B2B Thought Leadership: The Secret to Top-Tier Brand Development

Ally Bolender

Content Specialist

B2B Marketing

In B2B marketing, content must resonate with decision-makers at every stage of the customer journey. The goal is to attract leads that convert into purchases, but robust and 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 directly answers users’ queries and showcases expertise in a specific industry. However, an important distinction is that B2B brands can find success by positioning key stakeholders as thought leaders in their related B2B space.

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

What is B2B thought leadership?


B2B thought leadership elevates experts in your company, positioning them as reliable experts in your industry. It may sound simple, but this strategy involves more than just labeling your CEO as an ‘expert’ in 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 current competitive B2B landscape. The best thought leaders get to the top by:

– Transparent and authentic knowledge sharing internally and externally
– Highlighting unique opinions that can spark discussion and debate
– Reinforcing these views with careful research and data

Depending on the size of your organization, thought leadership does not need to rely on only one individual. While making your CEO the prominent thought leader for your organization is tempting, another individual may be better suited to speak on industry, service, or organizational topics.

Plus, your business may contain several industry experts with relevant thought leadership qualities. Having a sizable roster will grow your organization’s reputation, increase outside interest, and result in higher conversions from possible leads.


The different types of B2B thought leadership content


With the consistently evolving developments in how people search for content online and perceive “authority,” thought leaders should explore a variety of platforms to see which give them direct access to their desirable demographic.

For example, thought leaders can find success by:

  • Authoring company blogs
  • Hosting webinars and in-person seminars
  • Attending and speaking at conferences
  • Taking part in podcasts
  • Contributing to external online and printed publications
  • Posting on social media platforms

Only some of these formats will be relevant to your specific business and prospects. Although having a mixture of content types is always a good thing, certain forms of media will not be preferred by or familiar to your target audience.

Additionally, there’s often a perception that B2B thought leadership content is dense and dry. Contributing to different content types can give your thought leaders a varied tone of voice, making them more engaging when compared to competitors.

To avoid these issues, your marketing team should conduct audience research ahead of time to know the correct format, publication, and content type that appeals to your target audience, leading to a more direct path of engagement.

In addition to the above research, your team should also have practical KPI measurements in place. Tracking and analyzing the most helpful data from your content lets you know if it generates the returns you and your thought leaders desire.

Keep in mind that developing a thought leadership brand does not happen overnight. Building an expert’s following takes a lot of patience, outreach, relationship development with relevant publications, and more. Eventually, all the hard work will pay off if you are consistent and paying attention to engagement.

Five ways to develop an effective B2B thought leadership content strategy


After deciding who to promote as your representative experts and the most persuasive content for your brand, your marketing team can now put together a thought leadership content strategy. 

With a precise strategy, you can ensure that your thought leaders target the most appropriate audience and that your business gains the most substantial ROI from their content.

1. Decide on the right KPIs and goals


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

Setting realistic, specific expectations such as “take part in five podcasts” or “speak at three events'” every quarter are KPIs that can grow or decrease depending on planning, available resources, and priorities.

In addition to these KPIs, knowing what you want to accomplish with your content will ensure you keep your eye on the prize. For example, 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 for your thought leadership content at the beginning of the rollout, you can decide what metrics indicate success for your specific goal.



2. Identify specific metrics that indicate success (and ensure accurate tracking)


To understand how your content is doing with your target audience, you must put the 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. Put some time into competitive research


While you never want to plagiarize, there’s nothing wrong with using content from other thought leaders as inspiration for your own.

Knowing what fellow thought leaders are up to can help you 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. Settle on 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 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 shines 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 for anything outside of their operational role.

A dedicated content writer or creator can help to manage this part of the thought leadership process. And, if the thought leader isn’t confident creating written work, the content writer can organize a meeting with them, translating their thoughts and ideas on the industry into persuasive written content.


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

But the benefits outweigh the challenges. By utilizing thought leadership as a B2B content stream, you champion experts in your organization at the forefront of your field, enhancing their importance to the industry. And when your experts shine, your company does as well.

Do you want to enhance your B2B digital strategy?Download our whitepaper to uncover next steps