How to Find Great Topics for Thought Leadership Content

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Consistently producing content that connects with potential buyers remains one of the greatest challenges B2B marketers face. The need to create content that will appeal to individual business decision-makers at every stage of their buying process, to publish content in multiple formats, and to publish new content frequently have combined to strain the creativity and resources of B2B marketers.

This challenge applies to all types of marketing content, but it’s particularly daunting for thought leadership content because of the high standards effective thought leadership content must meet.

Numerous studies have identified the characteristics that make thought leadership content persuasive. While the terms used in these studies vary somewhat, the research consistently shows that compelling thought leadership content will exhibit three essential attributes – it will be relevant, novel, and authoritative.

Novelty Is Hard to Achieve

Of these three attributes, novelty usually presents the greatest challenge.

Merriam-Webster defines novel as “new and not resembling something formerly known or used.” Therefore, compelling thought leadership content will provide information that adds something new to the body of knowledge about a topic and insights the audience can’t find elsewhere.

Novelty is particularly difficult to achieve because of the explosive proliferation of content that’s already occurred and is still underway. But, it’s critically important because novelty (or the lack thereof) is often what separates compelling from mediocre (or poor) thought leadership content.

Four Potential Sources of Thought Leadership Topics

To address the thought leadership challenge, marketers need to take a broad view of the topics (or categories of topics) that can be appropriate for thought leadership. From a subject matter perspective, there are four basic types of marketing content. These four content categories are shown in the following diagram.

Product/Service Content – This category includes content that describes the capabilities, features, and functionality of a product or group of products. For a service, it describes the nature and features of the service. Good product/service content is necessary for marketing success, but this category is not usually a fertile source of thought leadership content.

Category Content – This type of content discusses issues or needs that a type of product or service can address. When a provider of account-based marketing software creates content that explains why ABM is a better approach to marketing or describes the capabilities a prospective buyer should look for in an ABM solution, that’s category content. Good category content doesn’t promote a specific company’s product or service, but it often “evangelizes” the product/service category.

Most of the thought leadership content created by B2B companies is category content, and this is the type of content most B2B marketers will focus on first when it comes to thought leadership. This is a valid approach, but category content can only provide so many appropriate topics for thought leadership.

There are, however, two additional types of content that can be good sources of topics for thought leadership content.

Job Function Content – This content category includes topics that address issues relating to the job responsibilities of the individuals who are members of the buying group. For example, if the buying group for your product or service includes senior marketing and sales leaders at companies that manufacture industrial equipment, your thought leadership content could address topics such as:

The communication preferences of industrial buyersThe growth of online marketplaces for industrial equipment

Industry-Related Content – This type of content addresses topics that relate to the industry or industries in which a company’s prospective customers operate. For example, thought leadership content in this category could discuss how new environmental regulations will impact the target industry or industries. Content in this category can be particularly appealing to C-level executives of prospect organizations.
Expand Your Thinking to Identify Thought Leadership Topics
Some marketers may question the value of creating thought leadership content that isn’t closely related to their company’s products or services. One of the primary reasons to use thought leadership content is to demonstrate your company understands the issues and challenges your prospective customers – and the individual members of their buying groups – are facing.
From a marketing perspective, the objective of thought leadership is to evoke feelings of trust and confidence in your company by potential buyers. High-quality thought leadership content from any of these content categories can help you achieve this objective.
Developing a sufficient amount of great thought leadership content will always be challenging, but you can make the task easier by expanding where you look for thought leadership topics.

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