Thought leadership – from drawing board to delivery

16/06/2015

Charles Ansdell, Professional and Financial Services

Part Two of a Two-Part Blog

Thought leadership – from drawing board to delivery

In our last blog, we talked about developing thought leadership ideas – the importance of finding white space and creating content that engages, stimulates and challenges. 

But once you’ve got the ideas, how do you ensure it reaches the people who matter – key B2B decision makers?

Get internal integration early 

For thought leadership to meet business objectives, it’s essential to engage your stakeholders early.  Marketing, communications, business development – along with the relevant practice group, need to be involved and bought into the project.

Internal engagement is important for leveraging ideas and expertise into thought leadership programmes, and ensuring that the best minds in the company contribute to the programme.

Early integration with sales is vital to deliver a programme that can support and dovetail with business development targets.  Furthermore, all customer touchpoints should be mapped. This is vital for understanding how and when the programme will be delivered to potential clients, and by whom.

It’s worth remembering that the survey element of thought leadership (especially qualitative telephone surveys) provides an opportunity to engage with potential clients before the thought leadership is produced.

Creating content outputs – meals v snacks

Traditionally thought leadership programmes have delivered long-form reports. While this helps provide depth and robustness, busy prospects don’t have time to read long documents.

It’s important to slice up reports to create “snacks” – easily digestible snippets of information such as infographics or quotes. This helps create content that can be syndicated across different channels and different formats. Visual “snacks” are particularly useful for social media.

The three Rs – Reframe, Repurpose, Recycle

Key to getting the best ROI on thought leadership is to adapt and refine for different audiences. By reframing content for different audiences, repurposing content intended for one audience, or recycling existing content again.

This constant reworking of content for different audiences increases the longevity and impact of thought leadership, and forms the basis of a content calendar.

As with any advertising or marketing campaign, a content calendar should seek to re-engage audiences repeatedly to increase the impact of messages. The content calendar should form a crucial element of the customer touchpoint map.

Distribution

Working out the best way to get content to prospective clients is important for success. Channel selection – be that via direct sales, online, events or intermediaries – helps decide which forms of promotion will work best.

Though direct contact is likely to be an important part of reaching clients, PR, search, direct marketing and display advertising all have an important role to play.

Equally the role of influences should not be ignored. In such a crowded market, the independent endorsement of industry experts, journalists or other trusted sources can make the difference between thought leadership that flies or dies.

Evaluation and review

One of the most overlooked elements of a thought leadership programme is a thorough evaluation and debrief against agreed objectives. 

Any robust evaluation should measure outputs (How many people downloaded the report? How many articles were published?), outcomes (Did the thought leadership change prospects’ opinions of us?) and business objectives (How many new clients did we win?).

Within each of these three categories, the performance of the programme should be compared against KPIs. Moreover, learnings gained from the programme – what to do better next time – should be documented and incorporated into future thought programmes.

Robust framework, clear thinking

As thought leadership becomes an increasingly important part of the B2B marketing mix, so companies need to become more structured in the way they do it.

Great ideas can get lost in big companies or crowded media markets. By using a strong framework, companies can systematically leverage their most valuable asset – their ideas – to win new clients and markets.