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B2Bento has another article published in The Business Times – Singapore’s premier business daily. Our article on thought leadership was published in the ‘SME INC’ section of the Business Times on page 16 on May 25th, 2010.
Here’s the full article:
It’s a well known fact – Sales generation, lead generation and demand generation are the biggest pain points for businesses, in particular B2B (business-to-business) businesses, which have typically long cycles. For small and medium enterprises (SMEs), this problem magnifies, due to limited resources in sales staff, marketing budgets, and general support. In Singapore, most SMEs find demand generation a long and arduous battle that they constantly have to wage to keep their business viable.
The good news is that SMEs today are able to reach a wider audience than ever before. By using the internet as their marketing platform, they can create an audience pool, which can later be converted to their sales funnel. One of the most effective ways to reach and cultivate this audience is by thought leadership.
Thought leadership occurs when a person or company engages their peers in relevant and contextual discussions on a particular topic. For example, successful chefs have a TV show, write cook books and give away their secret recipes. Instead of lessening their brand value or reducing business, sharing expertise and innovative recipes often results in a big rise in popularity. The same principles can be put into practice for any SME wanting to establish themselves as the go-to experts in their particular domain.
An integral part in establishing and maintaining your position as a thought leader is to keep focused. If you have multiple business offerings, concentrate efforts within one vertical at a time. Staying focussed allows you to hone and refine your expertise within a vertical, industry segment or business service offering. This results in your customers getting better and more knowledgeable service, which can be easily backed with your expertise.
Thought leaders are often the trusted advisors of their clients, due to their established expertise in their particular domain and/or vertical. Here are some ways how an SME can gain thought leadership status:
Know the Pain Points
Thought leaders know what their customers’ and prospects’ pain points are. If your company is a long-term service provider, you should already know and be addressing this. However, if you are new to the domain, just ask your customers what are their perceived gaps and issues which they want you to address.
Gathering these pain points should enable you to spot several recognizable patterns. This can allow you to refine your product/ service, which adds value and solves these pain points for your customers. This will allow you to then generate relevant content for your customers.
Give Away Your Secret Recipe
A white paper addressing your identified pain-point patterns is a great way to reach your customers. Following the example of the chefs, this works to enhance your brand value and not diminish it. The white paper can be in a “how-to” format, addressing the problems your customers face and revealing best practices, bench-marking and your secret recipe of how to solve the issue themselves. Spend the time to write this paper yourselves, because no one knows your business and your industry the way that you do.
Promoting Your Content
Promoting your content (which could be in various forms, eg a white paper, speaking opportunities or your website) is as important as generating it. This content could be “pushed” out to clients and prospects in the form of a newsletter or a mass-mailer. You can also distribute such content in a printed format at Trade shows, as a contextual take-away for your prospective clients instead of the usual pen or note-paper freebies. You could engage an even wider audience, through getting it published in mainstream media.
When attracting audience to your website, content should be made available for download behind a registration form. The registration form should be short, to encourage people to fill it out and yet detailed enough to give you information to generate direct sales leads. For content such as a white-paper, you can further promote it using social media channels, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or your company blog. You may also choose to use search engine advertising, for example Google AdWord, where users searching particular keywords relating to your products/ services will be directed to your website.
It is important to have a call to action item or landing page within your website. An example of this would be the registration page for the content mentioned above. Using the registration page as your landing page will immediately bring about a call to action response. Once you have generated the data on your prospective clients, it is vital to monitor and follow-up with the registrants. For example, you could touch-base with prospective clients, or begin cultivating your sales funnel by getting their feedback on the white-paper and what other topics they might like to see covered. This gives you a constant touch-point with this audience and enables you to further cement your position as a responsive service provider and thought leader.
Demand generation is not a one-time activity and neither is your position as a thought leader secured by one white-paper. As an SME, it is important to continue to maintain your thought leadership status. This can be done by regularly focusing some of your resources and efforts on keeping the momentum going, once you have gotten your marketing and sales generation efforts off the ground.
This article is contributed by Jaspreet Sidhu, Operations at GetIT Comms, a company that develops and implements marketing programmes, campaigns and projects for B2B organisations. For more views on the B2B marketing space and social media, visit www.b2bento.com
(This piece first appeared in Singapore’s The Business Times, on May 25, 2010)