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6 Steps to Thought Leadership

Hand in hand with commercial teaching/insight marketing approaches – something we at MLC understand to be the most effective method to break buyer assumptions and make complex sales – comes something else: namely, having smart things to teach customers in the first place.

This is, unsurprisingly, a lot easier said than done. The core of the commercial teaching approach is the notion that, in order to change customer assumptions, reps have to teach the customer something they don’t know or don’t realize about their own business. In situations where the buyer is a grizzled veteran of an industry – and the salesperson, maybe not so much – the burden of proof is awfully high, and Marketing needs to put serious effort into generating the kinds of insights needed to clear the bar.

That’s why we created the Thought Leadership Playbook, designed to give B2B marketers instant visibility into the ways the best companies are creating insight and transmitting it to customers, reframing their own offerings in the process. In our studies of thought leader B2B companies, we’ve noticed that successful thought leadership efforts have a few things in common:

Clarity of target and objective. The best commercial teaching content is, at its heart, clearly targeted at a specific segment or consumer set. Thought leadership efforts shouldn’t be vague; they’re supposed to drive successful commercial engagements. Secondly, the content itself has a clear objective – first time readers should be able to instantly identify the takeaway of the content.

Resonance and urgency of customer challenges. The content should address specific customer challenges, particularly ones that represent onerous workflow pain points. The content should make it clear that the pain point is urgent, and it should help the customer quantify the risk of not solving the challenge.

Links to differentiators. If you’ve identified the ways your product/service offering is uniquely different from other offerings in the market (and, by now, you should have), your thought leadership efforts should use these as anchors. analysis of challenges and pain points should always be brought back to why your offering – and only your offering – is capable of solving them.

Quality of insight. This is where you put your smarty-pants on: thought leadership content is unique in that in order to be successful, it must teach the customer something that is personally impactful to her business outcomes, and it must convincingly make the case for customers to alter their purchase decision criteria.

Sales funnel velocity. Since the reason we want to be thought leaders is, ultimately, to drive sales, successful thought leadership efforts must be up front – they must prompt customers to take action and outline a clear next step.

Presentation. You can’t stop with getting the smarty-pants stuff right; presentation absolutely counts. Documents that are well-written, easy to understand, and well-illustrated get read; documents that aren’t…won’t.

MLC members, for more, please check out our Thought Leadership scorecard, where you can rate your own efforts!

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