If you happen to work for a B2B brand, I’m sure you would have heard the word thought leadership being tossed around in meeting rooms and hallways. Every industry has business leaders who are thought leaders. They are flag bearers and set the course for the rest of the industry.
Measuring the business impact of thought leadership initiatives can be tricky. Brands usually evaluate the effectiveness by assessing whether the program established their reputation as a leader, helped them to build new relationships, and improved the revenue contributed. Attributing revenue to thought leadership activity can be challenging; however, it is essential to track long-term benefits.
49% of the business decision-makers say that thought leadership content influences their purchasing decision. Nearly 26% of marketers tie their Thought leadership efforts to sales, and business wins as per a recent study by Edelman-LinkedIn.
What does Thought Leadership mean?
Thought leaders are opinion leaders with specialized knowledge in their field of expertise. They influence the community with their and are trusted sources with indisputable reputation. That’s exactly the reason why Elon Musk was able to receive five hundred thousand pre-orders for Cyber Truck despite a launch gaffe or Jony Ive’s design sort of set the standards for the rest of the hardware industry.
Thought leadership can also influence pricing. 40% of the decision-makers agreed that they are willing to pay a premium to work with an organization that produces thought-leadership versus those that do not.
It’s easier to become a thought leader if you have actual execution experience and understand the challenges faced by the larger community. Thought leadership requires the organization or individual to invest in developing content that engages and informs the audience. This could be in the form of a whitepaper, videos, podcasts, or even in-person talks.
Many organizations try to branch out thought leadership from content marketing by segregating the activity under public relations. It is important to understand that thought leadership is integral to content marketing and shouldn’t be treated as a separate activity.
Steps to measure thought leadership program?
Thought leadership goals could seem fluffy if you don’t have a strategy to evaluate them effectively. When done right, thought leadership can help organizations to grab their audience’s attention by aligning with issues that dominate their agendas. Their more important issue that marketers often grapple with is the alignment with sales.
Thought leadership’s contribution to lower stages of funnel often goes unattributed. Marketers who only treat thought leadership as a means of driving awareness are less likely to be concerned whether the readers actually engage with their content.
Thought leadership has to enhance the reputation of the organization as well as the key business leaders identified for the thought leadership program. A positive brand reputation improves customer loyalty, builds confidence, and helps position you as a leader in your space.
Social Media Reach
Social media reach measures the number of people who have come across your brand in social media. This metric acts as an indicator of how popular your brand is vis-à-vis your competitors. A higher reach can also tell you that there are social media profiles with a large following talking about your brand.
Share of Voice
Share of voice measures the number of conversations within your niche, product, or service devoted to your brand. This metric is usually expressed in percentages and is relative to the competition.
Sentiment analysis identifies and categorizes opinions expressed in a piece of text based on the writer’s attitude towards that particular topic into positive, negative, and neutral. You should track customer sentiments over time to understand whether your thought leadership program is helping you to build the desired perception.
A media mention is when your brand is referred or mentioned across media channels. Mentions encompass PR, social media, SEO, and overall brand awareness & popularity.
A link from an influential website to your website is worth its weight in gold. Building links organically takes time, so measure this metric over time to understand the value of content that you are developing.
Effective thought leadership is about building trust and relationships. It’s the relationship between the thought leader and their audience that brings unexpected value to the customer. This requires an organization or individual to be contextually relevant, receptive, and truly care about the community in general.
Keep track of all the conferences, webinars, and speaking engagements that your business leaders participate in. If you see the opportunities growing organically, that’s a good indicator of the fact that decision-makers are finding your content to be substantive.
Sales referrals are among the most undervalued prospecting methods. Thought leadership, when done right, could also have an impact on the sales referrals generated. They also indicate the existing customers are satisfied with your product or service. 81.5 percent of the firms receive referrals from folks they have not worked with directly. These referrals aren’t made in the dark: They are based on experiences with your company other than a vendor/client relationship.
Now, as we mentioned earlier, attributing thought leadership activities to sales can be tricky. The sales leadership generally views thought leadership as a fancy name for marketing.
Lead attribution continues to be a messy exercise but thought leadership content could certainly accelerate a lead’s journey from MQL to SQL. For instance, solutions like Infer and Fliptop use external and internal sources to score your MQL queue based on the propensity to buy.
Additionally, organizations should continually evaluate the RFP invitations generated, business awarded, cross-sell, and upsell opportunities. Nearly 42% of the business decision-makers mention that thought-leadership content has influenced their decision while generating an RFP invitation.
Key Learnings for Marketers
While brands spent millions of dollars on building thought-leadership content, their senior leadership doesn’t have a presence on social media. The content they share often appears to be fluffy. Conferences where the so-called thought-leaders conduct sessions usually end up becoming the second lunch break.
Thought leadership requires you to earn trust and credibility over time. We don’t lead people’s thoughts. People have their own thoughts every single day. Some make it into an action stage. Some don’t. To lead is to direct. There’s a ton of folks offering their thoughts on a variety of topics, and they (rightly so) inspire you to action.
For thought leadership to work, the supposed thought leader has to not only create great content. But more importantly, they need to be out there, proving that they can change the industry.