An interesting topic was posted on a LinkedIn B2B forum the other day, but the ensuing discussion stunk. So I thought I’d bring it over here and “discuss it amongst myself” (cue Linda Richman).
“Is thought leadership in B2B marketing overrated?”
First, let’s set the stage with a definition of “thought leadership.” Lairig Marketing’s take: having earned the widespread reputation as being the first, top, or only source of leading-edge insights in and about an industry, through proven, relevant application.
It’s a mouthful, but each word is chosen carefully. Shorter version: trusted, experienced source; no bullshit on board.
Back to our question: is thought leadership in B2B marketing overrated? In a word – no. It’s just that the methods are becoming more confused, and abused, each year. In Part 1 of this discussion, we’ll focus on an old marketing friend, the “white paper.”
At one time, a white paper was an occasional and vaunted document, chock-a-block with rigorous research, keen observation, and rich recommendations. Nowadays, white papers are like a&&holes – every business has several. They are the supposed “slam dunk” for marketing a company’s thought leadership, but end up as an air ball due to a lack of principles.
1. A Real Higher Authority
Thought leadership is not a brand attribute. The goal is to drive leads for your company through the thought leadership of its people. Have your white papers developed and bylined by a very limited number of real employees. And P.S., I’ve just given an example of principle #3 below.
2. Zig The Zagging Data
All white papers should be based on recent data, and many companies will commission (or steal) a small, biased survey and build a ten-page story about one or two obvious data points. Thought leadership isn’t driven by the obvious. Research the non-obvious. Don’t talk about the 83% observation - tell us about the 17% who didn’t agree.
3. Put A Stick In My Eye
The best content in any format, white papers especially, delivers a provocative perspective. There is no point writing, and hence reading – nor getting out of bed – about something not even your mother-in-law would argue with. Shock and awe is in.
4. Never Be Closing
Don’t be like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. Thought leadership and brazen selling are a toxic mix. If you followed the first three principles, the white paper will have done all the selling you need it to. You’ll have established your genius credentials. Now, let the business come to you.
In Part 2, we’ll discuss how a white paper shouldn’t really be a “paper” at all…