B2B thought leadership is a digital marketing term for using content to establish a reputation and develop leadership and credibility within an industry. In turn, the reputation and leadership you build become powerful characteristics that attract loyal customers and build a successful business.
Of course, it’s not as easy as “Start a blog and have the world follow your thoughts.” Effective thought leadership requires strategy, skill, and attention to detail. And part of that strategy involves deciding who you would like to lead.
There are three paths you can take to build B2B thought leadership: you can focus on your customers, your competitors, or yourself. And while many companies choose one approach and put all their energy into it, some companies find success by planning out a mix of all three. HubSpot is one of those companies that taps into all three prongs to deliver the most compelling (and popular) B2B thought leadership around.
Curious about which path is best for your company? Here’s a rundown of the three approaches to B2B thought leadership:
1. Lead Your Customers
Most companies establish B2B thought leadership by providing free advice to their customers on the company blog. This approach focuses entirely on customers: the problems they face, the questions they have, etc. The goal of this kind of thought leadership is to be a resource for your customers so that they look to you to guide their decisions.
HubSpot sets the bar with this kind of thought leadership by maintaining three separate, high-quality blogs for its audience of digital marketers and salespeople. By supporting their target audience with tons of extra expert content (with tons of personality), HubSpot establishes itself as a great resource to check in with when making any decision about digital marketing and sales.
2. Lead Your Competitors
Another B2B thought leadership approach is to set the standard for your competitors and focus on best practices within your industry. This approach does take customer needs into account. However, instead of focusing on answering customer questions, the content focuses on big picture, industry best practices and how the industry (including established companies and newcomers alike) can improve to deliver better service.
The goal of this kind of thought leadership is to be perceived as the ultimate resource for anyone working within a given industry. And while this approach isn’t directly focused on your customer, the result is powerful: why wouldn’t a customer want to work with the company that all other companies look to for advice?
HubSpot uses this second approach to building thought leadership, too. The company does a great job of leading the competition by developing such high-quality blog posts, white papers, and slides that their customers and competitors alike use them as a resource to market their own companies.
3. Lead By Example
Finally, you can also build a B2B thought leadership strategy by leading by example. Rather than directly advising customers or competitors, this type of leadership focuses on sharing examples of why you do what you do and the results of your work. It functions as a long-term case study that provides unbiased information for those who might read it-- customers and competitors alike.
It’s hard to believe, but HubSpot nails this approach, too. The company maintains a stunning directory of case studies that cover industries as diverse as healthcare and travel and leisure. They constantly share details about how they do what they do and why they do it. They’re an open book for experimentation and growth in digital marketing, so everyone looks to them to inform their business choices, strategies, and best practices.
How are you building B2B thought leadership for your company? Do you focus on your competitors, your customers, or yourself? How could you improve your efforts by focusing on all three?