According to a recent Edelman survey of more than 1,300 U.S. business decision-makers, 63% feel that thought leadership is one of the best ways to get a sense of the caliber of thinking an organization is likely to deliver, and almost half (45%) said that thought leadership has directly led them to decide to do business with a company! Thus, as a B2B marketer for a manufacturing or technically oriented firm, if you’re not focused on creating content that positions your firm as a thought leader, you’re missing opportunities to create sustainable differentiation that impacts your top and bottom lines.
What exactly is the definition of thought leadership?
In our experience of observing B2B and manufacturing firms that have established thought leadership dominance in their category, thought leadership is creating authority on a particular subject by continually providing deeper, more insightful information than anyone in their space. These firms have done a better job of consistently answering their customers’ questions and helping their customers grow by connecting information from numerous – and at times disparate – sources. Ultimately, these firms have done an excellent job of making their audience feel smarter about a specific topic.
Should your B2B manufacturing business aspire to become a thought leader?
It seems like every B2B marketing team wants to become a thought leader – but this isn’t always the best use of resources. One way to help identify whether you should work to become a though leader is to reflect on how complex your product or service offering is. The more the complex the offering, the greater the opening for you to exhibit thought leadership.
Customers looking to purchase a complex product or solution that has far-reaching implications for their business are more likely to want to take the time to educate themselves, which in turn provides you greater opportunity to communicate your insight.
How do you create great thought leadership in the manufacturing and B2B spaces?
Simply churning out content that’s elementary or thinly disguised product promotions won’t work. Consider that there are nearly 2 million blog posts being written every single day. Thus, when you’re looking to develop thought leadership content, you’re not just trying to carve out your space from your competitors, you’re competing against any source looking to be in front of your customer.
Thought leadership content marketing examples for manufacturers
Many manufacturers feel challenged to consistently say something unique and insightful because they tend to operate in mature industries and are not typically drivers of new, transformative technologies. So what can you do to create thought leadership? Below are a few ideas:
- Perform and communicate independent research that’s valuable to your customers and the industry
- Communicate a recently developed patent to trade publications and at relevant events
- Make bold predictions and provide unique insight on where your industry will be in 5, 10, 20 years
- Uncover strategic challenges your customers are facing and work to address them in a deeper, more complete way than currently exists
- Participate and speak at industry conferences and symposiums on a strategic topic
Keep in mind that establishing your manufacturing firm as a thought leader requires consistent effort. Thought leadership is cumulative.
Where do communicate your thought leadership?
Your company blog should be the hub of your community and thought leadership building efforts as this is the one place you have complete content control. In addition to your blog, it’s also necessary to discover other audiences by distributing your thought leadership content on other platforms. For example, Medium and LinkedIn are excellent options. Another way to reach additional audiences is by offering to provide content to other blogs, conferences and news sources.
Best thought leadership manufacturing-focused examples
To help you get started, here are a few examples of manufacturing-focused thought leaders to consider learning from:
- Jabil is a global manufacturing partner, combining expertise in engineering, design and supply chains for the world’s biggest brands.
- Parker Hannifin is a global leader in motion and control technologies.
- PricewaterhouseCoopers focuses on audit and assurance, tax and consulting services.
- Robert Atkinson, president and chief executive of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)
- Frost & Sullivan is a growth partnership company focused on helping their clients achieve transformational growth as they are impacted by an economic environment dominated by accelerating change, driven by disruptive technologies, mega trends, and new business models.
- Deloitte Manufacturing is a leading provider of audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired manufacturing and non-manufacturing brands.
- Sanmina Corporation is a leading creator of innovative optical, electronic and mechanical products.
- Rethink Robotics developed the world’s first robot with common sense for manufacturing and research.
- David Simchi-Levi, Co-Director, Leaders for Global Operations, MIT
- Richard Sade, vice president and chief operating officer, S&S Hinge; member, board of governors, the Manufacturing Leadership Council; and vice chairman of the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA)
Being a thought leader may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Hopefully this post helped you get a better sense of what it takes to become one.
Need help with developing your content marketing and thought leadership roadmap? Contact us – we’d love to help.