Thought Leadership is Different in Tech. Here’s What To Do About It

A Tech Byte from the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing

May 5, 2016

Thought leadership: You know it, you love it, and as a tech marketer, you’ve embraced that establishing subject matter expertise in the technology sector is a hard-fought, competitive undertaking. With business technology purchasing decisions now made by a cross-functional buying committee representing 77% of the organization, your thought leadership strategy must be sound enough to address the needs, priorities, and preferences of diverse modern customers.

It should also utilize all three types of thought leadership: product details, industry insights and organizational culture. And to add fuel to the fire, a thought leadership program that isn’t mapped out against today’s various buyer personas pre-, during, and post-purchase will surely fizzle against the test of time.

But fear not.

Drawing from “The Sophisticated Marketer's Guide to Content Marketing,” we’ve pulled together the best on thought leadership for tech marketers from LinkedIn Marketing Solutions’ own content marketing aficionados. Read on for smart strategies and actionable insights in our second “Tech Byte” post.

Thought Leadership: Where to Start

Map out the buyer's journey for your brand

Tech purchasing follows a long and winding journey. Make sure you understand the decision-making happening during each stage in the process. Also be aware of the unique features of the buying process depending on technology type. This will help you to build a thought leadership content plan that matches up to your buyer’s challenges as they arise. To kick things off, here are some questions to consider:

  • What is my buyer’s pain point and mindset during each stage: Needs, Specs/Funding, Vendor Choice, Implementation, Management and Renewal?
  • What questions are my buyers struggling to answer?
  • What product and service features are most important when?
  • What types of content are being consumed at each stage?
  • Who do my buyers need to educate internally and when?

Thought Leadership: Invest time in your audience

Note members involved in each stage and their top challenges

Each buying stage has a unique set of engaged committee members — all with their own priorities, pain points and preferences. To make thought leadership meaningful and relevant, take each key role’s specific content needs into account, outlined below:

  • IT: Analytical and technical
  • Engineering: Technical product details demonstrating advanced knowledge
  • Business Development: ROI information and end-user application
  • Operations: Valuable consultations, educational content, helpful tools
  • Finance: Models, tools and calculators that prove ROI
  • Sales: Consultative and informative, product features, ROI calculators, end user application
  • Support: Product features that impact end users, ROI tools
  • Marketing: Industry know-how, key differentiators, results and ROI
  • Purchasing: Educational resources, models, tools and calculators that prove ROI

Thought Leadership: Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

Produce content that will win at the most critical moments

As Laura Ramos of Forrester Research said, “Business buyers don’t buy your product; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.” So before you review and align your lead gen and nurturing efforts to the content you’re delivering, do ensure it is is unique to the specific challenges your buyers are facing. What’s the optimal and strategic mix? We’ve pulled a few of the best examples across the marketing landscape for all three variations of thought leadership.

  • Product: Beyond traditional product marketing, this area of thought leadership focus on how your products can impact a customer’s business or improve a challenge they face. This content should provide how-to’s, best practices, and strategy on how a product (or service) can transform a business. Be strategic about producing content: use thought leadership to satisfy your audience’s information needs and position your organization to stand out in the crowded marketplace.

When should you use it?

For their thought leadership, Marketo, for example, shares lots of best practices and how-to’s, in the form of its comprehensive Definitive Guides. These guides help convey its ownership of a range of marketing-centered topics and focus on their products.

  • Industry: This type of thought leadership offers a fresh point of view on news, market trends as well as ideas for new ways to achieve success. It can help build authenticity and trust, but only if it’s compelling and transparent. Your goal is to launch and drive discussion on key topics without being too promotional.

When should you use it?

To position itself as a thought leader in the software security space, Symantec uses content marketing to focus on all things security. By sharing on trends and news within the security category, Symantec is able showcase their industry knowledge and strengthen their position as a key thought leader in the segment.

  • Organizational: When you think about content marketing, you may not consider discussing company culture. But when thought leadership and culture are in sync, a company’s content gains wings. This approach can offer advantages for talent development and overall company reputation too.

When should you use it?

For nearly a decade, Moz has lived by a set of core values collectively referred to as TAGFEE. Company founder Fiskin’s Whiteboard Friday sessions consistently provide the search marketing community with strategies, tactics, and tools for improving their digital marketing strategies. Following the TAGFEE guidelines, he has helped establish a company culture that serves to draw in a base of loyal and adoring customers.

Thought Leadership: Publish and engage on LinkedIn

Activating on the LinkedIn platform is one of the most effective ways to start a conversation, drive word of mouth and directly engage with your target audience. Whether you’re sharing your company’s content, getting your leadership team posting platform pieces, or highlighting an industry trend on your company page — all offer ideal ways to spark meaningful conversations and build relationships with the right prospects.

Are you taking a unique approach to tech thought leadership? Download The Sophisticated Marketer's Guide to Content Marketing to gain more valuable tips about how to create thought leadership content that means something to your customers.