a question posed that spurred the following comment about how small biz can gain a thought leadership advantage using social media:

What are social media’s practical benefits, even for companies who do not monetize their web sites?

The responses varied from lead conversion metrics (from those lucky enough to have a closed-loop lead tracking system), to better understanding he industry landscape and listening to conversations, market intelligence and building personas.

  • SM for a small biz helps to level the playing field; leads to interaction with industry pros – as long as you provide quality content

The last observation was especially interesting to me; you don’t need to have a huge PR or ad budget to know what is happening in the industry, and you can engage with the influencers directly. In addition, having the first-mover advantage, you can establish a position in social media and stand apart from the crowd.

I agree with the moderator’s comment about the low cost of thought leadership campaigns using thought leadership.  If you have the knowledge and content to back up your interactions with the industry pro’s, they won’t care how large a company you represent.


Siteless Web means you have to bring Thought Leadership to the customer

A good friend of mine, David Wieneke, just posted an excellent article on his blog about the coming of the siteless web.  I believe this trend will have profound impact on how a B2B company will implement a thought leadership strategy over the coming years.  The days of “post on your web site, and they will come” are gone.

Read the article to learn more about how traditional web sites and pages will give way to mashups and blogs.  The result, according to Dave, is a ” web experience that at first is highly distributed and less centered on home pages. This, I believe, will easily transition to applications experiences that don’t rely on the conventions of pages, sites, or even being online.”

Source: Hubspot

The initial proof in Dave’s pudding is the trend toward blogging (both for thought leadership as well as other initiative).  Studies have shown that already blogging is just as important that corporate web sites.  In some cases even more important.  For example a recent Hubspot study indicates that companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages that those that don’t blog.

In most cases the blog comes to the user via a referral (digital or otherwise).  In the case of thought leadership, the referral might come from someone you follow on Twitter who tweets about a meaningful article (post, video, chat session, virtual conference, etc.) about a key issue in your industry.  Or it could be some who reads the posts and sends a link to it via email.  The key is that with the birth of social media and its networks of followers and recommenders, there are a whole lot more ways to build credibility and trust in the eyes of your customers and prospects with your thought leadership content.


Content Marketing confusing Thought Leadership initiatives?

With the social media explosion, a group of PR and marcom professionals have adopted Content Marketing as their mantra.  Some go so far as to include key B2B marketing principles (like segmentation) taught by Northwestern professor Philip Kotler and practiced by many for a long time.    That’s well and good, but telling someone to segment is not the same as advising them on how to comply with CAN SPAM laws.  With the content marketing articles I have seen, there is a dearth of real meaty advice on how to segment and position solutions to customer needs, and a surplus of tactical advice on how to post and tweet.  In the end, I don’t think “content marketing” is comprehensive enough of a methodology for B2B marketing professionals who work with sophisticated products with long sales (ahem, buy)  cycles.

While I agree that some of the core ideas of Content Marketing are very, very good….. for example, advocating that the sales cycle should be flipped to the “buy cycle” and to engage customers in a dialogue….I do not believe that proactive targeted marketing campaigns just won’t work any more, as some seem to imply.

So what has this do do with Thought Leadership initiatives?   Well for one, I believe that Thought Leadership is one of the key pillars of a B2B firm’s marketing strategy.  And as such, an over reliance on Content Marketing could jeopardize those efforts.  Second, the uneducated could easily jump to the conclusion that Content = Thought Leadership….and nothing could be further from the truth.

Take for example the following comment from Craig Badings who responded to a comment of mine on his interview with David Meerhman Scott from his excellent Thought Leadership blog:

Craig: “Merely supplying content doesn’t make you a thought leader. Rather, thought leadership content should shape or frame the discussion in your market. It should make people question, see things differently, deliver interesting and unique insights to elements of the buyers life that other product/service suppliers aren’t doing. And all of this should be done to engage with your clients and to invest in building trust.”

Craig’s comments are dead on.  Originally  I had written:

“In my mind, new terms like “content marketing”, “knowledge marketing” or “thought leadership” marketing appear to confuse the basic issues involved in B2B marketing….. Many marketers over focus on the solutions (they call them products).  Many others (in particular PR and marcom) just focus on communicating content, but don’t want to get to dirty with the needs or the solutions.  My sole point is that while social media might has changed some of the ways we can communicate with customers, it hasn’t altered basic B2B marketing principles they way many now so claim (under the cover of terms like content marketing).

Craig summed it up nicely:

“…..the basic B2B marketing principles stay the same – content marketing, thought leadership, etc should all be informed by those principles.”


Creating a thought leadership portal is not as hard as you might think

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You say to yourself:

Yes, I need to create articles on the thought leadership topics that are most important to my industry.

Yes, I  need to get the “best of the best” blog articles syndicated to my site

Yes, I need to use thought leadership to generate leads early in the buy cycle

Yes, I need to shape my online brand through thought leadershership

……but how on earth can you do this without taking a significant chunk out of your marketing resources and budget?

Actually there are a number of ways to do this, but I encourage you to check out this solution as one way to build a Social Media Marketing Portal for the key words linked to your thought leadership initiative.


Facebook a tool for B2B thought leadership?

I am very high on a chat session called #B2Bchat .  In this week’s session they focused on using Facebook for B2B marketing.  Although B2B thought leadership was not explicitly addressed, I believe that most of the observations apply.    

For example, several participants commented in response to the following question: What is the largest barrier for B2B companies to start a Facebook presence?

  • A significant barrier to expanding/improving a Facebook presence is simply having the time to devote to it.

I have heard like productivity comments many times and from many different sources, and not just with regard to Facebook.  B2B marketers definitely need new tools to quickly add and curate content.

Another comment caught my eye:

  • Facebook needs to have more effective integration with other lead generation activities

I predict that lead generation via any social media tool will be a hot topic.  Please see an earlier posting of mine that addresses the linkage between thought leadership and lead generation.


56% of companies consider Thought Leadership as their second biggest objective for B2B marketing

This is a great statistic from a great article from Natalie Wood that shows the growing importance of thought leadership for the entire B2B market, not just consulting companies:

A key finding from the survey: Engaging Global Executives: Ten Megatrends in B2B Marketing, shows that 56% of companies consider Thought Leadership as their second biggest objective for B2B marketing.  That’s number two behind building new business as the top priority in the next 3-5 years.”

This article also has lots of other good content.  I really like that she repeats one of my favorite definitions of thought leadership:

the recognition from the outside world that the company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers and the broader marketplace in which it operates.” Elise Bauer.

Extending this even further, Natalie goes on to write: “By understanding the full impact of Thought Leadership companies can align the macro forces shaping their markets with the micro strategies of their company for smarter product and marketing decisions”

Now that’s value any senior executive can surely recognize.



Poll results – How we monitor thought leaders’ new content

As promised in my post on building Twitter lists to follow thought leaders, please see my poll results.  I was sort of amazed at the number of people actually using Twitter lists for this reason.  I assumed it would be a smaller number.  By the way, I just love LinkedIn polls.  You can even target an audience based on attributes such as job title, industry or age.