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Guest post: Simon Rhodes, former Head of Thought Leadership at Credit Suisse and EY, on measuring content impact

Thought leadership is becoming a major pillar of go-to-market strategies across a wide range of B2B sectors.

Business leaders are recognising the power of targeted content in building engagement and trust with customers and government, in sparking new conversations in areas of strategic importance for the business, and ultimately in generating new client relationships and sales.

But as this trend continues, and the content marketing space becomes more congested, marketing leaders are coming under pressure to achieve the maximum possible cut-through with their content — and to demonstrate its impact.

Bosses, budget owners and boards are looking for a way to measure the returns on their investment. So, is there an easy way for marketers to achieve this?

Focus on influence, not quantity

Traditionally, PR professionals have measured impact using advertising value equivalent (AVE), which is a crude assessment of coverage and column inches in the public press.

Of course, digital technology has increased the number of measurement tools to include web hits, click-through, app and pdf downloads. However, simply measuring quantity doesn’t help to measure the true impact of the thought leadership.

Genuine thought leadership will deliver an evidence-based point of view on the topics that keep your clients awake at night. Moving the opinion of those in your target audience on a specific topic – not obsessing over number of downloads – is the key. What you really need to understand is:

  • Has your thought leadership led to new conversations with prospective clients?
  • Is the sales team reporting that content is giving them stronger influence in discussions with existing clients?
  • Are client-facing stakeholders coming back with requests for deeper dives into the research?
  • Are the right people in the organisation registering for your content, or events that may be driven by the research — whether department heads or those that report directly into them?

Cultivating high quality, robustly researched content that focuses on your niche expertise is the foundation for a good thought leadership programme. It is now up to marketers to ensure the campaign is linked with specific client conversations and specific opportunity generation. And while this information is not so easily captured and reported as AVE-type data, it must become the norm for firms serious about measuring thought leadership impact.

Simon Rhodes is an experienced strategist with nearly two decades of experience in the thought leadership sector. He led EY’s thought leadership and knowledge insight team for 15 years, and more recently headed up the thought leadership and global corporate communications function within Credit Suisse. 

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