Thought Leadership: Hot Topic At CS Forum Helsinki 2013?

Laura Ramos

CS Forum Helsinki 2013 is officially underway in lovely Finland. While I would have loved to be there (and the organizers did their best to try to lure me), the journey from California to Scandinavia is a bit daunting without a broader agenda in Europe. Lucky for me, Stacey Gordon, founder and president of Suite Seven, will be there presenting the Content Strategy of Thought Leadership. Not surprisingly, strategy, thought leadership, and storytelling feature highly in the "content as business value" section of the event.

Stacey and I caught up last week, and she peppered me with some interesting questions about the business value of thought leadership, how to organize/staff around thought leadership, and what are the leadership/governance models that work. We thought it would be fun to write up our chat in the form of a (rather lengthy) Q&A, shared with you below.

Reading through it, I think it's important to approach thought leadership as an organization, and not just a marketing activity or program. True thought leadership happens when the market talks back, and you get to exchange valuable insight with other leading thinkers on the topic. Kinda like Stacey and I do here.  

If you happen to be in Helsinki at CS Forum, you can catch Stacey's presentation on Friday, September 13, right after the coffee break at 11:20 a.m. Best of luck to Stacey and the other speakers at CS Forum!

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B2B Thought Leadership? Not So Much . . .

Laura Ramos

What does it take to become a thought leader in your market?  

Deep understanding of what inspires your customers (or keeps them awake at night), executive commitment, companywide involvement, and authentic generosity. 

Unfortunately, most business-to-business (B2B) marketers fall short when they publish promotional content or threadbare case studies masquerading as thought leadership.

At least that's what I found when researching my latest — and first — publication since returning to Forrester. (Please take a look and rate/share what you think!)

Great marketing content can fuel your company's demand generation engine. It can boost your brand's visibility to key audiences and bump aside competitors. Most of all, it attracts buyers interested in the types of challenges your company can solve. Because, as successful marketing execs know, business buyers don't buy your products and services; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.

Thought leadership is different. And it's rare.

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Which Comes First: Content Marketing Or Thought Leadership?

Laura Ramos

Once upon a time, there was a little marketer with a big problem. Her sales executives said, "We need more leads." So she bought a big new shiny marketing automation engine . . . .

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but I'm sure we all know the end of the story. The marketing engine didn't live up to expectations because data and content didn't come in the box.

More than ever, marketers view content as the fuel needed to run a powerful revenue generation machine. But the debate over the quality of the content created seems to have reached a fevered pitch. Look no further than posts from SAP's Michael Brenner, Marketo's Jon Miller, UK-based Velocity (the slide show here is a riot!), Dr. Liz Alexander, and SHIFT Communication's Christopher Penn to see the backlash against bad content marketing practices grow.

Why now?  I see four key trends converging on business-to-business marketers that drive interest in, and failure with, content marketing:

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Off And Running . . . In The B2B CMO Race

Laura Ramos

"Hello, I'm Laura Ramos, and I write for chief marketing officers."

That's the standard line around here. It'll take a little gettting used to saying it. Heck, I still find myself saying "Xerox" instead of "Forrester" from time to time, but I hope to get out of that habit soon.  
 
Luckily, I won't have to break my habit of thinking and writing about the issues that face large companies that sell highly-considered products and services to other businesses through a direct sales force or channel partners. I've always been a business-to-business (B2B) girl, and I'll stick to that focus here at Forrester.
 
As part of the research team focused on the top marketing role in B2B firms, I plan to lean on my experience in lead-to-revenue management, marketing mix effectiveness, as well as industry and social marketing best practices to help CMOs reimagine and reinvent the role, organizational structure, and skill mix marketing needs to affect the business in this new age of the customer (subscription needed).
 
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2012 Tech Marketing Priorities – From 50 Tech Marketing Execs

Understanding the priorities of fellow tech marketers is a great way to tune one’s own 2012 initiatives.   Over the past two months, my Forrester Technology Council colleagues and I have spent quite a bit of time surveying and talking with members (~ 50 tech CMO’s and VP’s of Marketing) about their priorities for 2012.  Before the champagne pops up here in Boston, I wanted to share a few of the priorities my colleagues and I are hearing most about for 2012:

  • Demand management wins out across the board.   In years past, the top priority for our tech marketing members centered around "driving leads into the funnel."  In 2012, tech marketing execs still care about driving leads, but there is an increased desire to trade lead volume for better lead quality.   Quality that comes from strong nurturing activities to help leads move from the top of funnel into the middle and ultimately into a position where they are "sales-ready."  A vocal number of members expressed commitment to building a more comprehensive demand management process where they would balance their lead nurturing and lead generation initiatives appropriately.  
  • Brand/rebranding comes into vogue.  Many of our members have put brand and/or rebranding at the top of their lists for 2012.  The need to create greater market differentiation against competitors and to build market awareness in new markets (e.g. verticals, geographies) were cited as the top reasons for steering funds, resources and time in brand or rebranding initiatives.     
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