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Thought leadership: How to break through the noise

Everyone’s doing thought leadership these days, especially since the pandemic completely shook up the world of B2B and B2C customer engagement. Nearly every brand – and most C-suites – are active on social, putting out blogs, articles, posts, reels, stories, infographics… the list is endless.

But why does one of the most respected surveys1(by Edelman and LinkedIn) show that less than half of thought leadership provides any value?

On the face of it, that’s a shocking revelation. We’re going to break it down for you in 4 simple lessons.

Lesson 1: Thought leadership is more important than ever

More than 50% of decision makers spend at least one hour a week reading through thought leadership content. That means 1 out of 2 people who will buy from you are looking for content like this.

That’s why this is the most effective way for companies – especially in the voice of their leadership or top management personnel – to share insights, new developments, top-level analysis of ongoing situations, and more.

According to McKinsey2, nearly 80% of B2B decisions happen in the digital space – and that’s the way it’s going to be for the near future. Meanwhile, Gartner research3 shows that more than 80% of the purchasing decision process happens before the purchaser contacts the buyer.

All this only goes to show the importance of having good content out there that convinces buyers to come to YOU and not to your competitor.

That’s thought leadership. Pure and simple.

Lesson 2: There can be too much of a good thing

It seems everyone has taken Lesson 1 to heart – without understanding exactly what goes into it.

Thought leadership is much more than just a simple blog. It involves analysis, it needs to have valuable insights, it needs to present a new perspective. Just writing about your company’s products in a blog won’t cut it.

In fact, nearly 66% say that post-Covid, there has been a huge increase in thought leadership, with almost 40% saying there’s even too much to keep track of! But a whopping 70% say that less than 50% of the thought leadership they read gives valuable insights.

Let that sink in: 1 out of 2 thought leadership pieces is just not working.

Lesson 3: How to cut through the noise

The Edelman-LinkedIn survey found that 55% of buyers say that, if a thought leadership piece does not grab their attention within 1 minute, they move on. The same number say they often file away pieces to read later – but never come back to it.

Nearly 90% want something provocative, something challenging, something that gives them a deep perspective from a subject-matter expert. At the same time it should be fun to read and easy to consume. These are the ways you’re going to cut through the noise: by providing your readers an angle ONLY YOU can give them – and making it worth their while.

Lesson 4: Understanding your audience’s specific needs is crucial

This is a big blind spot: too often, thought leadership makes one huge mistake. It focuses only on the company and its learnings. Look at the surveys and reports we’ve referred to here: not one of them talks about what Edelman does or what Gartner does or LinkedIn’s goals – they only talk about what they learned from the survey. And that is why these reports go viral.

If you plan your content the same way – answering your audience’s questions and trying to solve their problems instead of talking about yourself and how good you are at what you do – you can also create thought-provoking, insightful content that will reach a lot of people.

And they will actually read it, instead of bookmarking and forgetting about it.

So, here are your key takeaways:

  1. If you already do thought leadership, it’s time to rethink how effectively you’re doing it and refine your strategy.
  2. If you don’t do it, it’s time to start – and start by doing your research about what topics you can write authoritatively on that your audience would love to know about.
  3. Last but not least, whether you already do thought leadership or not, it is always worth spending time understanding your audience’s pain points. Use surveys, quizzes, polls, to find out what they want to know more about. And work that into your strategy.

Do these things, and in a few months’ time – provided you post consistently and write great content – you will be able to break through the noise and be seen as a valuable leader in your industry.

PS: Yes, it takes a few months of concerted, consistent effort. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all. Always remember that.

Did you like reading this article? Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, for more such insights every week. And if you want to read more from the past, check out our blog.

References:

1. Edelman and LinkedIn,2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study

2. McKinsey & Co., These eight charts show how COVID-19 has changed B2B sales forever

3. Gartner, New B2B Buying Journey & its Implication for Sales

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