Thought Leadership: Saturation vs. Differentiation
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B2B Marketers talk a lot about “Thought Leadership.” What is fascinating to me is that many folks don’t understand what Thought Leadership actually is. Or perhaps their definition is correct, and mine is wrong. Let’s take a look at a couple of philosophies.

I’ll call the first philosophy “thought saturation.” Many marketers will plan Thought Leadership campaigns with a high volume of content on various trending topics in their market. The thinking is to saturate the market with content, so you are more likely to be seen by your prospect. If this is your definition of Thought Leadership, you will need a very large marketing budget to be effective, and a very large team to produce content.

G5’s philosophy of Thought Leadership is fundamentally different. I’ll call it “thought differentiation.” It is rooted in a practical approach to marketing for high growth companies with constrained budget and human resources. It assumes you will never make dent in the volume of marketing messages out there just by sheer brute force. You need to be more clever.

Our definition of Thought Leadership is an innovative idea that piques the interest of your target market. That idea must be different than the trending topics in your market, not more of the same. The idea needs to be communicated very quickly, with a few defining words that have some stopping power created by an emotional response from your prospect. Simple, huh? Not so much.

Creating that type of Thought Leadership concept is difficult. Here are a few guiding principles.

  • The Thought Leadership concept should be tied to one or more pain points, or unmet needs of the market space.
  • The words used to express the concept should be tied to something that the target readers can identify with, ideally using 3 -5 words that place the idea within the market space.
  • Ideally there is a “twist” to the concept – something the prospect thought they knew, but the words suggest there may be something they have missed.

Thought Leadership is not a sales pitch. It is not overtly tied to your product or solution. A good Thought Leadership piece, whether the story is told through a video, eBook, or whitepaper, lays out the case for why the prospect should think about meeting their challenges in a new way. Once you lay out the business case for why the market needs to think differently, it should be obvious to the prospect that in order to achieve the vision of the Thought Leadership concept, they will need your solution.

And interest in your solution is the ultimate objective of our approach to Thought Leadership. If you can identify a Thought Leadership concept, you are able to increase the conversion rates of your outbound marketing activities. You essentially elevate your message above the “noise.” You also simultaneously define for your prospect exactly why they need your technology to meet their own vision.

As you can see, there’s a big difference between thought saturation and thought differentiation. Creating a compelling, unique concept is no easy feat. In fact, it’s one of the most strategic things a company can do. Typically, the development of this concept requires collaboration between the executive team, and leaders of product management, marketing, and sales. And of course, you need an experienced strategist with a fresh perspective to distill the thought leadership concept from your team.

When you are marketing for high growth in a constrained resource environment, a Thought Leadership approach is critical. Our experience creating these concepts with B2B technology companies is that a truly inspiring concept touches every aspect of marketing and sales, and can influence the entire solution offering and culture of a company.

About author:
Dana has led high-growth marketing teams for almost 20 years. She has a proven ability to distill new thought leadership concepts for product companies in the B2B space, and create a lead generation infrastructure to measure sales and marketing effectiveness. Her work with the analyst community has led to superior ratings of technology companies, including leadership positioning on the Gartner Magic Quadrant.

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