Executive Summary

In a crowded and noisy marketplace, thought leadership can be a powerful way of building a brand’s visibility and credibility.

Thought leadership is distinct from a marketing document in that it is not usually product or feature led. Rather, thought leadership presents credible insight into an industry issue or trend, from expert commentators.

Effective thought leadership generates new sales opportunities. Research shows that 45% of executives have invited a vendor to bid for a contract, after seeing thought leadership. In addition, 54% of executives say they use thought leadership as one way to evaluate potential suppliers.

However, achieving these benefits is not always straightforward. Organisations must take a strategic approach to the planning, creation and distribution of thought leadership to avoid creating content that does not add value to the audience or is simply boring.

Creating effective thought leadership means evaluating content ideas carefully, and then selecting the best format and platform for distribution. One of the most common mistakes around thought leadership is restricting content to voices from inside an organisation.

Organisations should strive to be collaborative in the creation of thought leadership, adding voices from customers, industry thought leaders and partners. This adds credibility to the resulting content, but also makes it more valuable to professionals, who are always interested in the experiences of their peers who face similar challenges.

It is also essential that content is distributed and supported by people inside the organisation.

This can be extremely challenging in sales departments, where there is often limited understanding of the potential value of thought leadership. This means that marketing teams must invest in training and education of sales teams, to ensure that they are able to communicate and utilise thought leadership in the sales pipeline.

Most organisations that report positive ROI from thought leadership see this over the long rather than short-term. The key benefits may be more requests to bid for proposals, greater engagement with existing accounts, or increased brand visibility. As with all investments, it is essential to plan for the metrics that will form the basis of ROI calculations, before content is published.