B2B thought leadership content is a very particular beast. Not only is the content unique, but it has very specific goals and a buying journey that’s longer and more complex than that of its B2C cousin.
It’s certainly a challenge, but if you get thought leadership right, the benefits can be huge.
The value of strong content in B2B marketing
B2B buyers consume 13 pieces of content, on average, during a purchase journey that can last several weeks and involve a whole team of people, according to research by FocusVision.
It’s a very different ballgame to B2C, where purchases tend to happen much quicker and in a more linear fashion.
B2B buyers are also more likely to consider a brand that has helped them solve a problem of sorts, and it’s here that thought leadership content can play a crucial part.
What makes thought leadership content different to regular content?
Thought leadership content is unique because it’s aimed specifically at people who are looking for in-depth guidance or clarity on complex topics. That means it needs to be thoroughly researched, authoritative and well-produced, to ensure you’re telling knowledgeable customers something they don’t already know.
There are three main types of thought leadership content:
- Industry content – Exploring news, trends and talking points relevant to your industry now and in the future
- Product/service-related – How-to guides and in-depth explorations of best practices, for example
- Organisational – Conveying your company culture, working practices that drive innovation and talent development
Here, it’s important to consider the role of individuals in the organisation. Senior partners or business leaders have a huge part to play in building brand reputation, so it’s important to work with these individuals to help them grow their digital profile and network.
Third-party endorsement is another area that requires consideration for B2B marketers. Rather than simply talking directly to your audience and expecting them to accept what you say on face value, you could consider working with outside experts and influencers for content creation. Not only does this make your content more credible, but it also makes it more interesting and extends its social reach.
Linking B2B content marketing to revenue generation
B2B marketers face two challenges here: attribution of revenue through a long and complex purchase journey, and getting buy-in from non-marketing senior stakeholders.
On the one hand, analytics can help you track movement through your website and show through attribution modelling how content contributes to lead generation. You can calculate the cost of a lead and the cost of new business by dividing it across your marketing activities in a variety of different ways.
But Google Analytics attribution models were designed for ecommerce, which is wildly different from B2B sales, where purchases are high-value and high-consequence, and the decision-making process is longer and more corporate.
With B2B content marketing, you’re playing the long game. You can’t expect instantaneous results; one piece of content won’t sway the high-value purchase. Content mostly helps at the start of the funnel and it has to be incorporated into the wider marketing strategy.
The micro-success of an individual piece of content should not be overanalysed. You need to focus on long-term trends, including the position of content within the user journey.
Practical tips for B2B thought leadership content
Here are some of the first steps you should consider taking on your journey to create high-quality B2B thought leadership content:
- Talk about something your target audience is interested in
- Answer their questions and challenge their misconceptions
- Appreciate the knowledge and expertise of your team and use that to produce authoritative content
- Be sensitive to potential conflicts of interest and ensure the content you produce is in line with your broader position on relevant issues
- Make it easy for senior company figures to contribute to content
- If your thought leaders don’t have time to pen blog posts themselves, interview them instead, or write a piece and ask them to comment on it
But there’s no need to only focus on senior leaders in the organisation. The everyday experience of everyone in your company could be a goldmine for thought leadership content. Likewise events (whether physical or virtual), especially ones where your leaders are speaking. To maximise the impact of events, you could film the presentations and be clever about how you distribute the video. You also need to write and distribute content to promote your event attendance, live-tweet the activities and make sure your salespeople have relevant content to reference.
There are many mediums for publishing your thought leadership content, so don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd with a format that might not be the obvious choice for B2B buyers.
And finally, just because you create and publish content, doesn’t mean it’s going to automatically reach the right audience. In fact, creating content but failing to invest in its distribution is a waste of money. Social media is a great option, especially LinkedIn as it has some excellent targeting options.
If you’re keen to start making the most of thought leadership content but you’re not sure where to start, we can point you in the right direction.
Need some more information on content marketing? Check out our content marketing page here for everything you need to know.
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