Category Archives: Demand Generation

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


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.


First things first – Thought Leadership before lead generation in your social marketing strategy

ROI is hard to prove for social media marketing, but most executives intuitively realize that social media is good for building thought leadership.  With credibility comes trust.  With trust comes referrals. So are firms putting the cart before the horse when linking social media investment into lead generation activity?

As @B2Bento commented in a recent #B2BChat: “Without crossing the thought leadership and engagement bridge – jumping to lead generation is suicidal”.  His comment implies that if thought leadership and engagement strategies are first worked out, the next step might or should be lead generation.  I concur.

I certainly believe that the overall marketing strategy and the thought leadership strategy need to be mapped out together.    And  of course from that strategy spring tactics around lead generation and brand building. We are all in this together.

Thought Leadership – Better for inbound/organic or outbound/proactive?

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?

Sales as Supermen – How Thought Leadership can help them.

I just tweeted about a blog post that listed the benefits of thought leadership.   One that really caught my eye was “Shortens the sales cycle because buyers have invested psychologically into your service/product before they buy”.  Coming from a sales background before moving to marketing, that benefit really resonated with me.  And of course if you want your VP of sales and the sales team onboard with your thought leadership investment, with this benefit  you need to look no further.

Speaking of sales teams and sales leaders, it’s critical that they buy into your thought leadership initiative.  If sales isn’t pushing your thought leadership content, you will only partially succeed.  With complex products and sophisticated buyers, sales people will always be the number one weapon.

Finally, some of have blogged about content marketing as fundamentally changing the sales process.  I for one believe that getting sales involved with the customer early in the sales cycle is still a major goal of a B2B marketing organization.  The concept of content marketing is a good one but many have followed its best practices before it had a name.

B2B In-person events and Thought Leadership

As shown in a poll I described in an earlier post, in-person events are a great place to secure B2B Thought Leadership.  It’s also a great place to land business if your speech impressed someone at the event.  That’s two for the price of one.

But how can a firm leverage its in-person events AFTER everyone has gone home?  How can you reach out to someone who attended, but didn’t get a chance to talk directly to you (boy, you must be one good speaker for that to happen!)? How about reaching those that attended but couldn’t make your session?  For that matter, how do you reach the person that wanted to attend, but their schedule couldn’t accomodate it or their budget was busted?  And what about all that nice content that you developed that worked so well in-person?

Do you get someone to video you there?  That’s pretty expensive and the editing process will be time intensive.  Not to mention video is good for some subject matters, but not always so good for complex subjects.

I can offer two suggestions which are not mutually exclusive.  First you can make a webinar out of the material you created.  If you go this route, make sure you target the right segments and craft the content to meet the needs of that segment.  Make it interactive by adding polls to capture market research.  Make it engaging by embedding multi-media and video in short engaging snippets (no one wants to keep on staring at PowerPoint slides!).  And just don’t send out an email invite to the usual suspects or issue a press release.  Go all out and use every channel at your disposal, including social media.

The second suggestion is to use a tool like Articulate to create engaging Flash based presentation that are self-service oriented.  Without a moderator or the absence of the “dropping out” guilt feeling, these recordings need to be sharp, easy to navigate and to the point.  Once developed these can be sent out via all channels and if properly developed, can have a long shelf life.  You can even see what slides someone has viewed and how long they spent on a particular slide!

Thought Leadership Campaigns – Can they be measured?

Many think of Thought Leadership development as a necessary duty but an initiative that cannot be measured in terms of leads or revenue. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  In fact, every Thought Leadership campaign should be part of an overall strategic marketing plan that specifies expected results from the marketing investment.

One easy example comes from webinars or real time moderated social media events.  At every opportunity the customer or prospect should be asked to “raise their hand” and identify themselves.  If you have a marketing automation system, it’s quite easy to cookie the individual and start building their lead score.  With every interaction, whether thought leadership related or not, the lead becomes that much more valuable.