How to Power Your Pipeline with Strategic Thought Leadership Content (4 Types + Examples)

July 12, 2023

ViB Editorial Team

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Thought leadership is your secret weapon for establishing your company as the go-to expert in your industry.

And according to a senior marketer Jaye Ling, who’s a pro at putting thought leadership content to work for B2B demand generation, thought leadership is like “the gift that keeps giving.”

But crafting an effective thought leadership strategy and content assets to support it is so much easier said than done.

What types of thought leadership content are worth investing in? How do you create trustworthy content that resonates with the market? And what benefits can you expect from a thought leadership campaign?

To get deep into this topic, we spoke to experts Jaye Ling, a Senior Marketing Manager at Illumio, a leader in security segmentation; and Tom Riddle, Director of Survey and Research Solutions at ViB.

▶️ Watch the on-demand webinar, and listen in as Tom and Jaye explain how and why to develop strategic thought leadership material. They also discuss the benefits of creating this type of content, including:

 
 

Otherwise, read further for our recap and deeper dive on how to create different types of thought leadership content to keep your B2B sales pipeline really full.

What is thought leadership and why does it matter?

Thought leadership means sharing valuable insights, knowledge, and expertise to position yourself as a leader and build trust with potential clients.

Tom explains that “thought leadership is the number one criteria” customers use when deciding to consider a company’s services.

But it also goes beyond just selling products or services; it’s about becoming a respected authority that people turn to for industry expertise.

Especially if you’re dealing longer B2B sales cycles and selling items with a larger price-tag, thought leadership is not just important, it’s essential for gaining your prospects’ trust before they pull out their wallets.

And even after you make the sale, maintaining your status as a thought leader goes a long way in fostering enduring customer relationships.

What the annual LinkedIn-Edelman study says about thought leadership

Instead of just hearing from us, let’s also look at LinkedIn and Edelman’s annual B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report.

“Edelman is considered the preeminent PR firm worldwide,” says Tom. The study includes responses from thousands of global business leaders on the value of thought leadership.

According to the most recent 2022 report, thought leadership is one of the most effective tools an organization can use during a tough economy like today.

61% of B2B decision-makers say that an organization's thought leadership can be moderately or a lot more effective at demonstrating their product or service's potential value as compared traditional advertising or product marketing.

2022 LinkedIn-Edelman B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report

Tom further highlights this statistic from an earlier report: “88% of decision makers said thought leadership can be effective in enhancing perceptions of an organization.”

This enhanced perception extends to a company’s capabilities. And that remained true even if no capabilities were mentioned in the thought leadership content. “This is a really important point,” says Tom. “And the trust in an organization increased as well.”

🔍 How are B2B marketers approaching generative AI, lead generation and marketing budget allocation today? 

Check out our latest B2B marketing trends report for the latest stats and strategies you need to know – created with our very own market research solution, ViB Research.

Thumbnail of ViB B2B Marketing Trends Report

Discover the latest trends and statistics — and the key actions B2B marketers and leaders need to take today. 

Types of thought leadership content in B2B tech marketing

So where do we start?

Now that we know why such thought leadership content is so crucial, let’s look at some thought leadership examples to inspire your B2B content marketing strategy.

1. Original research reports

In our current generative-AI wave where content is so easily regurgitated and reshared, new and original data is more important than ever before.

Conducting original research is a foolproof strategy to make your content novel, insightful, and portray your brand as a thought leader.

To produce this, conduct research to highlight key findings, industry trends, and actionable insights for your audience. You can also analyze existing data to provide comprehensive reports on specific topics.

One of the easier ways to to produce compelling market research is by executing a survey. That process could look something like this:

How to conduct market research using a survey

Step 1: Scope out your questions

Here, creating hypotheses before you start helps to ensure focused and relevant research.

Remember to also consider the user experience when planning your questionaire. For example, our research experts recommend keeping each survey under 25 questions, being careful about leading or double-barrelled questions, and using matrix or open-ended question sparingly.

Step 2: Get respondents

Reach out to target industries, professionals, or online communities. Aim for at least 200 hundred respondents for credibility.

This step is crucial, so if you're looking at niche profiles to survey, a good idea is to tap into a B2B contact list or service provider to help.

Step 3: Conduct your survey

Publish your questionare and gather valuable data and insights. Consider giving a small incentive to encourage completion and quality.

Step 4: Analyze the data

Identify key findings, industry trends, and actionable insights from your collected data.

If possible, work with an experienced analyst who can help you crunch out the numbers, find meaningful correlations, and even visualize the data for you.

Step 5: Create thought leadership

Transform your analysis into thought leadership content, and repurpose it to the fullest. This could mean promoting your content as press releases, gated reports, blogs, infographics, and social media videos.

With just a single research report, we’ve seen marketing teams create a robust content library to establish their brand as a thought leader and provide evidence-based guidance for B2B tech companies.

For this cybersecurity tech company in particular, third-party research led to $2M closed/won revenue for the company.

Now, we know that research is a pretty lengthy and complicated process. That’s why it’s a good idea to outsource to third-party B2B market research tools and services.

For the most trusted form of thought leadership content, find a firm that can deliver solid industry research.

Tom says that according to the marketing and sales analyst SiriusDecisions, “vendor-neutral, third-party, end-user-based research is the number one most trusted basis of content.”

An affordable and quick option that checks all these boxes? ViB Research, a custom market research solution for technology companies to generate original data in as little as 3-6 weeks.

B2B organizations must have a solid awareness of their industry space and the current market trends to stay relevant in an ever-competitive digital landscape.

2. Expert interviews

Interviewing experts within your industry is a powerful qualitative alternative to quantitative research.

By engaging with industry leaders, you can extract their insights to provide valuable content for your audience.

To find experts to interview, start by identifying industry leaders who are knowledgeable and respected in their field. Look for individuals who have demonstrated expertise through their work, publications, or speaking engagements. Then, reach out to them through email, social media, or professional networking platforms.

Remember, explain your purpose and the value their insights will bring to your audience, and give them a reason to help you! Relationships with mutual benefit are much easier to build, and maintain.

With that relationship built, all you need is to collect valuable soundbites, such as their unique perspectives on emerging technologies, business trends, and challenges they’ve overcome.

Whether you record these interviews as videos, or collect their perspectives as quotes, such thought leadership content can be republished in endless formats. Sharing these stories as opinion pieces will establish your brand as a reliable authority and as a trusted source of knowledge.

Check out this ebook for example, which is a compilation of the latest lead generation strategies from 5 B2B marketing experts we interviewed.

Thumbnail of ViB Guide - Expert lead generation strategies from B2B marketers
Hear from 5 seasoned B2B marketers on how they optimize their campaigns, brand, and audience engagement for better B2B lead generation results.

3. Case studies

Case studies are an effective tool for creating thought leadership content. They provide real-life examples of how your products or services have delivered tangible results for clients, showcasing your expertise and giving potential customers confidence in your ability to solve their problems.

But we know what you’re thinking — aren’t case studies more of a sales-forward asset?

You’re completely right, which is why it’s important to approach case studies with the right perspective.

Thought leadership means offering insightful ways to rethink or solve common business problems without overwhelming prospects with a sales pitch.

Case studies can achieve this by subtly showcasing your expertise and unique selling propositions, while injecting credibility in your offering.

Pro tip: dive deep into the specific challenges faced, the strategies implemented, and the positive outcomes achieved. This will demonstrate your expertise and give potential customers confidence in your ability to solve their problems.

Prove yourself as a market leader with an affordable market research service

“We were able to take ViB’s survey results and create a great report. That report has so much life to it — creating blogs, doing a webinar, getting other outlets to pick it up, putting it into social channels and into content syndication, and getting those survey results into the market in digestible ways — and delivered great benefits to us.”
 – Mandy Skroupa, Illumio

4. Webinars and podcasts 

Planning and promoting educational webinars or podcast episodes is such a great way to explore trending topics in depth, while featuring industry experts or your own internal specialists.

It’s that combination that humanizes your brand, while also presenting yourself as an expert.

In terms of how to angle webinars and podcasts to produce great virtual conferences for thought leadership, consider these 4 steps.

How to produce virtual events for thought leadership

Step 1: Identify your expertise

Determine the specific areas where you excel and have valuable insights. This will help you establish yourself as a trusted thought leader in your industry

Step 2: Line up the experts

Feature industry gurus or your own internal specialists as guests to provide valuable insights.

Step 3: Host or record your session

Here, remember to embrace a conversational approach. Especially if you're opting for a live event, encourage interactive discussions and include Q&A sessions to make sure you address the exact problems your audiences face.

Step 4: Promote and repurpose your content

Leverage various marketing channels to spread the word about your thought leadership content. Repurpose snippets or key insights from your webinars and podcasts into blog posts, social media updates, or even whitepapers to expand your reach.

If you’re in B2B tech and want a quicker, easier way to launch a webinar marketing strategy, we’ve got you covered too.

Try ViB Webinars, a full-service event management solution where we plan, promote, host, and track a virtual event under your brand.

And the best part? All webinars come with a registrant or attendee guarantee, where we ensure qualified leads come to your event to help you hit your marketing goals. 

Read Donoma’s customer story with ViB Webinars, to discover how they generated over a hundred targeted leads and several sales opportunities with a single event.

Thought leadership example: How Jaye generates leads with strategic market-facing content

During the session, Jaye also shares about how she put third-party research to work for her lead generation campaigns.

“I’m always looking for ways to identify our market, engage with them, and position Illumio to partner with them on their journey to better security,” she says. 

Jaye wanted to better understand the challenges her prospects face day-to-day. She also sought to establish a thought leadership campaign.

Mandy Skroupa, Illumio’s Marketing Programs Manager, further ads that “People always want to know what other people are thinking. Anytime you can loop in high-quality independent survey results, the material you create will carry more weight.”

So them team started off by conducting a third-party survey with help from ViB. Their goal? To discover “how IT security professionals are addressing security segmentation in their organizations.” 

Jaye turned the results of that survey into valuable thought leadership content that she expertly promotes.

She and her team created “Illumio’s first state of security segmentation report,” she says, “and enough stackable content to repurpose in social, email, content syndication and other demand generation channels.” 

We were able to take ViB's survey results and create a great report. That report has so much life to it — creating blogs, doing a webinar, getting other outlets to pick it up, putting it into social channels and into content syndication, and getting those survey results into the market in digestible ways — and delivered great benefits to us.

How Illumio converted content to revenue

The content generated from the third-party research continues to grow Jaye’s pipeline.

“To date,” she explains, the security report “is the second most visited piece of content on our website.” 

And because her team uses the content in different ways, “it’s pretty much the gift that keeps giving for us.” Jaye’s thought leadership campaign will continue to power Illumio’s pipeline. She recently identified another topic and has a new survey lined up. 

Getting started with a thought leadership strategy for lead generation

Find out more by listening to the entire episode, State of the Industry with Jaye Ling of Illumio, and explore how third-party research helps you develop meaningful content and drive revenue.

To get more specifications about ViB Research, get a copy of the datasheet and take the next step.

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