Let’s say we could walk into the world of digital marketing.

This digital bazaar is teeming with noisy crowds – a chaotic mass of people searching for services, products or information. The cacophony swells as vendors compete to be heard above the din. Targeted ads, social media, and other digital megaphones raise the volume, but without a distinct message, they’re just adding to the noise.

In this busy marketplace, filled with sellers, seekers and similar offerings, the challenge for buyers isn’t just finding what they are looking for — it’s finding a choice they can trust. Amid the clamour and chaos, thought leadership content emerges as a guided trail, placing  genuine insights and trustworthy advice in the path of buyers that lead them inexorably to your brand.

Rather than pushing for an immediate transaction, thought leadership strategically positions your brand as a trusted advisor. When decision time rolls around in the customer’s journey, it’s your brand they’ll remember and turn to, having been guided there by the helpful content they’ve encountered on the way.

Thought leadership strategically positions your brand as a trusted advisor, not just when decision time rolls around, but as a consistent, guiding presence throughout the customer’s journey. It’s not about pushing for an immediate transaction, but about being remembered and turned to, having guided buyers there with helpful content along the way.

– Jo Edwards, Co-founder & Creative Director

Fresh thinking rises above the fatigue

In our daily lives, we’re inundated with information at every turn. From the moment we wake up until we close our eyes at night, we are bombarded by messages from brands seeking our attention, and inevitably our dollars. The relentless stream of messages has given rise to a phenomenon known as ad fatigue, where people become desensitised to conventional advertising methods.

Thought leadership, however, hits a different frequency to rise above the noise.

When executed well, what might traditionally be viewed as an intrusive commercial message is instead welcomed as valuable, enriching content. The best thought leadership isn’t just accepted and tolerated –  people actively seek it out, engage with it, and share it.

And all you did was genuinely share your insights.

Thought leadership showcases knowledge and expertise in specific subject matter with the dual intention of educating customers and elevating a brand, thus positioning you as an authority while helping your audience.

The majority (73%) of decision makers say that an organisation’s thought leadership content is a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities and competencies than other marketing materials and product sheets. This is especially true for complex products or investments in business critical solutions with a longer buying cycle.

Thought leadership can take many forms, including blogs, case studies, webinars, ebooks, or podcasts. Part of the beauty of thought leadership content is that it’s adaptable to the resources of your business. While one company might choose to invest in a third-party-researched ebook or white paper, another may spend an hour writing a blog with their thoughts on the latest industry trend. Both can make the intended impact on their audience.

The art of attraction

True thought leadership involves contributing (valuably) to the dialogue in your industry, offering solutions and showcasing your expertise in a manner that draws people in organically.

While it undoubtedly offers value to customers by providing them with insights, guidance and solutions, the benefits it accrues to the business are even more substantial.

  • Establishing authority and building trust: By consistently publishing valuable content, a brand positions itself as an industry leader, while building trust and credibility with its audience and a reliable, authoritative image. This makes it more likely that customers will choose the brand when it comes to buying.
  • Enhancing visibility and driving engagement: Thought leadership content is often shared across platforms, boosting brand visibility and attracting a wider audience, including potential collaborators. This increased visibility spurs discussions, shares and engagement, leading to higher website traffic, more earned social media activity and enhanced conversion opportunities.
  • Differentiating from competitors and attracting talent: Thought leadership enables a brand to stand out in a crowded market with unique insights and ideas, highlighting its unique value proposition. This distinctiveness attracts both customers and potential employees who would like to work with a recognised industry leader.
  • Supporting sales, lead generation and long-term impact: Insightful content not only builds trust and educates potential clients, leading to increased sales, but also has a durable impact, continually attracting new audiences. Trust translates directly into sales opportunities, and the more trusted a business is, the easier it is to convert a sale. Nine in 10 decision makers say they are more receptive to outreach from a company that consistently produces high-quality thought leadership.
  • Fostering partnerships and influencing industry trends: Sharing valuable content can attract potential business partners and collaborators, fostering innovation and growth. Thought leadership also has the power to influence industry trends and conversations, enhancing a brand’s prestige and positioning it as a forward-thinking entity.

Guiding, not coaxing on the B2B journey

The B2B marketing purchasing cycle often unfolds over an extended timeline (from several months to several years). Remaining relevant in the minds of your prospects for so long is an artform.

A clear beacon in the digital ocean

For marketers navigating this lengthy gestation period, thought leadership content is a means to ensure your brand remains a constant, yet unobtrusive presence. (Would you rather speak to the dependable friend who always has insights and advice, or the overzealous salesperson who continually bombards you with the same “buy now” message?) Your brand becomes the trusted advisor, ever-ready to guide and assist the prospective customer without overwhelming them.

This is more than a theory. More than half of decision makers say they spend an average of an hour or more per week reading thought leadership content, and 75% say a piece of thought leadership has led them to research a product or service they had not considered. Imagine that hour being spent with your brand?

Aside from the length of the buying cycle, there’s another layer of complexity in the B2B marketing puzzle: the number of decision-makers involved in the procurement process. The need to influence multiple stakeholders at different tiers of the organisational hierarchy necessitate a more granular approach to content creation. This is the opportunity for B2B marketers to tailor their thought leadership, both increasing customer engagement and demonstrating your understanding of their specific needs.

For example, when the target audience includes Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), the content may pivot towards addressing the unique challenges and aspirations that define the CMO’s role. You could delve into the complexities of crafting high-impact marketing campaigns, or examples from fellow CMOs in harnessing strategies to propel their brands forwards.

Conversely, when the audience includes roles such as Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) or General Managers (GMs), the content’s emphasis might be on operational efficiency, cost reduction, and ROI. Discussions could revolve around streamlining processes or demonstrating how strategic marketing investments have led to measurable financial benefits. Recognising and adapting to the different priorities across a business ensures that thought leadership content engages each decision-maker in ways that matter to them.

For B2B marketers, thought leadership should be a key component of a holistic marketing strategy. Showcasing your expertise, perspectives, forecasts, and recommendations on matters impacting your industry establishes your authority, enhances your credibility and fosters trust in your professional identity.

The question of AI in thought leadership

AI thought leadershipThe advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), including tools like ChatGPT, offers businesses a quick and easy way to generate content.

It’s important to remember however, that while AI is adept at organising and presenting existing information, its capabilities stop short of generating the novel insights and deep expertise that constitute thought leadership. While AI can assist in brainstorming and structuring content, or in producing a written piece based on ideas it’s fed, it’s not capable of original thought. It can only aggregate and repeat what’s already been written on the internet, and cannot create unique perspectives. It also can miss the mark on accuracy, with its dreaded AI hallucinations – perilous for brands looking to be trusted.

Remember that the core of thought leadership lies in offering fresh, expert viewpoints. So, while AI can be a valuable tool in your arsenal, it’s original human thought that builds an authentic leadership position.

Don’t stay ahead of the curve. Draw a new one.

At the intersection of brand identity, customer relationships, and industry standards, thought leadership may be stronger and more resilient than any other traditional marketing tactic.

In the dynamic landscape of B2B marketing, where attention is currency and relevance is king, thought leadership allows you to set a standard, lead by example, and make genuine connections on issues that matter to your audience. When done well, it can build an enduring legacy of engagement that generates leads and builds your audience for years to come. 

At The Walk, we’re passionate about building brands, relationships and customer pathways. If you’re curious about aligning content with your brand’s values and goals to build authenticity and trust, we’re here to help. Let’s start a conversation about how we can collaborate to highlight your strengths and amplify your voice.

We’re ready to listen.