As an organization grows the importance of thought leadership to its senior executive teams grows with it. Earning their trust requires a commitment to a strong thought leadership agenda. Here’s how.
In our 2022 thought leadership research, conducted in partnership with Buday Thought Leadership Partners and Phronesis Partners, we surveyed thousands of client executives to understand how they use thought leadership to make critical business decisions. One interesting finding was that the importance of thought leadership grows the larger an organization becomes:
Why is this? As organizations grow, so due the scale, complexity, and ramifications of their challenges:
- Scale — While the business problems of a large organization are like those of a smaller one, the scale of those problems expand dramatically. For instance, implementing an AI solution to support an enterprise-grade call center will impact the experience of thousands of employees and millions of customers.
- Complexity — Simultaneously, the complexity of solving problems goes up due to the increased complexity of the organization. Large organizations are littered with technical and process specialists. This depth of expertise creates value for the enterprise, but also increases the complexity of problems and their accompanying solutions.
- Ramifications — In a large enterprise, the ramifications of a wrong decision could be billions of dollars in lost revenue or opportunity cost. In simplicity, you can’t come to the CEO of a $20B enterprise with a solution to a $1M problem. While the solution may require low organizational effort, the gains won’t even register as rounding error.
In short, if you’re aiming to land enterprise clients, success will require elevating your thought leadership game. Here are four essential steps to achieve that:
#1 – Develop a Problem Ownership Strategy
To win enterprise clients, you must focus on owning a small set of significant problems. Going deep into a few key issues is far more impactful than skimming the surface of many. Your thought leadership strategy should be grounded in data, offering insights into both broader industry trends and your clients’ specific interests.
Depending on your unique situation you may draw from various data sources such as Google Search Trends, Social Media Data, Website Analytics, Email Marketing, and CRM Data. To start, use some subset of these data to understand what topics are trending and align them with your clients’ most pressing problems.
From there, seek out client feedback. Utilize a blend of quantitative and qualitative research to gain clarity into which issues are most pressing and present the best opportunity for your firm. Specifically, look for topics that exist in the “Confidence / Importance Gap” – a research process we developed with Buday Thought Leadership Partners a few years ago.
#2 – Develop a Clear and Distinct Point of View
A well-defined perspective is the bedrock of effective thought leadership. Your approach to solving organizational problems should be based on in-depth best practices research. This research should demonstrate the efficacy of your proposed solutions by showcasing success stories from other thriving organizations.
To start, conduct a leaders versus laggards research study to identify the mindsets and behaviors that separate top performing organizations from the rest of the field. From there, leverage qualitative in-depth interviews to identify real-world examples that will resonate with your clients and provide proof of what really works.
#3 – Implement a Focused Yet Diversified Publishing Strategy
A successful thought leadership strategy requires a multi-faceted approach to content publishing. Diversify your content types by using a mix of written, audio, video, and interactive formats. This caters to different learning preferences, ensuring your insights reach a broader audience.
Tailor your content to different stages of the buying process. From problem discovery to solutions exploration, consensus-building, and decision-maker alignment, provide valuable resources to help clients at every step of their journey. Finally, consider the various platforms and channels where your clients are most active. Employ a mix of self-published, shared, earned, and paid media to build reach, trust and authority.
#4 – Go Deep Over Time
Consistency is key when it comes to thought leadership. Success requires “falling in love with the problems” you seek to own and committing your organization to constantly seeking new and better ways to solve them. Committing your firm to publishing on those topics in-depth over time will reinforce your firm’s reputation for solving these problems effectively. As an example, we’re currently working with a global IT services firm to refine their thought leadership strategy. Our analysis of the firm’s thousands of content assets has revealed a direct correlation between in-depth topical coverage and revenue.
Patience and persistence are the cornerstones of thought leadership success. Regardless of your firm’s size, an ongoing commitment to delivering valuable insights builds trust, brand preference, and perceived authority.
Where to Begin: Conduct a Content Audit
We suggest starting with a thorough content audit. Group your existing content by issue or theme and apply data-driven insights to evaluate its performance along those dimensions. This process will identify preliminary opportunity areas and shape the research that will drive your topical content strategy.