6 Tips for Crafting a B2B Thought Leadership Marketing Strategy

Will Fleiss
Will Fleiss

product expert

If you’re a B2B marketer and you don’t hear the term “thought leadership” at least 14 times a day…. you’re probably busy doing actual work. Jokes, Jokes!

In all seriousness, thought leadership is the lifeblood of any sound content marketing strategy. BUT, the thoughts you’re leading with need to address actual customer pain points. Unless you’re working on your reputation for your future consulting company, don’t just blow hot air for the sake of making sure the world knows you’re a big thinker.  So, let’s start with the basics…

What Is Thought Leadership?

By definition, thought leadership is a method of marketing, which solidifies you as an expert and authority within your industry. The goal of thought leadership marketing is not to create sales heavy content, but to provide an entry point to your business by branding yourself as an expert. There are still opportunities to highlight your product or service, but first and foremost you want to be viewed as knowledgeable and willing to help. Here are 6 tips to use when building a thought leadership marketing strategy:

1) What Questions Are Customers and Potential Customers Asking?

The first thing you should do is identify the questions your target audience, and current customers are asking—and build your thought leadership marketing strategies around the answers to those questions. Consider how people search for things online. When you have a question about something, there’s a good chance you’ll type it into Google, right?

By identifying the questions, and strings of words your customers type into search engines—you can create your content in a manner that will answer those questions. To get started, ask yourself the types of problems your products and services solve, and find the questions one would ask related to those problems. If you have a good enough answer Google might even scrape it right off your page (lucky you!):

"What is thought leadership" Google result

Check out the following sites and tools for finding out what questions are being asked by your target audience: Quora, Yahoo Answers, Twitter, Google Keyword Planner, UberSuggest, hook Google Analytics up to your help desk search results, and the best of all… ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS!

2) Can/Should you use Social Media for Thought Leadership?

This is the oldest trick in the thought leadership playbook, but it still works like a charm. As long as you are engaging and providing value on a given platform, directing people on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or a niche community to one of your well written blog posts that answers a timely question is a completely acceptable way of showing people your company is an expert in the industry, and there to help.

3) Display Your Thought Leadership Beyond Your Blog

In my opinion, your company blog should always be the hub of your audience-building efforts, but it’s critical to discover other audiences by posting your thought leadership content on other platforms. We recently started posting to the beautiful publishing platform, Medium, to reach the early-adopter crowd. Guest blogging is another great way to discover a relevant audience interested in your thought-leading commentary.

4) Revise Your Questions On A Regular Basis

When your thought leadership marketing strategy is built on a foundation of customer questions, you must revisit these questions constantly. As industry trends change, you develop new products and services, and general business trends evolve—your answers to old and new questions need to evolve as well.

Google Trends is a great way to stay ahead of the curve. For example, if I focused on being a social media expert, looking at this comparison between searches for “social media marketing” and “””, I would probably want to shift my focus to content, as it’s trending up while social seems to be plateauing.

5) Using Thought Leadership Marketing To Brand Your Business – There Are No Second First Impressions

Since the goal of your thought leadership marketing strategy is to create an entry point, it is the perfect opportunity to brand your business. You can do this through your writing style, the level of creativity in your videos and images, and by demonstrating how well you understand your B2B client’s wants and needs. When creating new content, ensure that it supports how you want to be identified as a brand, especially since this may be an online reader’s first experience with you.

6) Don’t Be Afraid To Copy What’s Working

Just because your competitors are killing it with thought leadership already does not mean that YOU can’t do it better. But if their content has already touched a nerve on the inter-webs, demonstrated by those share buttons with big numbers on the top, bottom and side of their post…

share buttons on thought leadership post

…why not leverage that signal, by creating a similar, better piece of content? Brian Dean of Backlinko calls this The Skyscraper Technique, and it’s FREAKING BRILLIANT (while so simple at the same time…the best ideas are). Thanks to Brian’s guest post on Noah Kagan’s OkDork via the GrowthHackers community for turning me on to this strategy. BuzzSumo is an awesome tool for finding out what content in your niche is already popular across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. Here’s the most popular article about “thought leadership”; How to Tell a Great Story on the Harvard Business Review Blog:

Buzzsumo screenshot for "thought leadership"


What have we learned about thought leadership marketing?

  1. Find out what questions your customers are asking…and BINGO…answer them.
  2. Social media is a thought leaders best friend; as long as you’re listening and engaging it’s ok to direct people to your great content.
  3. Post your content outside your blog,
  4. Always revisit the questions your answering,
  5. Define your brand with your thought “leadery” (I know, not a word).
  6. Get your Skyscraper on! Or as Brian says, so succinctly in his post “find the tallest “skyscraper” in your space…and slap 20 stories to the top of it”

For more content marketing tips, click here!

Now, what relevant content would you like to link to in the comments of this post?

Featured image courtesy of Pete Prodoehl via Flickr.

Will Fleiss

Will Fleiss

Will is the founder of Shared Audiences, a social media advertising company. Previously, Will served as Outbrain’s Global Head of Content Marketing. He has also led growth and marketing at health and education startups TrialJectory, Bakpax, and Knewton. Earlier in his career he received training at renowned agencies Ogilvy and BKV. Will lives in Connecticut with his wife, two girls, and their dog. He loves podcasts and his favorite movie is Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.