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Nine lessons in B2B thought leadership [Research]

3 November 2016

Nine lessons in thought leadership from the Value of B2B Thought Leadership Survey

We recently surveyed over 200 senior executives at FTSE 350 organisations to better understand how they view and use content marketing. The results of the first Value of B2B Thought Leadership Survey bring good news to those in charge of a B2B firm’s marketing and communication programmes – if they follow the nine lessons below.

High quality thought leadership can cement an organisation’s reputation as a trusted partner. It can underscore perceptions of expertise. It can even help close the deal. However, in an era of seemingly endless content one organisation’s words of wisdom must compete for attention like never before. Much content fails to hit the mark often navel gazing, generic and conceptual. It is also often supplier-centric when it should be client-centric.

It is in this context that we wanted to find out what the client thought – what exactly the C-suite at FTSE 350 firms expected from thought leadership, how and when it is consumed and what would make it better. The results shed light on all this and more. Among its findings are these nine key takeaways:

  1. Be useful. Senior leaders seek out thought leadership that helps them stay ahead of emerging trends (66%) and helps them make better, more informed decisions (60%).
  2. Failure comes in threes. Thought leadership fails when it proves too generic (63%), lacks original insight or ideas (58%) or promotes the advisor rather than addressing client need (53%).
  3. Let the client see the clients. The thoughts of clients (57%) matter more than any other voices or sources. Readers want to know what those they serve – or whose business they want to win – are thinking and doing.
  4. Keep it short and punchy. Two formats – 800-word articles (63%) and 300-500-word blog posts (57%) – are preferred more than any other.
  5. It’s complicated. Senior executives rely on multiple sources, online and offline, to get their thought leadership fix. Asked to identify from where they are most likely to seek out thought leadership material, respondents most commonly identified professional services/advisory firms (44%), industry events (43%) and online search (40%).
  6. Facebook, the professional network? Facebook – more commonly associated with friendship and familial connections – was cited as the social network senior business executives were most likely to engage with thought leadership. Facebook was referenced by 79% of respondents, compared with Twitter (73%) and LinkedIn (68%).
  7. Monday lunchtimes matter. Two thirds of senior executives seek out thought leadership on a Monday while the two hours between 12 noon and 2pm is the single most popular time slot.
  8. The C-suite ignore most of what you write. Senior executives read on average 31% of all the thought leadership that comes across their desks. To get noticed – and read – copy needs to be truly compelling.
  9. Readers want to be creators too. Asked to look forward and imagine content that would be most useful in the future, four in five respondents said that they wanted content that they – and their peers – were involved in developing.

To find out more about the Value of B2B Thought Leadership Survey and download the full results, click here.

Value of B2B Thought Leadership Surve
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Author: Andrew Rogerson

Andy is a co-founder of Grist, and account director for many of our professional services clients. His recent projects span the full range of marketing communications, including integrated content marketing programmes, web development, thought leadership and video. Prior to founding Grist, Andy was marketing director at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London and New York.

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