Thursday 25 April 2019, Leeds

The April session facilitated by the Yorkshire PM Forum committee was hosted by Irwin Mitchell and presented by Angela Brown of Meteoric Marketing & Communications and David Taylor-Evans from Elite Media which produces thought leadership for clients.

Angela kicked off the session by discussing ‘what is thought leadership?’  It is a detailed research piece on a particular topic was the answer.  Most professional services firms are awash with thought leadership – but it is effective and is it producing ROI? 

Often it is the responsibility of marketing to create and deliver it with the help of only one fee owner.  And there lies the problem – it gets stuck at the top of the funnel.  Angela explained that ‘top of the funnel’ metrics, such as social engagement, web traffic and PR share of voice, are clear, but it’s much harder to demonstrate ROI when it comes to pipeline and revenue, and especially the effect it’s had on sales and relationships with specific clients. And that’s because the thinking often starts top of funnel, or ‘one-to-many’, and as a result the commercial outcomes are diluted as we move down through the buyer funnel.

Angela suggests that we turn our thinking on its head – start out planning bottom of funnel, instead of top.  She advocates we shelve that launch campaign, embargo the report and instead first talk to our BD colleagues. Don’t get caught up in having the most original idea - according to Edelman’s B2B demand generation study, timeliness and relevance trump originality.

There are some practical steps you can take towards a BD-led approach to thought leadership:

Going to market differently

When publishing create a toolkit that empowers sales people to be connecting one-to-one and one-to-few. Take time to understand what tools there are on both sides e.g. LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Pointdrive or Inmails, to inform thinking and approach. Sometimes a PowerPoint deck is best for sales and fee earners. Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of case studies - in the Demand Gen report 42% of buyers said they are one of the most valuable formats for evidence of business benefits.

Improving quality

Don’t lose sight of quality - think back to the Edelman / LinkedIn research - in a sea of noise, quality and relevance is what stands out. Use Source Global Research’s Pre-Publication Reviews which are inexpensive, and will give content scores against Source’s established quality criteria - most importantly they inform what’s working and what’s not.

Getting on the same page

A workshop at the outset of thought leadership planning is a great a way of bringing everyone together - marketing, sales, fee-earners and even clients. They work well if they’re facilitated by a third party.

Take inspiration

There’s some really good tips on LinkedIn #ArtofWinning, especially blogs on how sales and marketing can work together and the quarterly magazine ‘The Sophisticated Marketer’ is an informative read.

So for thought leadership to have impact, the fee earners need to be fully engaged and advocating thought leadership all the way through the process - agreeing objectives and understanding the purpose of thought leadership in the buyer journey. Angela and David both agree that it means managing quality and stopping content that doesn’t make the grade and focusing on the few, not the many.

Isobel Hainsworth-Brear
Director, Print Leeds