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Today, the most effective thought leadership does more than establish a dialogue; it introduces new ideas that can transform or disrupt a client’s business and backs it up with data. Thus, thought leaders should be thought of as trailblazers.
But how do you separate true thought leaders from subject matter experts? What does it mean to lead?
Momentum ITSMA’s 2021 Thought Leadership Study highlights four things that set groundbreaking thought leaders apart from the rest.
Our research shows that thought leadership leaders:
- Set more balanced objectives that go beyond building brand awareness. Leaders set objectives that are fairly evenly across the 3 R’s of marketing: Reputation, Relationships, and Revenue. Those marketers not categorized as leaders (thus, “followers”) were more likely to focus heavily on reputation – building overall brand awareness and eminence. David Jonker, Vice President, SAP Insights research center, differentiates between thought leadership and brand awareness:“Good, quality thought leadership is about establishing and cultivating a relationship of trust. If you’ve done this right, they’re more likely to trust you and what you have to say. Awareness is…advertising. You can have a lot of awareness but not a lot of trust. This is about building trust, so it has to go beyond just…reaching people, new decision makers…but if that’s all you’re doing, if it’s a touchpoint of awareness, it’s insufficient. It’s really about cultivating a relationship of trust from the first touch all the way through to deal close.”
- Customize content at the account level to enhance engagement and resonance. Nearly all the thought leadership leaders (92%) tailor existing points of view and thought leadership assets for individual accounts compared to only half (50%) of followers. David Jonker illustrates how to face the challenge of customizing at scale: “SAP has 400,000 customers. How are we going to do this for 400,000 people? It’s impossible, but if you view thought leadership not as a content type or a channel but as an original point of view, then it frees you up to say ‘how do we bring this original point of view to life?’ We can do this in many ways.”
- Enable their own senior executives & sellers to bring thought leadership to the clients’ C-suite. Seventy-eight percent of leaders indicated that it is extremely important for business leaders to present and share thought leadership at the executive level. Only 32% of followers agreed. Leslie Cozatt, Sr. Director, Integrated Marketing, C-Suite Audience Engagement, Optum, describes how her team is facing this challenge: “We have a new program…C-suite Connected…that’s allowing us to connect our internal subject matter expert executives with external…We’re leverging our internal C-suite as well as the external C-suite and luminaries…bringing them together in things like virtual roundtables and panel webinars and putting speakers on podiums…anything that is a conversation executive to executive. It’s really exciting. The results that we’re seeing from that kind of connection is critical.”
- Track, analyze, and report the impact of thought leadership programs. Many organizations are challenged by how to meassure the effectiveness of their thought leadership programs. However, leaders are doing a better job at tracking and measuring business outcomes across the 3 R’s of marketing. Leslie Cozatt simplifies the concept of measurement for Optum: “We’re only held accountable to one metric in this program, and we call it ‘net newly engaged.’ Net new or net new C-suite are added to the database and ‘net newly engaged’ are those that have been in our database that haven’t engaged in Optum in any way from any part of the company in over twelve months…We can go pretty deep into tracking the impact all the way through to sales of how our thought leadership performed.”
David Jonker describes SAP’s different approach to metrics:
“Tracking and reporting is critical, but the trick always with tracking and reporting is it’s there to serve the objectives of the program. Sometimes when we allow tracking and reporting to become dominant…we allow it to modify the nature of the program in a way that’s suboptimal. Yes, we want to track and analyze, and we want to get as good as we can at that, but you never want it to be at the expense of the design of the program that we put together.”
If you want to learn more about how to build a thought leadership program that engages executives, here are two options:
- Watch the Driving Thought Leadership to Build Differentiation and Win Business webcast replay to hear from experts in the field (free for Momentum ITSMA members)
- Download the full report of the Momentum ITSMA’s 2021 Thought Leadership Study to get all the survey questions, answers, and details ($295 for members/$695 for non-members)
How do you separate true thought leaders from subject matter experts? What does it mean to lead? Learn the four hallmarks of thought leadership leaders from recent Momentum ITSMA research.