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.


Twitter Lists for B2B: 1. Make a list of thought leaders in your industry

Back in October Kipp Bodnar wrote about leveraging twitter lists for B2B success.  One good tip is to create lists of thought leaders.  So simple, but what a great idea.  How many out there have done that for your industry?  I will do a poll on LinkedIn to ask that same question and report back the results.

B2B Thought Leadership – Helping solve an immediate, complex problem

Recently Tim Parker of the Bloom Group write an article entitled Thought Leadership: It’s Not About the Writing.  In it he delineates the Bloom Group’s definition of thought leadership:  “Publishing information material on a complex issue to position a company as an expert in its field”.  While I agree with the definition, I still wrestle with a notion that it takes up more space.

I still don’t have a definition of it that satisfies me, but hopefully some day soon I will stake my claim.  So far, the best I can say is that I disagree with Gartner’s recent definition (see this post for my reasoning). Admittedly that is a cowards way out, but for now, it’s all I can do.

The Bloom Group’s post, however, is prov0cative in its use of the words “complex and immediate problems”.   While of course immediate problems are very important, sometime the issue is so complex that it cannot be readily be defined with enough specificity to invite a solution.   In others words, thought leadership is not just about solving the problem but also serves to discover out the nuances of the problem.

I will try to come up with a good example of this in my next post.  All the best.  Mark

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.

Thought Leadership now on the top level nav bar!

Recently I ran across the web site for Tata Consultancy Services.  The site is rather unique in that it calls out Thought Leadership in its upper navigation bar next to Offerings and Industries.  It’s exciting that thought leadership is getting such a big headline.  At the same time, I am concerned that this attention will only be short lived if many companies highlight their thought leadership without first developing a thought leadership strategy consistent with their marketing and business strategy.  I alluded to this “disconnect” in earlier posting about Gartner’s attempt to define thought leadership.

It would truly be sad if  readers looking for deep thought leadership moan “Ughh!” and simply bypass top navigation menus offering TL content.  I am afraid that this might happpen if more and more sites promise thought leadership, but instead exclusively serve up marketing centric content.  I guarantee this will happen if a preponderance of companies take it even further (or lower) by using TL to harbor thinly veiled product positioning documents.

Groundswell as Good Example of Thought Leadership

The other day a senior executive asked me for a good example of Thought Leadership.  I quickly thought of the Forrester book Groundswell and all of the attention it grabbed.  Like a good thought leader Forrester was ahead of the game.  Did it have all the answers, no.  But it did try to cover the landscape and offer a framework of how to handle the new phenomenon of social media.  Was it perfect?  No, but no one was looking for all the answers.  They just wanted someone in authority to come out and try to tackle it.

Lately Forrester has had a few issues around the Groundswell itself.  I encourage you to read the recent blog posting by a VP at Forrester about the issue.  It could serve you well if your firm confronts backlash as a result of tackling difficult issues in your industry as a thought leader.