Thought Leadership Marketing Advice from Forrester

Thought leadership marketing may be hitting the big time. Forrester Research just published a paper entitled Thought Leadership: The Next Wave Of Differentiation In B2B Marketing. Jeff Ernst, the author of the paper, says:

Business-to-business (B2B) marketers need to position their firms as thought leaders on the issues their buyers face. But most firms don’t have a process or framework for managing thought leadership marketing initiatives, so they push out product brochures and white papers disguised as thought leadership content.

It’s a great endorsement for thought leadership marketing. I don’t know Ernst and haven’t read the report (at $499 it’s out of my price range), but if you have a Forrester account be sure to check it out.

Ernst is pushing the new Forrester platform for thought leadership marketing, which at first blush obvious (but who am I to complain about publicity for the cause). Forrester’s IDEA Platform for Thought Leadership Marketing consists of these four steps:

Identify your target audience, their issues, and the sources of information they trust.
Develop your thought leadership platform: the ideas and content that express the company’s positions.
Engage your audience through a considered mix of digital, social, and traditional channels.
Assess the impact on your business and revise or reinvest.

One thing I see missing from these steps is a consideration of the competition from a thought leadership perspective. Like in any market, if there are already lots of folks vying for a leadership position in an area, you may want to avoid that area. You at least have to determine whether or not you can compete. It doesn’t do you much good if you have ideas and content on positions where others are clearly in the lead.

Ernst also has some good stuff to say about thought leadership marketing in his blog. In It’s Time to Take a Stand … In Your Marketing, he says:

Marketers have to realize that in the age of the customer, business buyers don’t “buy” your product; they “buy into” your approach to solving their problem. Read that last sentence again. Your products aren’t as unique as you think. In fact, in most markets, the products and services are fairly commoditized. Buyers want to do business with firms that share their outlook on the world and have philosophies on solving key problems that align with their own. Yet so many marketers only talk about their features and benefits.

What do you do about it? Establishing a position of thought leadership in your market is becoming the next arena for differentiation in B2B marketing. When done right, thought leadership marketing is a way to stand out from the competition, create interest, and earn the trust of potential buyers early in their problem-solving process.

In checking out this information I came across Forrester’s CMO and Marketing Professionals’ Community where there have been some great conversations on thought leadership marketing that you should read.

Well, enough selling for Forrester today. Keep thinking.