Thought leadership, or the so much called nowadays, Influencer marketing, is often a concept associated with individuals, however, brands especially B2B brands, can develop their thought leadership amongst their communities as well.
What is thought leadership?
Thought leadership is about creating a reputation and authority within a specific industry. It’s about becoming known for an area of expertise, which can lead to influence purchase behavior.
49% of decision makers say thought Leadership is at influencing their purchasing decisionsEdelman, Linkedin B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study
Infuencers in the B2B World
In the B2B world, most influencers are thought leaders, having in mind their expertise in a certain domain, and this is what makes them a credible and trusted source of information.
B2B brands that want to elevate their message in the market, can create a program that combines points of view about key topics where both the industry influencer and brand executives are participants. Partnering b2b brands executives and subject matter experts with industry influencers for thought leadership content provides the following benefits:
- Diverse voices from the industry and brand add credibility and quality to the content
- The influence of industry experts elevates the influence of the brand executives
- Influencers reputation is raised by association with thought-leadership level content and the brand
The beauty of influencer content programs for thought leadership is that when brands build real relationships with industry thought leaders, they become partners that advocate for the brand as well as for the brand executives involved.
So how can a B2B brand approach an integrated influencer marketing and thought leadership program? Here are 5 steps to start:
1. Define Thought Leadership Topics – The obvious starting point is clarity around how the brand wants to be known that reconciles with what the industry and customers care about. We often call these “best answer” topics because one of the goals of Thought Leadership and Influencer content is for the brand to become the best answer for customers. Defining these topics will drive every other step in the Influencer Marketing and Thought Leadership partnership.
2. Identify Influencers and Executives – Once a B2B brand determines topics of focus, it’s time to connect those topics to the most appropriate and relevant executives who will represent the brand’s thought leadership effort. At the same time, those topics will be used to identify and qualify relevant industry influencer partners to collaborate with. The minimum data points for influencer selection include topical relevance, topic resonance with the influencer’s community, network size, inventory of thought leadership content and experience, values alignment and publishing activities.
3. Create a Thought Leadership Content Collaboration Plan – To create meaningful and impactful Thought Leadership content with B2B brand executives and industry influencers, topics need to be mapped to contributors and content types, formats and channels need to be identified. A content calendar of opportunities is created, often integrating with planned content from marketing campaigns, public relations media relations efforts and corporate communications.
4. Publish and Promote – Collaborations manifest as content that will need a home whether it is the corporate website, blog, social channels, industry publications, research reports, marketing campaign assets, on influencer websites and social channels or in presentation content. Formats run the gamut from text to video to audio to interactive. Influencers and brand social channels alone are not enough for promotion of B2B Thought Leadership content. LinkedIn advertising offers excellent executive targeting capabilities as do other social networks and paid search platforms.
5. Always-On Influencer Engagement for Advocacy – Influencer Marketing is a relationship business and Thought Leadership content co-created with brand executives and influencers can be repurposed, giving influencers continued exposure. Other engagement actions as simple as social media interactions or as robust as future content collaborations provide influencers reason to invest in the success of the content and inspire organic advocacy for their brand executive partners as well as the brand itself.
Thought Leadership and Influencer Marketing represent a key partnership that can produce content that drives trust, reputation, reach, and engagement – many of which are in short supply and highly valued by business customers.