Thought leadership and operational helpfulness in B2B social media lead generation

Post by 
Emma Van Veluwen
August 17, 2020

ver the past few years, B2B lead generation research has emerged on how purchase decisions are influenced by digital content and online communities. While some strategies have come and gone, thought leadership and operational helpfulness are here to stay in our age of ‘info-besity’.  

Pressure is mounting for businesses to distinguish themselves as technical leaders ahead of their competition that is trying to do exactly the same thing. This amplified exposure requires the adoption of a carefully considered content strategy that firmly speaks to the needs of your prospects and customers.

Enter social media as a strategy and vehicle

Social media is defined as a group of internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and facilitates the creation and exchange of user-generated content.

Research is indicating that B2B buyers recognise the value of social media in providing rich repositories of problem-solving ideas that enable a more objective and trustworthy process for vetting suppliers. For example, purchase decision makers tap into the insights of industry experts (brands or individuals) capable of shaping their approaches to problem-solving. They may draw from posts; blogs, webinars, podcasts slide shows and white papers, published by brands to galvanise their online communities through the wide dissemination of ‘insights'.

social media is an important tool for your brand AND client teams

Purposeful thought leadership

With Oxford Dictionary dating the term back to 1887; we have all come across a myriad of understandings for thought leadership by now. Quite commonly it is a loose characterisation for those leaders seen as visionary or charismatic.

If we take a more outcome-oriented and competency dimension to the strategy we can focus on those attributes that research has shown to directly influence opportunity to win work:

Efficacy derived from competency and recognition

The thought leadership competency of a brand as the intellectual firepower of a firm or individual, capable of earning the attention and trust of prospects and customers based on forward-thinking insights, original ideas, novel perspectives or helpful education that passionately drives conversions, champions new directions or inspires actionable strategies.

Your name doesn't have to own all expertise, we are always stronger in numbers. Competency can be drawn from outside expertise to influence what a brand is known for and build client recognition. For example if you are targeting a large agribusiness with a known concern with carbon sequestration, why not bring in experts from the USA to talk at a webinar or magazine article where they can share learnings and expertise that have been decades in the making? Your business may not 'own' the expertise, but your brand will hold the forum, developing a credible perception in the eyes of your clients and industry.

Thought leading brands or individuals can be recognised for the degree of trust vested in and authority assigned to an individual’s or firm’s voice on matters capable of shaping their prospects and customers’ points of view in favour of the individual’s or firm’s proposed business solution.  

A means of conveying recognition might be not to directly focus on an award that was won, but to focus on what was done, what value was passed to the client, and other initiatives that might give value to the reader (another customer or prospect).

Operational helpfulness

The use of digital content to influence purchase decisions requires more than connecting prospects to the latest brand pitches. They need to start with instructional tips and tactics that might help the buyer with their operational challenges and adapt a focus towards the creation of trails of trustworthy content to earn the reputation for benevolence and problem-solving.

This expertise then lends credibility to more insightful contact on how buyers can navigate through environmental turbulence or embrace ground-breaking business solutions. By continuously engaging and sharing useful content with buyers, we can gain an even more in-depth insight into buyers’ pressing issues often by validating their expertise in the process.

This doesn’t only apply to brands, but individuals within a business. If there are thought leaders within the business or external that might be helpful to align to a project in your pipeline, devise sub-plans for individuals to build your social capital.
Market foresight and social capital

By staying on top of market trends, businesses are better positioned to earn a seat at the table during early (pre-RFP) stages. This foresight will further position them as a thought leader by forewarning customers and prospective buyers of impending industry disruptions that could impact their planning.

As the number of followers and advocates grow with each content release, customers and prospective buyers will likely credit the author’s bridging social capital as a testimony of their trustworthiness. When this level of endorsement is made visible to customers and potential buyers in their digital searches, this social proof will help position the business or individual as a go-to expert.

Effective digital content attributes and ideologic strategies help distinguish expertise while meriting the attention of their customers and prospective buyers who are flooded with content clutter. Applying a grounded strategic approach to thought leadership drives the probability for attention and work-won. Rather than being everything to everyone, it’s crucial that your communications and business development strategies are aligned. Do your homework before jumping to posting the latest pretty picture. Develop a clear plan and ensure your communications, technical and client teams all sing from the same song sheet - this example template may be useful as a start.

B2B communications armed with an arsenal of cutting-edge ideas are better positioned to distinguish themselves as trusted authorities.


Ellery Studios helps its clients deliver impactful solutions that are purposeful to the audience, delivering tangible outcomes. If you have a project that needs some support, please contact us, we would love to hear from you.

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