The new realities of B2B marketing has made thought leadership, and the development of big ideas, an important differentiator. The new realities are also driving a change in buyers’ expectations. Buyers want relevant and actionable content that enables them to turn big ideas into operating realities.
The traditional role of thought leadership developers has been to focus on the research and analysis that yields the important big ideas. Turning those big ideas into relevant actionable content to meet the buyers’ expectations isn’t what they do. That job actually belongs to the people in marketing and sales that drive revenue. These, “revenue drivers,” are closest to the customer, online or in person, and have disciplines for communicating with customers. They understand the need for relevant actionable content, how to develop it, and the best ways to deliver it.
The problem is with the hand-off from thought leadership to the revenue drivers. Thought leadership traditionally positions the statement of the big idea in a “one size fits all,” white paper or webinar, as the project end deliverable. Beyond promoting this deliverable, limited effort goes into making the big idea ready for revenue drivers to address, such as: the implications by buyer role, key questions in each buying cycle stage, variations for each industry, and other factors that drive relevance and support customers who want to take action.
Extending from a one size fits all big idea, to relevant actionable content, could result in hundreds of content extensions in a variety of content formats. This can extend the useful life of the thought leadership idea from a few months to years. It is hard to consider a big idea that doesn’t lead to significant content extensions, a success.
Traditional thought leadership success metrics focus on the number of downloads or content views of the final content. They don’t measure the number of content extensions and the number of viewings associated with those extensions. This is an important new metric for B2B thought leadership.
A Different Approach Is Required
The research and development work of thought leadership teams to create big ideas remains largely unchanged. The primary change that is required is a more structured hand-off to sales and marketing revenue drivers. A re-engineered hand-off process focuses on aligning the big idea with disciplined structures, or “content frameworks,” that revenue drivers use to develop content. It embraces the concept that the big idea is a grounded starting point that must be re-purposed into appropriate content extensions for each marketing, selling and training purpose.
Content frameworks include documented concepts that shape content strategies, tactics, and content deliverables. Key concepts include:
- Customer problems, symptoms, causes, and impacts
- Buyer personas
- Buyer role criteria and information requirements
- Buying cycle stage questions
- Required beliefs
- Urgency drivers
- Key solution messaging points
- Customer stories
- Customers’ content delivery preferences
- Industry or regional nuances
Extended content focuses on answering buyers’ questions throughout their buying journey: as they become aware of the idea and move through evaluating, implementing, and using it. To reduce the time and effort required to create extended content, marketers need inputs that go beyond what’s available from edited whitepapers, presentations or webinars.
Content creators need access to the work products from the research phase. We call this “Content Source.” Content Source includes interview transcripts, surveys, secondary research and other materials such as interview guides that were used in the development of the big idea.
For example, interview transcripts may contain meaningful and useful quotes or narratives that can be easily re-purposed into new content. By knowing what source materials exist, content developers can better determine what can be re-purposed and what additional research or input will be required.
The alignment of thought leadership work with revenue drivers should be a documented, repeatable process. The practices and tools should be a component of a larger content management program that supports a library of content source materials. Structure and discipline enable speed, quality, and lowers the overall cost of content development.
Thought leadership is a catalyst for change. Leveraging big ideas into relevant actionable content is differentiating and valued. Planning and structuring for content extensions speeds the process and accelerates the impact of new big ideas. Measuring the number and rate of development of content extensions is a meaningful measure of the impact of thought leadership.