B2B thought leadership: The secret to top-tier brand development

Chris Attewell


B2B Marketing

In B2B marketing, content needs to resonate with decision-makers at every stage of the customer journey. The goal is to attract leads that convert into purchases, but strong, unique content can also elevate the online presence of your B2B brand, leading to longer-term growth opportunities. 

As with B2C companies, B2B brand development can rely on content that answers users’ queries and showcases expertise in a specific industry. However, an important distinction is that B2B brands can find success by positioning key internal stakeholders as thought leaders in the B2B space. 

This article identifies what effective thought leadership is, how to build a content strategy based on it, and how this can develop your brand into a sought-after B2B organisation. 

What is B2B thought leadership?


B2B thought leadership is elevating experts in your company into reliable experts in your industry. It may sound simple, but it involves more than just labelling your CEO as an ‘expert’ in a piece of content. B2B business leaders need convincing to listen to a new voice in their space. 

Developing thought leadership without a specific point of view will barely scratch the surface of the competitive B2B landscape. The best thought leaders get to the top by: 

  • Sharing transparent and authentic knowledge 
  • Highlighting unique opinions that spark discussions and debates 
  • Reinforcing these views with careful research and data. 

While making your CEO the prominent thought leader for your organisation is tempting, another individual may be better suited to speak on industry, service, or organisational topics. 

Plus, depending on the size of your company, thought leadership does not need to rely on only one individual. Your organisation may contain several experts, all with relevant thought leadership qualities. Having a sizable roster will grow the reputation of your B2B brand, increase outside interest, and result in more conversions from possible leads.




The different types of B2B thought leadership content


Thought leaders should explore a variety of platforms to see which gives them direct access to their desirable demographic. This is especially important with the evolution of how people search and the perception of online ‘authority.’ Thought leaders can find success by: 

  • Authoring company blogs 
  • Hosting webinars 
  • Speaking at conferences 
  • Taking part in podcasts 
  • Contributing to external and industry-focused publications 
  • Posting on social media. 

Although having a mixture of content types is a good thing, your target audience will only engage with certain types of content. So, making sure you focus on those types the most is a must. There’s often a perception that B2B thought leadership content is dense and dry. So, contributing to different content types can give thought leaders a varied tone of voice and make them more engaging to your audience.

A way to know what content streams to focus on is for your marketing team to conduct audience research. This allows them to know the best format, publications, and content types that engage your target audience the most. 

Your team should also put effective KPI measurements in place. Tracking and analysing the right data from your content lets you know if it is generating the returns, you, and your thought leader’s desire. 

Keep in mind that developing a thought leadership brand does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of patience, outreach, relationship development with relevant publications, to build the reputation of a thought leader. But eventually, all the hard work will pay off if you are consistent and pay attention to engagement. 

Advice for creating an effective B2B thought leadership content strategy


After deciding who to promote as thought leaders and identifying the most persuasive content for them to present themselves against, your marketing team can now develop a thought leadership content strategy. 

With a precise strategy, you can ensure your business gains the most substantial ROI from your thought leaders content. Here are five important steps to ensure an effective content strategy.

1. Decide on your thought leadership goals and KPIs


Determining goals and KPIs is a crucial step in developing a thought leadership strategy. Although the goal is to generate leads, as with all content strategies, expect a slow, gradual simmer that builds over time. 

Setting realistic expectations such as ‘take part in five podcasts’ or ‘speak at three events’ every quarter are flexible KPIs that can increase or decrease depending on outside factors. In addition to these KPIs, knowing what you want your content to accomplish ensures you keep your eye on the prize.  

Do you want to: 

  • Increase or solidify brand awareness? 
  • Improve customer engagement? 
  • Encourage the audience to move down the sales funnel? 

By selecting these goals, you can decide what metrics indicate success for your thought leadership content. 


2. Identify metrics that indicate success and ensure they are tracked accurately 


To understand how your content is performing with your target audience, you must put correct tracking measures in place. Whether it’s collating first-party data via your CRM or online traffic metrics through Google Analytics 4, this data will help inform future B2B thought leadership content.


3. Carry out competitor research


While you never want to plagiarise, there’s nothing wrong with using content from other though leaders as inspiration for your own. Knowing what fellow thought leaders are up to can generate ideas for your content and determine which external publications or partners are most beneficial to target.


4. Identify which topics speak directly to your target audience


The key to creating content is ensuring it resonates with your target audience. If your content does not appeal to their perspective, it’s a wasted opportunity. The solution here is simple: find out what your audience, customers, and website visitors like and dislike from your previous content. This approach leads to in-depth audience profiles that can help provide more focus to your content strategy. 

5. Decide the best way to produce your thought leader’s content


Once you have decided on the voice to highlight, your team needs to decide on the most beneficial strategy to get their thoughts out into the world.  

One way to start is live events. When a thought leader is hosting an online workshop or speaking at a conference, their expertise tends to shine through, especially if they have a charismatic stage presence. Written content is another ballgame – it takes more time and finesse to do right. 

Sometimes, experts have the time and experience to produce written content themselves. Most of the time though, thought leaders have little time to dedicate to anything outside of their operational role. A dedicated content writer or creator can help to project manage this. 

And, if the thought leader isn’t confident creating written work, the content writer can organise a meeting with them, translating their thoughts and ideas on the industry into written content.


B2B brand development can be challenging. It takes patience, determination, a close attention to detail, and a strong central opinion to stand out in your specific industry. 

However, by utilising thought leadership as a B2B content stream, you champion experts in your organisation, enhancing their importance to the industry. And when your experts shine, your company shines as well. 

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