In the B2B world — where credibility and trust are paramount — thought leadership has become a powerful game-changer.
Traditional marketing approaches are no longer enough. A solid B2B thought leadership strategy is necessary to gain traction in your industry.
That’s because thought leadership goes beyond marketing, establishing individuals or organizations as industry experts and trusted authorities.
Want to gain a competitive edge, foster customer loyalty, and drive business growth? Then you need to invest in B2B thought leadership.
But how do you do it?
Thought leaders in B2B sectors not only share their knowledge, they shape the conversation, provide innovative solutions, and guide their audience toward better-informed decisions.
Yes, that’s a lot of work. But in today’s interconnected and knowledge-driven B2B marketplace, it’s a small price to pay.
Whether you’re a startup aiming to disrupt your industry or an established corporation looking to maintain relevance, harnessing the power of thought leadership is crucial.
In this article, we’ll explore strategies for success and the tangible benefits B2B thought leadership can bring to your business including:
- What is B2B Thought Leadership?
- Crafting a B2B Thought Leadership Strategy
- 5 Overarching B2B Thought Leadership Trends
- Standing Out in Your Industry
- Leveraging PR for Differentiation
- B2B Thought Leadership Success Stories
Want to get started on a B2B thought leadership strategy?
Let us help. Book a free consultation with one of PR experts and we will help you get started on building an impactful B2B thought leadership strategy for you or your brand.
What is B2B Thought Leadership?
B2B thought leadership is a strategy where businesses and their key personnel position themselves as industry experts and authoritative voices in their field. It involves sharing valuable insights, ideas, and knowledge with their target audience — whether it’s potential clients, peers, or the wider industry.
Why Does Thought Leadership Matter for B2B Companies?
- Credibility: Thought leaders are perceived as experts, which enhances the credibility of the company and its offerings. 64% of buyers favor thought leadership as a foundation of trust over traditional marketing efforts.
- Lead Generation: It attracts potential clients or partners who respect and trust the thought leader’s expertise. Of high-value decision-makers, 47% reached out to a business after reading quality thought leadership content.
- Competitive Advantage: Thought leadership can differentiate a company in a crowded market by establishing a unique selling point. Standing out is an advantage. This also bolsters awareness.
- Content Marketing: It provides a wellspring of valuable content that can be repurposed across various platforms. High-quality content is the crux of establishing yourself or organization as an expert. It’s how you spread your message.
- Networking: Thought leadership opens doors for networking and collaboration opportunities with industry peers and stakeholders. The more you’re recognized as a thought leader, the more your network will grow, and the more you’ll be recognized as — well, you get the idea. Let’s just call it a cycle of exponential excellence.
Pro Tip: After gaining a firm grasp on the power of B2B thought leadership marketing, it’s time to identify SMEs within your organization and map out a content strategy.
Learn more about the power of thought leadership marketing here: Unlocking the Power of Thought Leadership Marketing (Benefits + Best Practices)
Crafting a B2B Thought Leadership Strategy
Now that it’s clear what B2B thought leadership is, let’s take a look at how to craft an effective B2B thought leadership strategy.
Step 1 – Define Your Niche
Thought leadership begins by defining the niche or specific area where you can genuinely claim expertise.
A niche can be:
- An Industry Sector
- A Specific Technology
- A Particular Business Practice
Example: Slack focuses on linking businesses with communications hubs, positioning itself as a go-to communications expert.
Step 2 – Find Your Audience
Understanding your target audience is crucial. When 46% of buyers say thought leadership content is not resonating, either the target is off, the content is low-quality, or both.
You need to create content and strategies that provide innovative solutions to the needs, challenges, and interests your audience faces.
Pro Tip: Conduct surveys or interviews to gather insights into your audience’s pain points and preferences. Create user personas and think about what kind of content they consume and where. Make sure you are creating appropriate content for these platforms and pain points.
Step 3 – Create Content
At the core of B2B thought leadership is content creation.
B2B thought leadership content can include:
- Blogs: Regularly publishing insightful blogs on industry trends.
- Whitepapers: In-depth reports on niche topics.
- Webinars: Hosting educational sessions on emerging industry challenges.
- Podcasts: Sharing conversations and insights with industry experts.
- Videos: Creating engaging videos, including explainer videos, case studies, and vlogs.
Example: Neil Patel, a renowned digital marketing expert, consistently produces video content on YouTube, sharing his insights on various marketing topics.
Step 4 – Collaborate
Collaborate with industry publications or other thought leaders in your field to write guest articles, appear on podcasts, or become a regular guest on discussion panels. Connect your name with other B2B thought leaders. This expands your reach and credibility.
Example: John Gerzema, CEO of Harris Insights and Analytics, writes regular columns for the Huffington Post and Google Think Quarterly.
Step 5 – Speak Publicly
Participate in conferences, webinars, and panel discussions to showcase your expertise.
Virtual events have become increasingly popular, allowing global reach. In this 2023 vFairs LinkedIn poll of event hosts, 34% plan on hosting hybrid events and 29% plan on hosting totally virtual events this year.
Pro Tip: Reach out to event organizers and pitch your ideas. Set speaking engagement goals. Try to increase the number and quality of your speaking engagements each year. And make achieving keynote status a top objective.
Step 6 – Publish on Thought Leadership Platforms
Publishing on platforms like LinkedIn, Medium, or industry-specific websites can amplify your message. Once you have high-quality content, you need to get it out there.
Example: LinkedIn’s “Publish” feature allows you to write articles and share articles with your network and other interested, professional parties.
Pro Tip: Want to republish an article from your website on LinkedIn or Medium? Then be sure to add a canonical tag to the header section of your original article. That way Google and other search engines know that it is the original, preferred version of your content.
Step 7 – Engage on Social Media
Share your content and engage with your audience on social media.
B2B thought leadership is not a one-way street — it’s about dialogue. You can gain valuable insights by tracking metrics relatable to social media engagement.
Example: Gary Vaynerchuk is an expert in personal branding. He leverages platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to engage with his audience. He creates and shares a “ton” of content daily across multiple social media platforms.
Pro Tip: Vaynerchuk repurposes his long-form content into smaller sets of micro-content. He then posts these bite-sized pieces of content across his socials. Keep in mind that he has a large team of people to help. If you want to scale your content, you need to scale your team.
Learn more about thought leadership strategy here: Thought Leadership Strategy: 14 Steps to Balancing Authority and Authenticity (+ Examples)
5 Overarching Trends in B2B Thought Leadership
To be successful in the evolving landscape of B2B thought leadership, companies need to keep an eye on some overarching trends:
1. Sustainability and Social Responsibility
Increasingly, B2B thought leaders are aligning their brands with sustainability and social responsibility initiatives and topics.
Companies that actively promote ethical practices and environmental consciousness are gaining respect and loyalty from customers and peers.
Example: Patagonia, a company known for its environmental activism, positioned its former CEO, Yvon Chouinard, as a thought leader in sustainable business practices.
2. Data-Driven Thought Leadership
In today’s data-driven world, B2B thought leaders must support their ideas with data and analytics. Leveraging statistics, case studies, and data-backed insights enhances the credibility of your thought leadership.
Example: Google’s Think with Google platform offers data-driven insights and case studies on digital marketing topics.
3. Remote Work and Digital Transformation
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation and remote work trends. Thought leaders who can offer expertise in these areas are particularly relevant.
Example: Zoom positioned its CEO, Eric Yuan, as a remote work and digital transformation thought leader during the pandemic. He offered expert insights into effectively using virtual platforms to maintain regular business practices.
4. Inclusivity and Diversity
Embracing diversity and inclusivity is crucial in B2B thought leadership. Companies that prioritize these values in their content and actions stand out and make a positive impact.
Example: Salesforce’s CEO, Marc Benioff, is known for his advocacy of equal pay and gender diversity in the workplace. More on him later.
5. AI and Automation
The rise of AI and automation presents B2B thought leadership opportunities. Sharing insights on AI’s impact on industries and businesses can establish thought leaders in this cutting-edge field.
Example: Andrew Ng, co-founder of Google Brain and Coursera, is a prominent thought leader in AI and machine learning. He regularly gives speeches and appears on panel discussions to share his expertise with target audiences.
If you’d like to learn more about thought leadership trends, read our article: 6 Thought Leadership Topics Trending in 2023 [Ideas + Examples]
Standing Out in Your Industry
In a crowded B2B landscape, setting yourself apart through B2B thought leadership is essential.
Here’s how to do it:
Consistency is key. Regularly publish high-quality content and engage with your audience. Thought leadership is not built overnight — it’s a long-term commitment.
Example: Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, consistently shares insights about space and science on his social media platforms.
2. Unique Perspectives
Offer a fresh perspective or innovative solutions to industry problems. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.
Pro Tip: Conducting original research is an excellent way to generate unique data and insights.
Authenticity is appreciated. Share your journey, challenges, and failures alongside successes. Transparency builds trust.
Example: Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, often shares candid insights about his companies and endeavors on Twitter.
4. Engage with the Audience
Listen to your audience’s feedback, respond to comments, and engage in meaningful conversations. This humanizes your brand and builds stronger relationships.
Pro Tip: Create a content calendar to ensure consistent engagement.
5. Collaborate and Network
Collaborating with other thought leaders or industry peers can broaden your reach and provide you and your content with fresh perspectives.
Example: Brian Dean, an SEO expert, often collaborates with other SEO professionals to share knowledge.
6. Adapt and Evolve
Keep up with industry trends and adjust your thought leadership strategy accordingly. What was relevant last year may not be so today.
Pro Tip: Conduct regular audits of your content and strategies to identify areas for improvement.
Leveraging PR for Differentiation
Public Relations (PR) is a powerful tool to differentiate your B2B thought leadership.
Here’s how to make the most of it:
1. Thought Leadership Media Kits
Create media kits that highlight your thought leadership credentials, including key publications, speaking engagements, and industry recognitions.
Pro Tip: Hire a professional designer to make your media kit visually appealing.
2. Press Releases
Announce major B2B thought leadership initiatives through well-crafted press releases. This can attract media attention and extend your reach.
For more on crafting press releases, check out our article: How to Write a Press Release for Great Results [Examples + Tips]
3. Guest Contributions and Interviews
Secure guest contributions and interviews with respected media outlets. This enhances your credibility and reaches a wider audience.
Example: Jeff Bezos frequently gives interviews to prominent news organizations like The Washington Post and the New York Times.
4. Awards and Recognitions
Apply for relevant industry awards and recognitions. Winning or being nominated for awards can validate your expertise.
Pro Tip: Highlight any awards or recognitions on your website and in your media kit.
5. Influencer Outreach
Collaborate with industry influencers or micro-influencers to amplify your B2B thought leadership message and increase your reach.
Example: T-Mobile acquired Ryan Reynold’s Mint Mobile. He and his marketing firm, Maximum Effort, have stayed on as creative consultants and continue to influence projects.
For more on influencer marketing, check out our article: 9 Influencer Marketing Trends Shaping the Industry in 2023
6. Monitor and Measure
Use PR metrics to monitor and measure the impact of your B2B thought leadership efforts. This data can inform your PR strategy and help you refine your approach.
Pro Tip: Use tools like Google Analytics and social media insights to track traffic to your website and engagement with your posts.
Learn more about measuring your thought leadership efforts here: How to Measure Thought Leadership: Metrics, Strategies, and KPIs
B2B Thought Leadership Success Stories
Real-life success stories can inspire and provide practical insights into how B2B companies have harnessed B2B thought leadership.
Here are a couple of examples:
1. IBM’s Thought Leadership Journey
IBM, a global technology company, has consistently maintained a strong thought leadership position in the tech industry.
They publish whitepapers, research reports, and engage in public discussions on emerging technologies, such as AI, blockchain, and quantum computing.
IBM executives like current CEO Arvind Krishna and former CEO Ginni Rometty actively participate in industry events, webinars, and interviews to share their insights.
IBM’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility has further strengthened its thought leadership position. The company’s emphasis on ethical AI and sustainable practices has garnered respect and trust in the industry.
IBM showcases its thought leadership through a dedicated Thought Leadership page on their website, featuring articles, research papers, and webinars.
2. Salesforce’s Marc Benioff
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is renowned for his thought leadership in the realm of social responsibility and business ethics.
He has been a vocal advocate for gender equality, equal pay, and sustainable business practices. Salesforce has integrated these values into its corporate culture and regularly shares its progress through thought leadership content.
Marc Benioff actively engages with his audience on social media, shares insights on Salesforce’s initiatives, and participates in discussions on the future of business.
Salesforce leverages PR effectively by securing interviews and features in prominent publications. The company consistently ranks high in lists of the most innovative and ethical companies.
In the competitive B2B marketing arena, establishing B2B thought leadership is a game-changer. Companies that invest in thought leadership strategies remain adaptable.
They also show off their ability to embrace the latest trends. By doing so, they elevate their brands, attract new business opportunities, and foster trust within their industries.
Thought leadership is not just about sharing knowledge — it’s about making a meaningful and lasting impact. By following B2B thought leadership strategies, trends, and differentiation tactics, B2B companies can position themselves as industry leaders.
Want help building a B2B thought leadership strategy for your business? Let us help! Simply book a free consultation to get expert advice on how to start building your content today.