Ask any startup about their marketing priorities and they’ll no doubt list thought leadership in the top three.
A successful thought leadership strategy builds trust, demonstrates your expertise, and solidifies your company’s presence in the market.
Despite its importance for generating leads, most brands still have much work to do improving their thought leadership content.
89% of decisionmakers say thought leadership helps them better understand organizations yet less than 20% say the thought leadership content they consume is either “very good” or “excellent.”
Most companies approach thought leadership the wrong way. They let their egos guide their thought leadership content. Instead of considering their audience’s needs, executives tend to think about impressing their colleagues via thought leadership.
How to boost ROI from thought leadership with effective research: 8 tips and strategies
Nearly half of decisionmakers say an organization’s thought leadership content directly contributes to their purchasing decision. We have to take the buyer’s words for it too because 74% of companies say they have no strategy for tracking the sales impact of thought leadership.
Any smart marketer knows that comprehensive research is the backbone of an effective content marketing strategy. With thought leadership, research is even more critical – especially for driving and tracking ROI.
1. Knowing Tomorrow’s Questions to Answer and Problems to Solve
Effective thought leadership starts with one basic question: What do your leads need from your company?
Thought leadership is really about demonstrating the expertise of your company and leadership – not promoting yourself as an individual.
To do that, you must figure out what problems your audience will face, not today, but tomorrow. Your leads are decisionmakers thinking five years ahead. You must do the same.
It’s hard enough identifying current pain points and issues your leads deal with for content marketing. With thought leadership, qualitative and quantitative research, well-structured surveys, and strategic questionnaire designs are the only solution.
2. Build Trust at Every Stage of the Funnel
Your next question should be “what do my leads need from me at each stage of the funnel?”
77% of B2B buyers said their last purchase was complex or difficult. Thought leadership is about figuring out how to make it easier and in doing so, demonstrating why you’re the best choice for the job.
It’s a delicate dance because unlike content marketing, your thought leadership doesn’t promote your products or services.
Research is key to creating successful thought leadership content that wins hearts and minds. What value propositions are most important to your target audience and how can you use thought leadership to prove you’re the answer?
3. Boost Your Credibility with Other Thought Leadership Voices
How will you build authority through your thought leadership? It takes time to earn trust and recognition as a thought leader.
You could wait it out and hope for the best, sure. However, it’s much more effective to partner with other industry thought leaders your audience already trusts.
Comprehensive research can help you pinpoint the best podcast guests, promotional channels, social media groups, guest blog sites, and subject matter experts to boost your content.
4. Find New Market Segments and Identify Upcoming Trends
Comprehensive thought leadership research gives you a better understanding of who your audience is.
After running surveys and questionnaires, you might come to realize your brand’s mission and value proposition doesn’t match that of the audience you’ve been targeting.
Successful thought leadership should come somewhat naturally. You shouldn’t have to force people to relate. By studying different segments and how you fit in, your thought leadership will always connect with the right folks.
5. Never Run Out of Topics
Coming up with fresh topics is a huge challenge for most thought leaders. Here’s the thing. If you’re approaching thought leadership from a self-serving angle, you’ll hit a topic wall almost every time you write.
Spencer Ante of Edelman recommends approaching thought leadership from a journalistic angle instead. Journalists never run out of ideas because there’s always something happening within their niche. News never stops.
Your industry is the same way. And just like a journalist, you must prioritize constant research to uncover the big story and keep people hooked.
6. Demonstrate Why People Should Choose You Over Competitors
Standing apart from competitors seems like an impossible feat in industries like technology and finance. It’s really not so hard when you have a comprehensive understanding of who your competition is, what they focus on, and what people think about them.
After thorough research, you might realize you’ve been competing with other companies on price point when you should have been focusing on customer service, for example. It’s not about you. It’s about your audience.
7. Understand Your Goals and KPIs
You can’t boost ROI if you don’t know how to measure your thought leadership – and nearly three-quarters don’t.
Thought leadership measurement takes some finessing and research to find the right KPIs. You need to have a solid grasp of your audience’s behavior and expectations.
For some thought leaders, ROI could look like more speaking engagements or preventing customer churn. It all depends.
8. Solidify a Thought Leadership Voice
Of course, your thought leadership voice should be your own but it should also be consistent and resonate with your audience.
Face it: Your audience will not trust and respect you as a leader overnight. Consistency is key to slowly building trust over time. To generate more leads from your thought leadership, you need to show people that they can trust your innovation and dedication. A well-researched editorial line works in both journalism and thought leadership.
Show Your Audience You’re in It for the Long-Haul
Thought leadership isn’t about showing your colleagues how smart and successful you are. It’s not about edginess for its own sake either.
Thought leadership demonstrates your expertise. It shows that you’re prepared not only to solve today’s problems, but to roll with tomorrow’s punches too.
That’s what your audience notices. That’s what matters. Comprehensive research is the only way to understand what your leads need from you and how to create it via thought leadership.
Learn how industry leaders drive more ROI with original research from iResearch Services.
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