Connecting Thought Leadership to Lead Generation in B2B Marketing

IMG_1202Many B2B marketers look to content marketing as a key part of establishing thought leadership. However, companies frequently expect the same content marketing program to capture contacts or leads as well.

The problem is, registration and thought leadership are at odds with each other. Thought leadership requires your point of view to be broadly distributed and recognized across a peer group, where it can drive discussion and shape opinions.

Requiring registration limits distribution and recognition of the content that is supposed to position your company as a thought leader.

Instead, thought leadership should be your door opener. As companies gain recognition for their perspectives or thought leadership, expectations of the quality of their content increase, and more people are willing to register for access.

Consider the lead generation activities of the following three types of marketers.

An Average Market Participant

Your company is known to a few, but the audience doesn’t recognize you for your research or perspective. Capturing registrations is an uphill battle, requiring you to establish the credibility and relevancy of every piece of content you offer in your lead generation program.

A Company Recognized for its Research or Insight

You have a distinct advantage if your company is already recognized for its research or content. The content you are using for lead generation is expected to be valuable, you only need to establish the information’s relevance to the audience.

The Category Thought Leader

Companies who are recognized as thought leaders have a sizable advantage. Not only do people trust the information will be valuable, they believe it is information they need to have to stay on top of their category. There is significant demand for access to their content and perspectives, and this demand translates directly into lead generation volume.

hecklingOne of the best examples of this is Hubspot and the incredibly successful webcasts with Dan Zarella. Rather than receiving the hundreds or a couple thousand registrations that many publishers and marketers get for successful webcasts, Dan has done webcasts with more than 30,000 people. That’s bigger than a sold-out crowd at the largest NBA stadium!

Dan’s recognition as a thought leader allows Hubspot to run lead generation programs that are the envy of many marketers. But this success isn’t the result of their lead generation prowess, it is the result of the foundation of thought leadership they have developed.

If Hubspot had directly measured their initial thought leadership on lead generation, they would have missed the real long term lead generation benefits of their thought leadership efforts.

Your Turn

If you are willing to share, how do you measure the thought leadership impact of your content marketing? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Related Posts
Thought Leadership Marketing is an Oxymoron
Connecting Thought Leadership to Sales

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  • Anonymous

    Eric, Hubspot is a very interesting example. They have marketed themselves beautifully. Unfortunately when dealing with them directly as a customer I found their “thought leadership” to be canned and full of cookie-cutter advice, salesmanship and very little boots on the ground sensibility. What does this say about thought leadership in the social media age? Perhaps it is a careful combination of tools and principles widely distributed (and branded as) industry leading.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Kevin, yes, Hubspot is definitely a marketing example, and I know a lot of people feel their content isn’t really robust either (I don’t have a strong opinion either way on that front). In this case, the recognition and perception they, or any thought leader, creates is what matters.

      You bring up a very relevant disconnect. Thought leadership comes from individuals more than companies. That same thought leadership often isn’t there throughout the organization. They may be able to recite various recommendations, but knowing and understanding are very different things, and it is the understanding that really makes the difference. Great point, companies need to consider how their thought leadership is infused into their products and how to impart understanding to staff.

  • http://www.b2bmarketinginsider.com Michael Brenner

    Great post! I would certainly hope to fill the NBA arena (better than an NBA team). The content has to deliver and so does the ultimate customer experience. But this is great food for thought for anyone looking to execute a thought leadership strategy!

    Thanks as always Eric.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Michael, I always appreciate your comments and support here!

  • http://www.xenia-consulting.com/ Atul Dhakappa

    Eric, great post. A lot of people are realizing that content marketing is indispensable and need to focus on it, not only to build thought leadership, but also to feed the needs of the sales org. People often lose patience and start converting thought leadership channels to lead generation channels and this creates chaos

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Exactly. Thanks Atul!

  • http://marketingbard.com Bill Strawderman

    I think social media has pushed content models to inherently be more open.  So I think the burden of earning our way in is higher than ever before. As @brennermichael:disqus points out, if you put value/relevance first, you have to develop the pathways in to the funnel.  I don’t think it’s really linear… like your lasagna analogy, an effective TL program adds to the totality of your efforts, so we refrain from indexing on a single response measure.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      “The burden of earning your way in is higher than ever before.” Yes, it is. And the burden or bar is getting higher every day.

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  • http://leads.bizense.com/blog/lead-nurturing Arvind Manoharan

    Now a days everybody is using thought leadership in their businesses.

  • Vinay

    But companies want results/leads now, though it makes sense that though leadership is a strategic play, but would corporate leadership give that opportunity to be strategic?

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Vinay, it definitely depends on the company as well as the ability of marketing to show how it connects to results. There are quite a few companies, particularly in the services space, that continue to invest in positioning themselves as being the thought leaders for their market.