Yesterday, we touched on the importance of thought leadership for B2B companies as a means not only to move leads through the sales cycle, but also to generate those leads in the first place. An effective thought leadership program takes more than just crafting compelling content. Effective thought leadership is created with an eye towards the accrual of brand value, not revenue. To do so, your business needs a clear, strategic plan in place from day one. Otherwise, you risk producing content that becomes one more piece lost in an endless digital clutter stream. That's a waste of time, energy and money!
B2B Thought Leadership Strategy: Mastering the Basics
Don't get lost in the digital clutter. These three steps will help position your company for success.
- Conduct a competitor analysis.
Before you start building out your strategic plan, take a step back to understand what your competition is doing. What type of content does the competition publish and how often? Where is the content being published (e.g., company blog, industry website, LinkedIn Pulse, Medium, etc.) and how is this content being distributed for consumption (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)?
Next, think broadly about how you define “competition”. Your competition is any business that’s publishing content in the same space as your business. For example, as a manufacturing company, you might publish an article on Internet of Things (IoT) integration with manufacturing processes. A technology company that sells the IoT system could publish a similar piece about integration best practices. Not sure which companies are most active in your space? Set up Google news alerts and track industry mentions on social media to better understand who is saying what– and how you can differentiate your business from the competition.
- Complete keyword research.
Don’t worry; I’m not advising you stuff your thought leadership with trending keyword phrases! I am, however, advising you to conduct some basic keyword research to better understand the trending topics within your industry. Returning to our IoT example from earlier, let’s say you want to publish a thought leadership series on how smart products enabled by IoT are connecting homes and buildings.
Should you focus on how IoT is improving energy efficiency? What about new efficiencies gained in construction projects through pre-fabrication or better information modeling? Or should you go big picture and consider how IoT is re-imagining business models and empowering companies to find new revenue and profit sources? Keyword research will help your business identify the appropriate subject angle for this series that will best resonate with your audience.
- Create an editorial calendar. Content is not created in a vacuum! Not only should your content publication timeline align with your broader marketing strategy, but it must also take into account current industry trends and recurring seasonal events. For example, wellness-themed content is always popular in early January in conjunction with New Year’s resolutions. How can your business use this angle to create fresh, relevant content?
As a general rule of thumb, we recommend mapping out a six-month editorial calendar, at a minimum. List every publication date and work backwards to outline a content creation and approval timeline. Will you publish a series of pieces around the same topic? Will you aim for a recurring weekly publication date (e.g. “Wednesday Industry Spotlight”)? How will you mix different types of content (articles, blogs, infographics, white papers) into your content creation calendar? An editorial calendar will be your roadmap for success.
Now that you’ve got the basics in place for content creation, it’s time to master the art of content distribution. In our next posts in this series, we’ll dive deeper into how to create a content distribution strategy for your B2B thought leadership program.