By Fiona Broomfield, Director at Allott and Associates.
In all industries right now, businesses are really feeling the pressure to stand out from the crowd.
What’s also apparent is that start-ups and SMEs can feel their B2B marketing efforts are being dwarfed by their bigger peers or competitors.
Thought leadership is one area of B2B marketing with huge benefits that small businesses can really leverage.
Building credibility in the marketplace and standing out has a lot to do with having a voice. One that differentiates you, resonates with your target audiences, and people trust. Better still is the ability to curate a voice and opinion that people want to return to.
This brings us onto what is thought leadership and how can small businesses use it to get noticed and grow?
What is thought leadership?
Put simply, it’s a type of content marketing, where you create a piece of content that plays to the passion, experience and expertise of your author. You use it to discuss and share thoughts, informed expert opinion and insights with your target audiences – adding value. As a result, it builds credibility and trust. By propelling your experts into the spotlight, you can also drive the debate and thinking on hot topics – influencing your industry.
What’s the value of thought leadership?
The benefits of thought leadership are, it:
- Powers publicity opportunities.
- Generates leads.
- Builds visibility, credibility and trust – for your company and for your people.
- Generates speaking and networking opportunities and industry influence.
- Improves SEO.
- Gives you competitive edge.
According to a survey by Edelman and LinkedIn 89% of decision-makers believe that thought leadership is effective at enhancing their perceptions of a business.
59% of decision-makers say that a company’s thought leadership is a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities and competencies than its marketing materials and product sheets. And 42% of decision-makers are more willing to pay a premium to work with companies that produce thought leadership vs those that don’t.
Plus, thought leadership actually helps your prospects take key steps through the buyer journey.
How to nail thought leadership for your small business
You should be creating thought leadership content as a key part of your marketing strategy. If you don’t have time you can pay people to ghost write it for you. Though there are a few things to be mindful of.
Thought leadership can divide opinion. So, you need to think about how to position yourself. Choose what you want to talk about – make sure it speaks to an audience topic that’s relevant. Then define your point of view and back it up with evidence. Try not to use your own company’s evidence to back it up. Use independent, credible evidence to avoid it looking like promotional content disguised as thought leadership. This will help you to gain rather than lose credibility.
Make sure that you stand for something and have a perspective that engages your targets rather than disengages them. That said don’t be afraid to be different – this is where the opportunities lie to stand out and add value. Original ideas, opinions and insight that help people to address their problems, or think and act differently.
I’d also advocate using more than one thought leader. It widens your appeal and reach and allows different experts to shine. Thought leadership isn’t exclusive of age, or job title, but you do need to know what you’re talking about. And it’s a wonderful content marketing tool that’s valuable in the short and long term.