‘Thought Leadership’ is a Verb, not a Noun

The biggest mistake B2B content marketers make is producing “thought leadership” content.

Brent Adamson and Patrick Spenner of CEB reached this conclusion in 2016 after surveying over 5,000 B2B purchasers across 12 industries. Adamson and Spenner elaborate the mistake is creating content that’s smart for the sake of appearing smart.

“Only content that teaches customers something new about their business and provides a compelling reason to change their behavior proves sufficient to influence the decision process.” (Source: “Avoid These Common B2B Content Marketing Mistakes”.)

At Karbo Communications, we agree.

We approach thought leadership as a verb, not a title of self-promotion. We work with B2B tech companies who live their leadership by sticking to the proverbial blueprint of success: identify real market problems and solve them. Thought leadership naturally manifests itself through communication programs that speak to problems and solutions. Let me give you two client examples.

Example #1: Education Replaces Guesswork

When we were working with Intel’s DCM Solutions, we learned about the universal problems facing data centers. Several themes emerged, but what surprised us most was the guesswork involved in determining power consumption, even though data and statistics were available. We worked with subject matter experts who put price tags on this ignorance, and identified root causes. Then, we developed and executed a campaign of bylines to educate about the gap between what facilities and operations managers estimated to be true, versus what was truly happening in their data centers. These articles demonstrated our client’s authority through scientifically valid statistics, testing and anecdotes from the field.

By sharing its expertise, our client was rewarded in ways that met both business and communications’ objectives. Prospective data center customers contacted the client, who referred these direct sales leads to partners, contributing to the overall growth of the market category. We infer this because sales in this segment, originally predicted to grow 39% CAGR, were adjusted to grow 44% CAGR by 451 Research, during the latter part of the educational campaign.

Unsolicited invitations to participate in special reports and at industry events led to greater awareness among coveted audiences, meeting communications’ objectives.

Example #2: Standards Development Democratizes Leadership

Karbo Com client RTI, a B2B company involved in the Industrial Internet, early anticipated potential problems from competing standards in an increasingly connected world. To mitigate this, RTI has committed to participate in more than 15 industry consortia and standards organizations.

For example, CEO Stan Schneider serves on the Steering Committee at the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) as well as chairing the testbed subcommittee. In his committee leadership position, his voice carries equal weight to tech giants with much larger marketing budgets for generating industry awareness.

Karbo Com and RTI work together on an ongoing basis to secure opportunities for Schneider and other RTI executives to participate in activities within the 15 groups, including speaking at keynotes or on panels, authoring technical documents, leading testbed initiatives, participating in social media activities such as Twitter chats, co-hosting webinars, and participating in joint press/analyst interviews. These communications achievements are driving greater awareness of RTI’s expertise, in turn contributing to the company’s growth as it helps define and accelerate a fast-growing market.

As a verb, “thought leadership” achieves marketing and business goals. Otherwise, let’s toss it in the trash with other clichés like “state of the art,” “revolutionary,” and “cutting edge.”