Strategy is sometimes (wrongly) seen as time-consuming, expensive and complicated. But in my experience, it is an essential part of any thought leadership campaign. If you do not take the time to plan and consider your goals, audience and messaging before you start developing the content, your campaign is likely to fall flat.
Why is that? Here are five reasons to take the time to think through the right strategy.
1. Thought leadership is a big investment
Doing thought leadership well is costly. It takes time and skill to come up with original insights, and vision and resources to get the message out to your chosen audience. These projects are too high-profile and important to fail.
So perhaps the biggest reason to step back, challenge your own thinking and consider the broader objectives of a campaign is that it reduces risk. Think of it like an insurance contract or due-diligence process that protects against your content misfiring.
2. There will be different views on goals
In any company, there is a large number of people who are in some way involved with thought leadership. Marketing may lead the charge, but they will also need to consult PR/corporate communications, business development teams, account management, product marketing and, usually, the leadership team. Each of these teams will have a different idea of what thought leadership is for and why the company is doing it.
So the first step is to build consensus among those groups. Make sure everyone understands the objectives and how success will be measured and, crucially, that you are not trying to spread yourself too thinly with your campaign in order to achieve disparate goals. Try to please everyone and do too much, and your campaign will quickly lose focus.
Think thought leadership strategy is boring? Think again.
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3. It is not always obvious who your audience is
It is not just the stakeholders involved in thought leadership who are diverse – the audience is too. You will want to target buyers, but that is rarely a single individual: most B2B purchasing takes place in groups, often with 10 or more participants.
So you need to think carefully about that group: who is the decision-maker, and who are the influencers? Which are the roles you need to target, and are these changing or converging? You might also want to look beyond buyers and influencers to employees and maybe investors, consumers or the media.
Make sure you avoid lazy generalisations when you map your audience. Too many companies say they are trying to target “the C-suite” with their campaign, but that is too vague. The C-suite is not a homogeneous entity – it consists of individuals with very different roles, personalities and requirements. So be precise with your audience mapping.
4. It is getting harder to be distinctive
We all know that B2B content is an incredibly crowded space. And companies tend to cluster around the same, small number of topics. Standing out is challenging, but it is even more difficult if you do not step back to think about what will make your message resonate with audiences.
A good starting point is to consider what is unique about your business and use that as a lens – together with a good understanding of audience pain points – through which to think about your chosen topic.
5. You need to know what works
We know that one of the biggest challenges of thought leadership is proving its value. Strategy exercises can help, because one of their goals should be to determine the KPIs for your campaign and agree how success will be measured. Tracking against these metrics should give you a clear idea of what works and what does not.