Today’s B2B sales cycle is fundamentally different than it was a decade ago. An always-connected, omni-channel world combined with continued financial pressure means companies spend more time than ever before researching different solution providers before signing on the dotted line. Thought leadership is critical to defining the buying vision in your favor, differentiating your brand and driving business growth. When you engage leads from day one, you control the message, define the buying process in terms that are favorable to your business, and establish your company as an industry leader.
Recently, we wrote about the importance of establishing a thought leadership strategy that balances compelling content creation with smart content distribution and audience engagement. But creation, distribution and engagement are just one piece in the thought leadership puzzle. The other piece – achieving company-buy in and employee engagement – is just as critical for success.
Whether your business has 10 employees or 100, employee engagement is the first step to successfully managing a company-wide thought leadership campaign. Here’s where to get started:
Educate employees“What’s in it for me?” Employees will be more open to participating when they understand how the program will benefit them directly. Otherwise, you risk alienating busy employees who feel like they already have enough on their plates nurturing leads and closing deals. Busy employees who don’t understand the value of your thought leadership program will reject the program out right– they certainly don’t have time to write a blog post or even share an article on social media!
Company-wide thought leadership programs offer two major benefits for employees. First, these initiatives build your brand and raise your company’s overall profile, driving lead generation and ultimately building decision maker consensus. Second, when you empower your employees with the resources to create and distribute their own thought leadership (e.g., arranging a ghost writer to help an employee author a blog post or white paper on a recent industry trend, offering a social media distribution strategyfor their content),employees directly benefit by elevating their own personal brand and building their reputation as an industry leader.
Create an editorial boardOnce you’ve got the team on board with your thought leadership program, you may find that the team is a little bit too enthused and passionate! Balancing different opinions from multiple department heads can be challenging at larger companies. To facilitate a transparent process, consider forming an “editorial board”with key gatekeepers to ensure all departments are fully integrated into this process.
An editorial board empowers employee engagement and facilitates buy-in from stakeholders. Encourage these gatekeepers to facilitate ongoing dialogue with their team members and to bring their team’s thoughts to the larger editorial board. Depending on your company’s needs, the editorial board may also include a representative from the legal team and employee relations or human resources to help streamline the content approval process.
Align your thought leadership editorial calendar with broader marketing strategy.Thought leadership campaigns are not created in a bubble. Consider the current marketing initiatives under way at your company. If company employees feel like your thought leadership program is happening independent of these initiatives, this can be confusing and shake their confidence in your leadership strategy. Instead, work to ensure that your thought leadership program aligns with these existing marketing initiatives and overall business goals. Take a closer look at your editorial calendar and your marketing calendar. Do you have an upcoming product launch? Will your company be attending a major industry conference? Consider how you can create content that supports your company through these milestones.
Obtaining buy-in from employees to executives doesn't have to feel like 'teeth-pulling', employ these actionable tips for engaging your workforce in an effective thought leadership strategy starting today.