I have read a lot of postings that thought leadership content is great for inbound marketing, particularly if the article, white paper, blog post, etc. is focused on a “hot” topic or need. In the same vein, the prevailing notion is that thought leadership content is better suited for awareness stage of the sales cycle.
My take is that thought leadership possesses just as much relevance for outbound marketing as inbound. Similarly, TL content is just as important in the late stages of the buy cycle as it is for the earlier stages.
Let’s take the outbound vs. inbound question first. In my mind, the two are inexorably linked. In fact, thought leadership content (or any marketing content for that matter) should be focused on a well defined need in the market and the campaign to target customers with that need should be explicitly segmented in your outbound campaign (email, webinar, etc,). If properly done, the profile of those that respond via inbound/ organic means should be close to that you explicitly targeted. The best situation would be for them to be touched by both means.
Now the sales cycle. Awareness, interest and evaluation are chief phases of the sales cycle where marketing plays a role. Qualification is strictly for sales although in the closing phase a timely reminder of thought leadership can help overcome the hesitation factor. Most articles and postings that I have read lately focus on the impact of thought leadership on the awareness and interest phases. Certainly TL fits well in those stages.
However, thought leadership also plays a role in the evaluation phase of the sales cycle. For example, many companies implicitly evaluate a vendor’s future strategic direction (i.e. thought leadership) by explicitly evaluated a roadmap or schedule of new features.
What do you think?