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Why Thought Leadership Is So Important to Sales Success

The thought leader is an all-in-one creation that looks too good to be true.

They embody all of the values of the brand that they represent while having an uncommon insight into their industry, borne out of years of expertise and bouts of quality research. Combining all of that births thought-provoking, intriguing content that moves the needle for them and their clients.

Without scratching the surface, thought leadership sounds like just another model of content marketing. Parallels can be drawn between these two, but they take entirely different approaches to how they tackle addressing the audience.

Effective thought leadership, however, is not only borne out of a need to ‘preach’ to the audience. Proper execution leads to the idea of pushing for sales without really selling anything.

The Sales Angle

Often, sales are classified as the exchange of money for services or products. No matter what a company is selling, sales go beyond just that.

Before the exchange of cash for commodities happen, a lot more sales processes have already gone down. Here, we split things into the direct and indirect sales model.

Thought leadership approaches sales from both angles – depending on the employed for the process.

1 Competitive Advantage

Deloitte has fast grown to become a household name in the finance industry.

The umbrella company aggregates the best auditing, consulting, financial advisory, and tax personnel, among others, from all around the world. Deloitte’s operational model is one where they do not need to employ these professionals directly. They only bring them together and dispatch them to clients who are seeking Deloitte’s services.

In other words, Deloitte is the broker for quality financial services.

That begs the question of if these clients could not just go to the firms where the professionals work to get them. One of the ways Deloitte has solved that problem is by showing these clients that they can solve any problem in the chosen industry.

The Deloitte Insights corner is one of the most powerful thought leadership content in this industry. For every niche that the company has a hand in, there are thousands of thought leaders to create thought-provoking content. When you have a pool of over a quarter-million dedicated professionals to choose from, that is what you get.

The topnotch thought leadership content that Deloitte aggregates this way is what brings the clients in. That has effectively set the company apart from other competitors in the same space. That has also improved the value that the company can command.

It is, thus, little wonder why C-suite executives themselves have claimed they have no problem paying a premium to companies with clear thought leadership content.

2 Improved Market Visibility

Every industry has a lot of players. Some are known far and wide while others are only known in their locale. We will go out on a limb to say that the fact that a firm is not well known within its industry does not mean other firms are better at delivering value. It simply means that the other firms are great at maintaining visibility alongside the value that they deliver.

One example that always comes to mind here is Adobe. The company started with a slew of video editing tools, image manipulation software, web design tools, and more. After some success on that, Adobe pivoted into digital marketing.

This is a move that makes a lot of sense if you ask us. The company already has a series of tools to work on websites, videos, images, and designs of almost any kind. It only made sense that they can focus some of these tools better, repackage them, and sell them as part of a digital marketing offering.

Adobe didn’t fail on that, quickly identifying a target market (the marketing C-suite executives) and dedicating an Adobe CMO microsite to that market. Today, Adobe is a force to be reckoned with regards to marketing insights, spotting trends in the industry, and providing ready help to marketers and marketing executives.

With such an effective thought leadership strategy, they are almost always in the sights of their target market.

3 Better Consumer Retention

One of the surest guarantees for sale is a good consumer retention policy.

On average, of the business that a brand enjoys comes from its existing consumer base. It would, thus, make sense to concentrate hard on keeping them in before gunning for new prospects.

Armed with that, LinkedIn and Edelman set out on one of their partnership researches having a survey space of more than 1,200 respondents across continents. The findings of this survey showed that some 55% of executives were doing more business with brands on the strength of the thought leadership that those brands put out.

After the initial business, these B2B buyers have reasons to come back. That could be a factor of either or both of two things:

  • Direct sales – where the brand interacts financially with a client, exchange the commodities that it creates with the money from such a buyer
  • Indirect sales – much more important than direct sales, and drives the direction of direct sales too. Consumers do not just buy products anymore. They also buy into the values of the company, buy into the ideas, and have to be convinced of the authority of such a brand. In other words, every brand has to continually package and sell itself to the consumer in the best possible light. Done right, this unlocks the door to better customer acquisition and improved consumer retention.There is a caveat here, though. An updated study from Edelman and LinkedIn in 2020 showed that 49% of B2B buyers thought less of a company after reading poor thought leadership content from them.Thus, thought leadership has to constantly evolve and be bettered if it is to help keep the buyers.4 Hedge against RecessionThe past six months have been a tumultuous rollercoaster ride for the corporate world. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world of business as we know it, and that is not changing anytime soon.One of the major moves that we saw across firms in different industries was the scaling back on financial commitments. Put in another way, only essential spending is approved.The keyword there is essential.A thought leader is not just a seller to their B2B buyers. They have risen through those ranks to become an essential partner to their buyers’ businesses. These thought leaders are looked to for solutions to problems – and are equally expected to anticipate the problems before they surface at all.Such a thought leader cannot be cut off from the budget list, no matter how things get. Thus, they are always in business even when there is a recession.5 Business SophisticationThought leadership is never the responsibility of any one person alone. There will be a champion, no doubt, but effective thought leadership will trickle down to all parts of the brand. This eliminates the talkers, shuts out mediocrity and brings in doers with a higher level of business sophistication.Buyers are not looking for the people that can repeat what is on the brochure to them. They are not interested in learning about the features of what they are getting either. These buyers are looking for those that can talk with better authority about their purchases, sell them on the use-cases, and cost-benefit ratio of the investments they are about to make. That person might not be the champion, but they are also a thought leader at that stage.Deloitte, mentioned above, does not publish content from every one of the professionals that they work with. The company, however, has faith that every Deloitte-branded professional represents the image and values of the company to the highest levels.That is the kind of business sophistication the buyers want to be associated with – and that is what you should give them. The vehicle to take you to that destination is thought leadership.ConclusionThought leadership is not something to be done in the pastime. It should become a habit and second nature to everyone within the company that embraces it. Not everyone is doing it, and that is not bad. It just means you have a leg up over the competition when you get it done the right way.Implemented properly, smashing all the direct and indirect sales metrics becomes increasingly easier.
    • With more thought leadership content, the brands maintain visibility to their previous buyers. This ties in with #2 above
    • Effective thought leadership forces the brand putting it out to innovate and develop from the inside out. B2B buyers do not want to be with a stagnant brand. The new positive movement in their previous vendors will, thus, be too hard to ignore.
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