Updated: Sep 20, 2018
When you think about your network of friends and colleagues, do you naturally gravitate to the people with whom you have the most in common? The people who have something interesting to say? The people who listen to you? Of course you do! Can you say the same about your marketing program?
That’s right! A marketing program that drives measurable ROI starts with a conversation. A conversation based on thought leadership. You wouldn’t talk with someone with whom you have nothing in common. Why would a prospect? Thought leadership is the key to jump starting your sales engine and can net tens of millions of dollars in sales.
Forrester reported in The Buyer's Journey Demystified that 57% of a purchase decision is complete before a customer contacts a supplier. Thought leadership can get you in front of the prospect before it’s too late. But what is it? And how do you do it?
To paraphrase Forbes, a thought leader is the foremost authority in a specific area. A thought leader has an opinion. A thought leader has data. A thought leader uses that information to persuade others. To be a thought leader, you need an opinion that you can share.
Have an opinion supported with data. Key to thought leadership is to have an opinion. But it’s not good enough just to have an opinion, you have to support that opinion with data, preferably data that no one else has. Use market research to get it. That market research could be extensive—asking 100s of people 10 key questions—or simple—conducting a 5-question poll at a meeting. The level of research depends on the believability of the information you are sharing.
Make the data easy to understand. Data must be interpreted to be understood. z
Use your data to tell a compelling story. Keep it simple. Break it into chunks. Share the results and their implications. Offer suggestions. And use infographics—pictures that tell a story.
Use your data everywhere. Create a content marketing plan for your data. Create a market research “report” to share the story. Use pieces of the story in blogs, sales presentations, press releases, podcasts, webinars, videos and even point-of-view papers. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and other social media channels to highlight your thought leadership. The more you use the data, the more people see it. The more people see it, the more important your thought leadership becomes to them.
Sales conversations start with thought leadership. IDC reported in its 2012 Customer Engagement Study that the average IT decision maker downloads 10 content assets (or pieces of information) during the buying process. Wouldn’t you like some of those content pieces to be from you? If you answered yes, then start a thought leadership program now. You’ll be surprised at the sales conversations it starts.