Here at Idea Grove we talk a lot about how our clients use thought leadership to drive B2B tech public relations and marketing programs.
By tapping into their core expertise, leveraging proprietary data and developing a unique perspective on hot industry issues, B2B brands can capture the attention and earn the trust of customers, media, analysts and industry influencers.
But where to begin? It starts with your topic discovery process.
Finding Industry Topics That Are Right for You
B2B companies often limit the scope of possibility and opportunity by limiting the scope of their subject matter expertise. If you find yourself in such a position, it may be time to put on your investigator hat and begin discovering what topics are capturing the attention of your industry.
- Talk to your customers. Reach out to a few friendly customers and ask if they could share 20 minutes of their time with you to chat about the industry. Some questions to consider asking include: What industry trends are on their mind? What challenges are they facing? What are their boss’ struggles? How do they see the industry evolving? What’s on the horizon for their department, their role and the industry overall? What are their customers talking about?
- Step out of your booth at trade shows. Trade shows and conferences are great places to partake in broader industry conversations, but doing so requires stepping outside of your booth and talking to attendees. Hang out by the phone charging station, sit by the person looking lonely or strike up a conversation with a group. Sit in on sessions and listen to the Q&A at the end. Walk through the hallways during sessions and observe which rooms are bursting at the seams. Not attending any events? Review the agenda online and follow the conference Twitter stream.
- Read the news. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to lose track of what’s happening in the world around you. Beyond reading your industry’s trade publications and analyst reports, check out your customers’ industry trade publications as well. Browse the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to discover national trends and breaking news stories that could impact your industry. Don’t forget Buzzfeed—the content may be miles away from your subject matter, but you can still pick up a few tips from studying the master of clickbait.
- Let your customer support team dig for ideas. Identify someone in a customer-facing role who’s exceptionally curious, or perhaps a strong conversationalist, and equip them with questions to ask whenever the opportunity strikes. To take it even further, scroll through recent sales and support tickets and learn to read between the lines to understand industry issues that may be driving these requests.
- Perform a keyword search on social media. Search through a few industry hashtags to observe which articles or comments are being shared on Twitter, the types of visuals popular on Instagram or what questions are asked most frequently on Quora. But don’t use this intelligence to copy what other vendors are doing already; instead, analyze the results and identify what’s not being said. That could be the open door for your company to insert its own unique perspective.
- Maintain an idea file. Sometimes the best perspective comes as a result of combining many ideas into something unique. Develop a standard location–a Word doc, notebook, mobile notes applications, or my personal favorite OneNote–to collect ideas and save anything that catches your attention. It could be an interesting article, a competitor’s marketing campaign, a customer comment or one of those middle-of-the-night realizations. Anytime you need inspiration you can save time by browsing this list.
- Take a walk. Still at a loss for ideas? Sometimes all it takes to spark creative thought is a short walk. It’s not just the scenery that matters—the mere act of walking can boost creativity. If it’s a glum day outside, stroll the hallways of your building, pace back and forth in your office, or walk circles around your cubicle until inspiration strikes. You might look crazy, but hey, even the world’s greatest minds had their fair share of odd habits.
Putting the ideas into action
Present these opportunities to your team and discuss:
What perspective is being overlooked in the conversation?
What are other vendors failing to address?
Is your company willing to make a bold statement that goes against the flow?
Is there system or customer data available that could add insight or color to a topic?
By following these steps and critically assessing where your company fits into the industry conversation, you will be well on your way to owning a unique thought leadership message that others will want to hear.