Using thought leadership to launch a B2B product or service

Most launches disappoint. Thought leadership reports provide a solution.

Published on 1st July, 2020

When Apple launches its iPhones, potential buyers immediately know what to expect. The features are an evolution of what they already understand, explained clearly. Buying an upgraded phone is a simple decision, made between a small number of similar options. 

Not so in B2B. New offers - especially innovative ones - are often complicated and sometimes require customers to rethink their business. Individual purchases may affect other organisational systems. Buyers need to justify budgets to higher-ups, and may do all their spending at certain points in the year. They may do research and trials before they commit.

Unlike consumer purchases which happen at a single point in time, B2B buying is a long process. Nonetheless, the 'launch' is popular in B2B - often involving money on creative ideas, stunts, and flashy media events all hinging on a single moment of success. Many are damp squibs.

It is worth doing B2B launches, they focus minds and can attract a wider audience than most marcomms activities. But they should be done with a view to beginning that sales journey, not completing it; to starting conversations that could lead to sales. Thought leadership reports can help.

Thought leadership makes for more impactful launches

Events and stunts can get lots of attention, but in trying to broaden appeal, they sometimes dilute the message for the real target audience.

Thought leadership offers a comparable, but different, approach. Instead of launching the product or service, you launch insight into the challenges you solve.

A traditional launch pushes a sales pitch on someone who may not yet be ready for it. But new data and insight on difficult challenges gets media and customer attention. 

An associated downloadable report captures leads and makes a case for why your offer is needed - leaving the reader receptive to the offer message follow up.

This sets up long-running nurture campaigns, allowing you to gently push your hard-won insight to new and existing prospects over time - broken up into different formats for different audiences at different stages of the buying cycle.

When to do a thought leadership launch

A launch is just a day you choose to announce something. That may be the moment it is ready; or the moment you are ready to scale up. It may be when you are rebranding or refocussing your business, or entering a new market. Either way, it should be seen as the start of a process, not a point in time.

For example, our client Connected Kerb deployed their first on-street residential EV chargers in June 2019. In February 2020, when they were pushing to scale, we launched a thought leadership research report which built evidence for why they were needed. This led over 100 prospects onto webinars where the research was presented, alongside detail about their solution. Many of the attendees are now in advanced conversations with them.

Our own report on thought leadership had a relatively low-key launch in February. But since then, it has been an invaluable tool in engaging people, as a piece of downloadable content, as a way of following up sales leads, and because the ideas and research within it have given us a platform to speak from a position of expertise.

Four steps to plan a thought leadership launch

If you are looking to launch a new offer - particularly one which involves a degree of complexity - a thought leadership report will be a valuable tool. Here are some initial steps to take on this journey:

  • Write down your target audience as narrowly as possible.
  • Write down the challenges they have, which you can help solve.
  • Identify sources of insight and data that could be harnessed to help customers navigate these challenges. Look within your own organisation, and beyond it.
  • List the ways you could deliver the report – once created – to the people you want to start conversations with, at launch and on an ongoing basis. Consider events, PR, direct engagement, LinkedIn lead gen, and so on.

If what you have written down all makes sense to you, then you probably have the ingredients to make this work. The next step is to commit to creating a well-researched piece of content.

For a detailed explanation of how to develop the report itself, see Section 3 of: How can thought leadership influence enterprise decisions?

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