Thought Leadership: Value Across the Customer Journey
A thought leadership program can provide a host of benefits as a multi-pronged marketing tool. By offering original insights and opinions on important themes that audiences care about (or should care about), brands showcase vision, leadership, and ultimately, empathy for their prospects and customers. We shared our insights on this topic in our first post in this series.
But thought leadership goes beyond vision; it provides tangible benefits throughout the customer journey. In particular, the ability to engage an audience and position the brand is increasingly valuable in today’s marketing environment. Below, we outline a few examples of how marketers can effectively use thought leadership across different high-level journey stages.
Thought leadership is predicated on a value exchange—information for attention—and getting a target’s attention defines the goal of the awareness stage. The volume of content being produced, promoted, and curated across online marketing channels makes rising above the noise a significant challenge. In this environment, thought leadership content can serve as a clutter cutter by attracting, engaging, and educating prospects who might otherwise turn away from product-based or promotional materials. Engaging prospects, even if they don’t know they have a problem or that you can help them solve it, is half the battle in today’s overly saturated information market.
Once prospects know they have a problem and are researching solutions and/or specific vendors, they consume a considerable amount of online content. A recent Forrester survey stated that 74 percent of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. The risk this poses to brands is that competitive offerings can be perceived at parity, thus putting more onus on differentiation. One way to avoid being dropped from the consideration set is to demonstrate competitive advantage through thought leadership. Does this matter to prospects? In tech, it seems to, as 88 percent of IT buyers said thought leadership was either critical or important to the buying process.
While sales teams have contact with prospects at various stages of the journey, thought leadership content can directly assist sales by acting as a catalyst for conversations. In the later stages of a journey, sales folks want to add value to the discussion without bothering qualified leads. Engaging in a discussion about an important theme unrelated to products is an effective way to achieve this. Thought leadership content is uniquely qualified in its ability to support this goal.
Cross selling, upselling, and renewals are important tactics to driving revenue in the post-purchase stage. But as experienced marketers know, communicating with existing customers requires as much, if not more, consideration than other targets. Ignoring this, brands risk turning off existing customers and experiencing unresponsive behavior and opt-outs. Thought leadership content, provided as an anchor to an ongoing relationship-marketing initiative, can strengthen client connections in the post-purchase stage, and avoid the aforementioned marketing pitfalls. Brands that provide engaging content, without over-selling, fulfill their side of the value exchange—information for (continued) attention. This permits brands to stay connected with customers until those customers demonstrate interest in additional products or services or renewing their agreements.
The last word
Marketers who take a systematic approach and apply thought leadership content across the journey can generate measurable impact in each stage. With its ability to build awareness, differentiate, generate conversations, and drive post-purchase revenue, thought leadership content can be a salve for the ever-increasing pressure on marketers to demonstrate ROI.