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Getting Thought Leadership to Sink In


By Whitney Satin

More than 70% of B2B marketers are racing to position their firm as a thought leader, but as our research on Insight Marketing shows, the success rates of these efforts are questionable at best.  Marketers invest a lot of time to arrive at edgy insights that have the potential to reframe how customers view particular business challenges, but these insights often fail to stick.  Why is that?

Consider the typical approach most of us take when communicating our thought leadership prowess.  Having arrived at an insight that demonstrates just how smart we are on a given topic, we bombard customers with whitepapers, webinars, newsletters, and events.  The goal is to ensure customers have every opportunity possible to see and internalize what we have to say; it’s very much a posture of pushing our insights onto the customer.  But this media blitz strategy wrongly assumes that customers are receptive to our ideas in the first place.  In reality, actually internalizing an insight places a pretty significant burden on customers.  We’re asking them to not only to think about their world differently, but then to also change their behavior—and in way that ultimately favors us as a supplier.

What can marketers do to help lower that insight acceptance barrier?  We’ve seen marketers pursue the following strategies to make it easier for customers to internalize game-changing insights:

  • Engage earlier. Given the amount of information available online, customers readily arrive at preconceived notions about your areas of expertise before they consume your thought leadership content.  Marketers need to get their insights in front of customers long before they are a qualified lead, when opinions are more likely to still be malleable.
  • Secure permission. Customers may be skeptical about the supplier’s neutrality or, if an insight is truly groundbreaking, the supplier’s expertise on a given topic.  Tapping into raw customer voice by engaging advocates or influentials can help your insight feel authentic to the broader customer set.
  • Sequence customer exposure. Being a true thought leader can feel analogous to an organ transplant; if you say something too bold too soon, customers will flat-out reject what you have to say.  Breaking an insight into smaller bits of content and then leading customers along a deliberate path that builds to a major reframing of the customer’s world ultimately makes the insight easier to swallow.

Bottom line: The better you can lead customers to your insight, the stickier it will be.

MLC members, check out how Cisco followed these principles to ultimately create customers who were receptive to its insights.

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