How to build a thought leadership strategy for a B2B niche audience
When marketing to a niche, you need to understand that niche. Is it clear how macroeconomics affect your audience? Do you get the value chain in the industry? What about who the decision-makers are, your customers’ pain points, and the challenges driving market demand?
B2B businesses at the moment are obsessed with thought leadership. And they should be – it’s a highly effective way to build brand prestige through expert insights. But it only works if you really understand the niche you are trying to appeal to.
In today’s working world, many B2B marketers build ‘thought leadership strategies’ that extend their product marketing. But they’re missing out on the chance to think on a broader scale. Often, this means their content and sales enablement assets are effective only for the short run.
We advocate a different approach.
One where thought leadership reinforces your brand positioning and is an extension of your identity that works long-term. Done well, it adds value by providing clarity and strengthening your brand amongst those audiences who are not actively in-market. 95% of your total addressable market (TAM) has a massive part to play, particularly in a recession. It will drive awareness, impress your relevance on customers, raise the level of regard your brand is held in, and, consequently, be seen as unique from others. These are the drivers of brand strength, shown in the Young & Rubicam model.
Many think that thought leadership is about demonstrating expertise and positioning products against problems. We refute this with the level of expertise relative to the reader. It must add value for them, and should provide helpful insight in an accessible and practical way.
Reputable thought leadership subjects can be told in many different ways across different stages of the buying journey; just like an artist painting a masterpiece, the correct positioning subject should reflect various aspects of your organisation, your market, and your competitors.
You will no doubt have a list of possible thought leadership themes in mind already. But how do you select the right one? How do you know it will work?
Our prism for testing the potential success of a thought leadership theme revolves around a set of core questions. Answer these, and the correct subject emerges:
- Does it add value to our audiences on all subjects? Is it relevant to them? Will it make sense internationally?
- Is it ownable? Is anyone else doing it?
- Do we have the cred to talk with authority?
- Do we have something unique to say? Something worth listening to?
- Does it support our purpose and our mission, vision, and values?
- Does it align with why our audience needs our products/services?
- Is it relevant to mega-trends?
- Is it exciting and flexible to work with?
For companies targeting a niche (that includes us!), we advocate a strategy of providing thought leadership around what more significant industry initiatives mean through the prism of your market, in our case, those targeting a niche within the professional services, industrial, and technology sectors.
Other options are appropriate approaches, quality standards, or advocating a new approach to solving a problem. For example, our client, Electro Rent, does a great job challenging traditional procurement methods to encourage buyers of test and measurement equipment to look again at renting.
Whatever your niche, there are several steps to work through when it comes to mapping out your thought leadership strategy – and our prism is designed to reassure your steps are ‘leading‘ you in the right direction.
To find out more about our work in this area, click here.
What does good thought leadership look like for companies targeting a niche?