Back to School for Businesses

Published: September 8, 2016

“Why businesses should add Thought Leadership to this year’s syllabus: Today’s clients and prospects want organisations to go beyond product sales and provide a fresh perspective on pressing industry challenges.”

Millions of freshly ironed children have returned to their desks eager to impress and master new skills. And, while returning to work after the summer break rarely evokes the same emotional intensity, that ‘back-to-school’ feeling is all too familiar. Excitement at the thought of developing new ideas, alongside nagging doubts that fresh initiatives will soon crumble under the pressures of business as usual.

Rather than succumbing to anxiety and resigning yourself to a ‘could do better’ end of year report, September is a good time to think about how you could refresh your thinking. One effective way to revitalise the brand and spank the competition is by taking a thought leadership approach to B2B communications.

But what precisely is it about thought leadership that means it should be front and centre of this year’s marketing syllabus?

First and foremost, thought leadership is uniquely attuned to changing buyer behaviour.
Google research shows that buyers can be up to 90 per cent of the way through their purchasing journey before they make official contact with a provider, looking closely at insights, recommendations and evidence of expertise.

Today’s clients and prospects want organisations to go beyond product sales and demonstrate that they clearly understand their business by providing a fresh perspective on pressing industry challenges.

Thought leadership allows you to display your commitment to the sector and meet our innate appetite for knowledge.

Secondly, thought leadership is a tried and tested method to get that all important (proactive) media splash and high profile speaking engagement. Unless something’s gone badly wrong, the FT, Times and BBC are highly unlikely to report a new product launch. Particularly in B2B sectors where services can be hard to differentiate.

Instead, editors and conference organisers want to see well-evidenced research and insight that challenges accepted wisdom and casts new light on an important and timely issue.

Thirdly, thought leadership material can be used to engage employees as well as customers and suppliers.

Employees want to work for organisations with a clear vision and sense of purpose. Deloitte research shows that 73 per cent of employees who say they work at a ‘purpose-driven’ company are engaged, compared to just 23 per cent of those who don’t. Individuals within your team also want to update their personal profiles with interesting, positive stories that reflect their values and preferences.

Rather than seeing the sharing culture as a threat, organisations can empower different audiences to amplify the company’s best work (with a level of authenticity that is sometimes questioned when material is ‘professionally promoted’).

Finally, thought leadership is a great way to reinvigorate your communications programme. By following a simple process, organisations can:

• Identify new, untapped areas of expertise
• Determine the most pressing industry issues
• Develop new insight and perspectives
• Create new forms of persuasive content
• Transform perceptions of the brand

Thought leadership will undoubtedly push and challenge you. It introduces new ways of thinking that can reinvent business models and working practices. Done well, thought leadership can also transform relationships with customers, colleagues and partners.

An engaging, energising new approach that takes full advantage of that ‘back-to-school’ feeling.

Simon Maule, Director

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