If, like me, you’re a fan of Mark Ritson’s Marketing Week column, you’ll be aware of one of his favourite studies: Les Binet and Peter Field's ‘The Long and The Short of it’.
In a nutshell, the research says that, for optimal marketing effectiveness, companies should spend:
- Around 60% on long-term strategies that build the perception of your company amongst target audiences
- Around 40% to short-term strategies aimed at driving immediate sales
The percentages vary between companies, but the point is this. Short term sales are important to keep the business growing. But for long term growth, you need to build a trusted brand, so buyers think of you when they are ready to buy, and feel confident buying from you (you can read more about Long and Short in Marketing Week).
For businesses in complex markets, thought leadership is the ideal tool for this approach.
Why thought leadership is the perfect long and short strategy
A good thought leadership campaign involves capturing your unique expertise and insights, turning them into different types of content, and consistently pushing that content to your audiences across their preferred channels.
In this way, you can demonstrate immediate solutions to customers who need you now (short term sales activation), whilst building trust that you are the experts in your space, amongst those who might buy in future (long term reputation building).
Let’s unpack those.
Thought leadership for short term sales activation
Thought leadership makes for great lead gen and sales assets. A report/ebook/whitepaper (pick your term) that offers original insight and actionable solutions to a customer challenge is a very attractive download.
That gives a very powerful piece of gated content to fuel lead gen campaigns, generating named sales leads, whilst also warming them up for the sale. This is amplified if your ideas are backed by original data or third party expertise, demonstrating they are more than just your opinion.
Thought leadership for building a long term trusted brand
Binet and Field’s work focussed on consumer brand building – much of which is about tapping into people’s emotions and self-image – think sexy builders drinking Diet Coke.
B2B ‘brand building’ is more nuanced. There’s an emotional aspect, yes, but there is also trust. If you want to convince customers to spend many thousands on AI or 5G or EV chargers, you need to create more than a good feeling. You need to make them feel confident that you have the capability, expertise, and experience to deliver these things better than anyone else.
By drip-feeding insights and success stories to your audience via credible B2B channels – likely a mix of paid and organic LinkedIn, blogs, newsletters, and quality media – you gradually become seen as the go-to expert, who can be trusted with complex or risky projects.
This may not deliver an immediate spike in sales, but it establishes a credible brand identity that puts you in a strong position when your customers do come to buy.
How to do it
The great news is that this thought leadership-driven approach is simple and joined up. It doesn’t need multiple separate creative campaigns that pull audiences in different directions. It is one strategy for long and short.
There are various ways to do this, but here’s a simple methodology:
Develop thought leadership
- Identify the challenges your customers have, that you can solve.
- Understand what they need to know and are struggling with. Your teams may know this, or you can research it through social listening or interviews with potential customers.
- Develop a piece of ‘Hero Content’ that speaks to those unmet needs, drawing on your own expertise and experience to provide actionable insights.
- Add credibility by conducting industry surveys and inviting respected independent experts to contribute.
- Analyse what channels your customers use and trust.
Short-term sales activation
- Launch an ongoing sales activation campaign, using the Hero Content as a gated download and promoting it via the best sales channels for your audience, eg paid LinkedIn, mailouts, and search advertising.
Long-term reputation building
- Take the insights and data captured in your report and atomise them into formats aligned to the channels your audience engages with day-to-day, eg blogs, media articles, and visuals and videos for social.
- Develop a long-running content calendar (6-12 months) – regularly posting new insights on those channels, and pitching them to the media.
Businesses should view short-term and long-term strategies not as conflicting priorities, but part of the same strategy, generating sales whilst winning hearts and minds. This can be challenging to manage, but a thought leadership-driven approach gives you an effective and easy-to-oversee campaign, that addresses both the long and the short, delivering a consistent message of trust and credibility over time, across all channels.
Article by David Lewis, Founder and Director at Memetic. If you are interested in how thought leadership can help you generate short term leads and long term brand building, email email@example.com to set up a free consultation.