If you’re in the business-to-business (B2B) telecommunications marketing game, then you’re probably aware that thought leadership content can be an important part of your strategy. But you’re probably not aware of just how important it is.
A study last year by the communications firm Edelman found no less than 55% of B2B decision makers use thought leadership to vet potential vendors and partners. The research also found 47% of C-suite executives shared their contact information after reading thought leadership material. And 45% of companies were able to get onto bids by sharing such material.
These figures mean that if you are not already considering a thought leadership-led campaign in 2020, then you should be. But where do you start? The reason thought leadership material is such a valuable icebreaker is precisely that it is not easy to come by. You don’t get to be a thought leader by parroting what everyone else is saying.
Where to find inspiration
Having said that, coming up with ideas for thought leadership content is not difficult if you know where to look. And that’s straight ahead. To be seen as a visionary in your field, you naturally need to have a vision. At its simplest, this means having a view of the future that is relevant to your customers. And using that view to inform your customers’ current strategies. Let’s take an easy example.
Right now, you are probably busy pushing the benefits of the newly launched fifth generation of mobile phone technology, 5G. But what about the next generation, 6G? A technology standard that hasn’t even been developed yet might not seem like an obvious talking point, but that is the secret of thought leadership: if you are already imagining what happens after tomorrow, you’re a visionary.
And theorising about 6G might not be as far-fetched as you would think. It turns out that even President Trump has a view on the matter. Now put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask yourself how a future transition from 5G to 6G might affect them. The kinds of questions you could come up with might include:
- Will my 5G investments be future proofed when 6G comes along? What is the level of interoperability?
- How quickly will 6G follow 5G? Is it worth investing a lot in 5G if I’m going to have to invest again in 6G?
- Do I need to worry about 6G at all? What will it be able to do that I won’t be able to do with 5G?
Being seen as a visionary
Naturally, you don’t have the answers to these questions. Nobody does. But based on your knowledge of the industry, and any information you may have to hand, you may be able to make some educated guesses. And that should be enough. Remember, the point of thought leadership is to provoke thought: often the very act of posing a question is enough for you to be seen as a visionary.
Once you get the hang of it, uncovering thought leadership topics becomes easy. Here are three other examples for you:
- Time horizons: This year has probably had more predictions connected to it than any other in history (including some pretty bizarre ones). But now we’re here, what might be happening in 2030, 10 years from now?
- Incipient trends: Talking about mobility or cloud computing is nothing new in 2020. But other trends, such as artificial intelligence, are still only starting to take a hold. How might they impact your customers’ businesses?
- Current events: Sometimes you can see glimpses of the future in today’s headlines. Take the climate crisis. Can you think of ways your technology can help cut emissions? Then share them with your audience.
Of course, just having visionary thoughts won’t make you a thought leader. You need to communicate your ideas to others. And this is where a bit of extra thought comes in handy. In theory, all you need do is dash out a white paper, pen a blog or simply throw a thought out on Twitter for the world to become aware of your brilliance.
Why the idea alone is not enough
But in practice, this quick-and-easy recipe often comes up against two problems. The first is that writing a white paper, a blog or even a Tweet isn’t always easy when you are a busy executive. You can promise yourself that you’ll get around to writing those 500 words of inspiration one morning this week, and months later realise the task is still on your to-do list.
And the second challenge is that it’s easy to forget that the object of the exercise is to draw potential customers to your brand and to initiate conversations that might result in sales. To that end, if you publish your ideas without any strategy or follow-up then you are simply wasting time.
Instead, you should treat your thought leadership content pieces as nuggets of gold that you can exchange for customer relationships. You need to put as much effort into how each piece is communicated as you do into how it is crafted.
The thought leaders’ secret
When you look at it this way, it’s clear that becoming a thought leader requires effort as well as inspiration. If you’re not prepared to put in the work, then you can’t expect your ideas to travel far. However, there is a tried-and-tested way to get all of the rewards of thought leadership without having to put in the hours. And it’s a method that is being used right now by thought leaders the world over.
Simply come up with the ideas yourself and outsource the process of writing and communicating them. At VirtualROI, for example, we spend our days building thought leadership campaigns for our clients, making sure ideas are crafted, presented and delivered in a way that pulls in leads as well as eyeballs.
Hence, if you want to succeed at thought leadership then here’s the big idea: just focus on getting that 1% inspiration right… and leave the 99% perspiration to us.