What Makes a Company a Thought Leader in B2B Demand Generation Marketing?

Rodin: The Thinker

Here’s a litmus test to help you judge your company’s thought leadership potential.

Recently, Chris Koch explored the eight attributes of individual thought leadership. In summary, according to his research and experience, a thought leader combines earned respect with a highly engaging persona.

Now, for B2B marketing companies, employing charismatic people with sterling professional credentials is certainly a step in the thought leadership direction.

But if the company itself is not set up to support thought leadership, or take advantage of its benefits, even Seth Godin won’t be able to help (much).

Ask yourself these three questions with respect to your company:

1. Do you think you deserve to be a thought leader?

Okay, that’s kind of a trick question. Every company has to be able to envision their potential before they can fulfill it.

However, if your company leadership assumes that just because they have some good ideas the company should automatically be recognized as a thought leader in their field, they’re on the wrong track. Selling thought leadership is not the same as selling strategy and programs.

If “thought leadership” is proposed as a marketing objective for a campaign, move on to #2.

2. Do you have a proven track record of success?

To be recognized as a thought leader, your company needs to show it’s a true subject matter expert by its results as well as its ideas. If a neat description of an interesting twist on a marketing concept made one a thought leader, every good copywriter in our industry would be hailed as such.

True thought leadership reflects experience over time. No thought leader, company or individual, reaps results right away. Which leads us to #3…

3. How long do you think it takes to get results from your thought leadership: a few months or a few years?

I’m afraid engaging in thought leadership is like receiving a puppy at Christmas: it’s a commitment for life! (Or at least the life of your company/pup).

Thought leadership isn’t owned by one campaign; it has to become ingrained in the way your designated thought leaders work.

Which isn’t to say it’s hard. It’s a matter of being mindful—in your content planning, program planning, resource allocation—so that thought leadership needs are fed by and inform all of your efforts.

For more musings on the subject, see Chris Koch’s Eight Attributes of a Thought Leader.

4 Responses to What Makes a Company a Thought Leader in B2B Demand Generation Marketing?

  1. Lauren, thought leadership is a good topic. I think it’s an evolutionary process: (off the top of my head) Begin with a focus, immerse yourself in the practical and theoretical aspects of it, put it into practice, succeed and fail, evolve, share your learning, assess the future, refocus, share some more.

    Thought leadership is earned, not just proclaimed. There are a lot of folks out there who have a lot to share, so there’s a lot of competition for “leadership.”

  2. I’d agree with Barrett. It really is an evolutionary process. No one sits one fine day and says “OK so I’m going to be the thought leader in this particular field”. It takes years of sustainability and a strong credibility in the market to be called a thought leader.

    However the positive side of it all that I see it is that it’s not that hard either. All you have to do is focus on what you are doing and really build your credibility one client at a time and you’ll reach there one day.

    • Gautam – Yes, both you and Barrett make an important point – it’s a process, and it takes time.
      You make an interesting point about not needing to be “hard”. Companies and individuals should be passionate about the topics/areas they strive to be thought leaders in…and therefore, it should not be “hard”. However, it does take effort and commitment – “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
      Thanks for the comment!
      Market Well! Lauren

  3. useful articles…

    […]What Makes a Company a Thought Leader in B2B Demand Generation Marketing? « Lauren On Demand[…]…

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