The pandemic driven digital transformation of B2B marketing to digital first has created all new levels of competition for time, attention and trust. In this environment, the importance of building credibility is essential in order to deliver stand out customer experiences. But how?
B2B brand Thought Leadership certainly plays a role and as the trends in trust focus more on individuals over companies, the opportunity to optimize content experiences through executive thought leadership and influence are growing. The more influence B2B brand executives have, the more credibility the brand has.
But how? How can B2B marketers build awareness, credibility and influence of their key executives with content? Here are a few tried and true tactics that continue to work in today’s digital B2B environment:
- Client Testimonials – The customer success story is often one of the first things that catches the eye when looking at potential vendors. Common mistakes include testimonials that are too enthusiastic or those that are benign but packed as if they’re something special. Testimonials should reflect issues of interest to the target audience and also include supporting quotes from key B2B brand executives.
- Case Studies – For deeper consideration, B2B brands want to drill down into the specifics of how a company does what it does and the results achieved. Case studies present a picture of a company’s breadth and depth of ability to solve a variety of issues and insights about the story from key B2B executives adds credibility to the study and to the brand.
- Industry Awards – Getting recognized by a respected third party can mean a quick trip to the credibility club. However, such awards are only as meaningful as the credibility of the entities giving them out. Whether a B2B brand is receiving or giving out the awards, key executive should be involved and cited.
- Being Quoted by the Press, Blogs – Being cited as an authority on a particular topic in a high profile publication can be instrumental for building a key executives reputation and credibility and by proxy, the trust and influence of the brand. Relevant media pickups should be curated on the brand’s newsroom or on brand social which is another opportunity to highlight relevant brand executives.
- Influencing the Influencers – It has become a universal truth that buyers trust people more than brands. As a result, there is a significant growth in influencers within various B2B industries. B2B brands can tap into influence by collaborating with individuals that have the trust and attention of customers as well as by building the influence of existing employees. Influencer status could be a consideration when making certain new hire decisions as well.
- Speaking at Industry Events – While most events in the B2B world are now virtual, there are more of them, which presents a great opportunity for key B2B executives to showcase their individual expertise as well as the thought leadership of the brand. Not everyone gets to start out giving keynotes, so be prepared to do some breakouts and work up the ladder of speaker status.
- Representation on the Brand Web Site– A web site still says a lot about a company and the leadership. Social proof of thought leadership for key executives gives a strong signal of credibility for their expertise and participation in the industry.
- Editorial Contributions to Industry Publications – Contributing articles to prominent online or print publications gives companies an opportunity to show their unique problem solving abilities and expertise. By association with the publication, the B2B brand also gets a boost in the credibility department.
- Advertising and Sponsored Content – One way of “buying your reputation” is to advertise in all the places your target audience looks for credible information. This takes a crack creative team and a healthy budget. Featuring key executives in sponsored content can send very strong signals of industry credibility.
- Employee Advocacy – How employees talk on social networks and wherever they connect about relevant industry topics can have a significant impact on the perceived authority and credibility of brand executives. Fueling employee advocacy with brand information that may be useful to their own social engagement can create value for everyone involved.
- Search Engine Visibility – When people search on topics relevant to your industry, your brand website and social channels should show up. But so should the content authored by the thought leaders at your brand. Formats can vary from text to video to audio. In many cases social conversations create interest, but findability in search creates trust.
- Brand – Message – There’s a lot that goes into creating a personal brand. Each interaction between a prospective company and something that communicates information about the B2B brand is an opportunity to make a brand promise. Repeat interactions provide the opportunity to keep that promise. Thoughtful messaging and image also convey important messages that evoke feelings which can either build or detract from credibility for both the executive and the B2B brand.
- Press Releases – Sending out press releases to wire services and directly to cultivated lists of relevant industry publications sends signals of your credibility. And with clever pitching, they might even get you some press coverage.
- Social Media Footprint – Forums, Social Networks, Images, Videos, Podcasts – The boon in social networks usage by those in the B2B world gives abundant opportunity to see another side of a B2B brand. Forums can be very useful to connect helpful and knowledgeable executives with prospective customers and even the media looking for insights. Promoting unique knowledge through social media formats and networks can give important indications of a B2B executives expertise in formats that can match the information consumption preferences of a variety of potential clients.
- Research Published – In the same way that faculty at Universities gain prominence and reputation by publishing research in professional journals, B2B brands that have the insight and resources to conduct real research and publish their findings create very strong signals of credibility. It is not only the execution of such research that makes it an effective “signal” though. The intelligent promotion by key executives of these learnings is as much or more important.
- Industry Association Involvement – Investing in the future of the overall industry through association involvement by key executives and thought leaders can give the impression that a B2B brand has a higher level commitment than those that are not involved. Being involved with setting industry standards, guidelines and even training programs can set a B2B brand apart and give an indication of their expertise.
- CEO, Executive and/or Company Blog – Blogs can still be effective at imparting a company’s philosophy and corporate personality. Company web sites tend to be dry and careful or conversely, full of hype. A well written and promoted blog can do amazing things for a B2B executive and brand’s reputation in an industry.
- Podcast and Social Audio – Audio content is decidedly on the rise in B2B through an increase in the popularity of podcasts. Social audio through new platforms like Clubhouse and features of existing social platforms like Twitter Spaces creates an opportunity for B2B brand executives to showcase their expertise, network and engage a community.
- Word on the Street, Buzz, Word of Mouth – First and foremost, doing good work is the cornerstone of building positive word of mouth. At the same time, successfully engaging the tactics on this list will build positive buzz, but the longevity of that buzz is only sustainable if the B2B executives involved deliver results. There is such a thing as over-marketing and people are smart enough to realize that one person can’t do everything. Making it easy for customers to pass on the good news or making sure testimonials are properly promoted can extend a B2B executive’s reach with nominal marketing investment.
- Being Included on Industry “Lists” – No matter how you slice and dice it, getting included on a list sends a signal. Lists are inherently controversial because getting included means others are excluded. If you know how to create and promote the right signals, like doing great work for clients and letting the world know about it, getting on the kinds of lists that build credibility is pretty straightforward. Alternatively, a B2B brand can make its own list and use a key executive to communicate the criteria. If you can’t be king, be a kingmaker.
If you’d like to learn more about building B2B thought leadership with brand executives, be sure to tune in to the March 31st Edition of LinkedIn’s Live with Marketers: The Business of Executive Thought Leadership featuring Alex Rynne and Amber Naslund from LinkedIn and myself as we cover:
- What a compelling executive presence can do for your business
- Examples of effective thought leadership on LinkedIn
- How to measure your thought leadership efforts
- How to create a compelling and engaging profile
- How to integrate brand, executives and corporate communication