As marketers develop their post-pandemic strategies, it’s tempting to pull back on thought leadership investments. In this article, we outline 4 reasons to stay the course.
As the economy continues to reopen and we move towards the second half of 2020, many B2B organizations are rethinking their marketing and client acquisition strategies. In many consulting firms, the business situation has radically changed. Client bookings have been sliced by 20%, 30%, or more. Suddenly, revenue targets set at the end of 2019 are simply unrealistic. The marketing plan and budget need to be re-thought accordingly.
Meanwhile, in many SaaS organizations, while revenue may be stable or growing, it feels more precarious than it did just a few months ago. As licenses come up for annual renewal in the second half of the year, clients are scrutinizing every expense. Many are reducing seats and/or reconciling which platforms constitute “must-haves” and which feel more like “nice to have.” Will your platform make it?
Regardless of where you are as a marketing team, chances are good you’re rebuilding your marketing strategy and budget for the second half as if it’s an entirely new year. Should thought leadership make the cut? Here are 4 reasons it absolutely must:
- Clients need your help more than ever
- Thought leadership today earns client trust and loyalty tomorrow
- Build visibility in the market and grow your audience
- Generate leads and revenue right now
#1 – Clients Need Your Help More Than Ever
One of the consistent messages I’ve delivered to all our clients since the earliest days of the pandemic is this—now more than ever your clients need your help. They need your steady guidance. They need your novel insight. They need a pragmatic voice that cuts through the noise to help them make sound business decisions.
Now, to be clear, this is not new advice from us. One of the foundational tenets of our belief system is that the central objective of marketing is to educate and inform clients on issues that matter to them. Yes, it sounds altruistic because it is. But, it’s also good business. In fact, our research has shown time and again that the firms that keep educating clients their central marketing objective generate more leads and revenue from their efforts than their peers.
#2 – Thought Leadership Today Earns Client Trust and Loyalty Tomorrow
One of the great challenges of business in this moment is that some clients simply don’t have discretionary budgets available to invest in new initiatives. Even great clients—well run, well-capitalized companies—may be experiencing declining revenue. Even if they want to make new investments they simply may not be in the position to do so because they’re being forced to make decisions to adjust to a new reality.
But, that doesn’t mean that the thought leadership you’re providing them is not creating accretive business value for your organization. In fact, I would argue it’s creating more value than ever. Every time you publish something useful that helps a client make a better business decision, even in the absence of an exchange of revenue, you’re earning your clients’ trust and long-term loyalty.
#3 – Build Visibility in the Market and Grow Your Audience
In the early days of the pandemic, a few of our clients were afraid to say anything for fear of saying the wrong thing. The refrain I frequently heard was, “nobody’s listening.”
Our experience over the past 60 days has been quite the opposite. In fact, I would argue, “everybody’s listening.” Pretty much across the board, every client we have that has made strategic investments in thought leadership over the last 2 months has seen tremendous lifts in site traffic.
One of our clients, an HR consulting firm, launched an aggressive thought leadership agenda starting in early April that has included a 400% increase in thought leadership output (over 20 articles published in just 6 weeks). The results, both in traffic and audience has been astounding—50% growth in site traffic and a 270% growth in new subscribers to their newsletter.
Another example—this Alexa traffic chart for McKinsey (one of the firms who’s been aggressively out-in-front with effective thought leadership over the last few months) pretty much says it all:
#4 – Generate Leads and Revenue Right Now
Needless to say, it’s a difficult time to generate inbound leads and new revenue for many organizations. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. In fact, the aforementioned HR consulting firm has seen a large spike in new client inquiries (over 200 of them in the last 45 days alone) as a result of their aggressive thought leadership push.
Of course, not all leads are created equal. And, turning initial conversations into revenue right now is more difficult than it was just a few months ago (especially for high-ticket services). But, every new sale starts with a conversation. And, in an environment where in-person events cease to exist and executives are completely unreachable, it’s hard to imagine a better way to generate new client conversations than via thought leadership.
As marketers plot their path forward for the second half of 2020 it’s tempting to pull back on thought leadership investments, especially if those investments are not yielding leads and revenue right now. But, now more than ever, clients need your firm’s perspective. Even if they can’t make investments with you at the moment, they’ll reward you with loyalty over the long-term. You’ll grow your marketplace visibility and your audience. And, if you can strike the right mix of implementable solutions to clients’ most pressing, acute problems you may be rewarded with new inbound inquiries you can move on right now.