Thought Leadership for Tomorrow 2024: Master Thought Leadership with the 4 Rs LEARN MORE

Why Content Should Be at the Heart of Your Thought Leadership Strategy

True thought leadership entails getting to quality niche ideas and industry concepts before any other players in that field. The quest to continually be on the right path of this thought leadership concept pushes many thought leaders into doing too much too fast.

Agile processes are a must for any marketing team that will weather the storms of the new decade. That does not mean going at things at a bizarre pace, though. It surely does not mean trying to add too many things to the plate at the same time.

We have often looked at the top thought leaders to see what they do for optimal success. Drawing from internal and external insights, we have seen that less is sometimes more. The top thought leaders in the game have identified content as the most important point of focus – and for good reason too.

Why Focus on Content

The smartest thought leaders know the place of data in their campaigns. Not quite long ago, we discussed the data-driven strategies that thought leaders use for a better ROI model. One major takeaway from that piece is that savvy thought leaders track and measure everything.

That is where we got the idea to dig into the data behind it all also. If we say that content is the singular most important thing to focus on, is that a sentimental belief or one rooted in quality data?

1 Visibility to the Audience

Even with the best thoughts and content, a thought leader is not fully made if they do not have an audience. They would just be creating content that no one is seeing. Thus, this content does not convert either.

A HubSpot study found out that companies with a focus on blogging have 434% indexed pages than companies who do not.

When a blog has a lot of indexed pages, it helps the other pages on the blog get ranking too. With more ranking comes more authority in that niche. In little time, Google and other search engines begin to recommend your content to readers seeking relevant queries.

With more traffic comes a higher chance of conversion. With a higher chance of conversion comes more happy customers. With more happy customers come more word of mouth recommendations – and an even bigger consumer base for you.

That said, 70% of the business audience prefers an article to an ad when learning about a company.

2 Consumption is on the Rise

It took a joint LinkedIn and Edelman study with more than 1,200 participants to establish the true reach of thought leadership content.

While many content creators and marketers might not be giving it much thought, their intended audience is doing so. Just between 2019 and 2020, the rate of consumption for such content jumped 8% (from 50% to 58%) – and the number is expected to keep rising.

The interesting thing here is that the market for thought leadership content is highly unsaturated. In this regard, we mean true thought leadership content and not just any kind of content dubbed so.

If there is ever a good time to get in on creating more content, it is now. By the time that the rest of the market will catch on, your brand will be far ahead. Talk about leaving the competition in the dust.

3 You Are Not Doing Enough Yet

We know you are trying your best, but you could be doing better with content.

There are a lot of sides to being a thought leader. Some focus on the aspect of marketing themselves to the extent that they fail to elevate their content. That is going about things the wrong way. The smart thought leaders are not in it for the fame or name. Done right, the fame seeks them out anyways.

How did we come about the fact that most thought leaders aren’t doing enough yet, though? We didn’t. Your audience did.

A massive 88% of B2B decision-makers consented to forming a perception of organizations through their thought leadership content. Of that crowd, only 17% said that they have read very good or even excellent thought leadership. Before you discard these numbers, they reflect the thoughts of more than 3,000 respondents across decision-makers in the US and major European countries too.

Here, it is not a matter of not having enough of that content to read. It is a matter of getting poor content which could hurt a brand’s reputation.

4 Sales

Things are not all abstract with thought leadership. This kind of content also leads to sales – the serious kind of it.

Another Edelman/ LinkedIn study shared multiple insights that support this. Some of the standout stats from that survey tells us that:

  • 58% of companies will choose to award contracts/sales to another organization, based on the strength of their thought leadership alone. What makes those numbers even more interesting is that a huge percentage of the considered brands were not on the list initially. Their thought leadership opened the doors to them.
  • Another 61% of these decision-makers do not mind paying a premium to work with brands that have shown clear and concise messaging via their thought leadership. They do not mind the price because they know that they are getting expertise, uniqueness, and a competitive edge from such thought leaders. All that pays dividends in the long run, making it a win-win for all parties involved.

We have developed a more in-depth look into the impact of thought leadership content to sales.

How to Focus on Content

In our running thought leadership series, we have already discussed how the right content mix is crucial to effective thought leadership. That is not enough to get you to the front of the line, though.

Nearly half (49%) of B2B buyers said they developed a poor impression of a company after reading poor thought leadership content from them. Thus, allow us to rephrase the idea we started with:

Smart thought leaders do not just focus on content. They focus on the right, valuable content.

Employing the strategies below sets your content creation strategy on the right track.

1 What Counts?

There are diverse kinds of content to be created. Which one of those falls into the thought leadership class?

A research carried out by SurveyMonkey across an audience of 80 million people in hundreds of countries yielded interesting results. According to them, the kind of content that they associate with thought leadership include:

  • Educational content – 70% of the audience believe that brands should be able to effectively educate their audience on internal products, processes, troubleshooting, and the likes.
  • Identification of trends – every industry has trends that determine where its future lies. That is why 69% of B2B buyers are interested in reading about new trends that they might have been oblivious to themselves.
  • Research reports – the contents of such reports could vary, according to industry. A common mention on this blog is the CEO Outlook research reports KPMG. These reports are often looked forward to because of the kind of insight and data they pack. That should be the template for your reports too.
  • Interviews – over half of the respondents (58%) also want to see interviews. These will be interviews with industry leaders, trendsetters, and trailblazers. The interviews should also feature intriguing questions to provoke mind-stimulating answers. A streak of such interviews will set you up as a thought leader in your field too, even if just leveraging the influence of others.
  • Inspirational content – supported as a desired thought leadership content by 49% of the responding audience, find ways to boost the spirits of your audience base also. State the facts, no doubt, but make sure they find that glimmer of hope when they look to you.

2 Make it Compelling

There was a time when an audience could just take the words of a supposed thought leader at face value. Over time, such content has disappointed the audience.

Today, that same audience can be forgiven for not believing your thoughts – even if those thoughts are right.

Compelling content solves this problem quite easily.

A body of research shows that 82% of your audience would rather an article built on solid data than the author’s opinion.

Don’t get us wrong. This does not mean that your thoughts are wrong. Quite the contrary. What it does mean is that you need to be able to put hard facts behind those thoughts.

It is not surprising that 72% of readers believe that a data-based body of research is more compelling than op-eds. When you can put your money where your mouth is, there is more reason to believe what you are saying.

3 Transparency

Percentages do not take into account the sample size and space. We have done enough research to know that the methodology of research, sample size, and other metrics impact the results.

For example, having 7 of 10 people agree to an idea will be reported as a 70% agreement rate. The same is true for 700 out of 1000. The only difference is that the latter case will create a more believable result base than the former. That is why the audience might be skeptical to accept your data if they do not know how you came about it.

Let the audience know your sample space and the demographics distribution, along with other important data-collection metrics that might show the bias in your data – or otherwise.

KPMG has this habit of conducting regional CEO Outlook (for specific countries) and a global study too.

This declaration helps players to apply the data that they get effectively since things are not always the same in different markets. Without such disclosure, they could be setting a partner up for some poor results.

You don’t want to be the thought leader that caused one of your audience to tank.

Get Started Today

More work needs to be done in the thought leadership department, and your brand is not left out either. If you have been doing it right, this is the call to amp your game to the next level. If otherwise, this is also a wake-up call to stop bleeding your brand reputation.

The winners in thought leadership will be those brands that have built a unique system of content that drives value from the brand to the target audience. Those will be the brands that are perfectly positioned to capture the leads and make maximum ROI – no matter how that is measured – from their efforts.

When that time comes, your brand should not be found wanting.

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