Thought Leadership is the New Black for B2B Marketers

by Jennifer Beever

B2B Marketing Thought LeaderThe old way of marketing features and benefits no longer works for B2B marketing success. According to analyst Jeff Ernst at Forrester Research, in order to break through and dominate your industry, you need to position your company as a thought leader.

Even the new content marketing is not enough to generate successful results, says Ernst. Rather, B2B marketers need to take a stand to stand out.

“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.… …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.”

Ernst goes on to say that thought leadership marketing presents a strong point of view in an industry. It challenges conventional thinking and invites discussion and even discord. Finally – this is shocking – it makes no mention of your product!

Forrester created a four-step IDEA thought leadership creation model: 1.) Identify your audience; 2.) Develop your thought leadership platform; 3.) Engage your audience; and 4.) Assess the impact. (See Frank Reed’s Marketing Pilgrim blog post for more details.)

It’s that step number two, developing the thought leadership platform, that is the most difficult. Just as when you develop messages for marketing campaigns, the first step of thoroughly understanding your audience before developing your platform is critical.

I believe that thought leadership is the new positioning in B2B marketing. And, social media is making it easier for us to build and grow a thought leadership platform. The catch is – how are you different? On what platform will you take a stand?

B2B marketers – what do you think? Is this just the same old thing we’ve struggled with all along, now with a new label?


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