This guest post is an opinion piece on opinion pieces… and why they are so influential for marketers, according to senior program manager at Hotwire PR, Mylan Vu.
In my role, I come across a range of marketing professionals who have ‘thought leadership’ somewhere in their plans for the next six to 12 months. For some companies, this is a key priority (as it should be), but for many, it’s considered a ‘nice to have’ addition to other priorities such as SEO, lead generation, and website traffic.
While every marketing strategy needs to be multi-faceted, multi-platform, and at the same time personalised for each target customer, thought leadership should be front and centre amongst a CMO’s key priorities.
When it came down to actually making a decision, though, this was highlighted as the most effective information source in helping marketers through the decision-making process, with 52 per cent of respondents in Australia and New Zealand claiming this is where they found most value.
So what’s all the fuss about? And why are marketers, in particular, so strongly influenced by thought leadership pieces?
From our research it boils down to three key factors:
Inspirational analysis in opinion pieces
Thought leadership and opinion pieces tend to talk about hot topics, challenges, tips and advice at a macro-level. They show big thinking and big ideas at their best, pushing the reader to take a step back from their day-to-day rat race and, just for a few minutes, gain a new perspective.
Today, only 15 per cent of marketers view their digital strategy as ‘visionary’, and with digital becoming an engrained part of marketers’ overall KPIs, goals, and investments, I’d assume a similar proportion would say the same of their overall marketing plans.
This tells us marketers aren’t only under the pump and being pushed to do more with less, but they’re also aspirational, and are open to new ways of pushing the boundaries,
The vast majority of marketers recognise they have a long way to go in embracing the latest technologies, customising their customer journeys, and engaging with their target audiences, and this is all a positive sign of motivation and stamina in the industry, as well as an openness and admiration for big thinking.
Respect for experts and experience
Customer stories and direct customer references were the first and second most common information sources marketers looked for when assessing potential vendors, according to the aforementioned Hotwire survey.
However, they were overtaken by thought leadership pieces when measured by effectiveness in impacting the decision making process, scoring a close second and third place respectively.
Marketers are undoubtedly after the proof in the pudding before making any major investments, and thought leadership pieces combine a powerful mix of information, including someone’s own expertise and, assumingly, their experience in going through the ringer with their own customers.
The marketing industry is changing at such a rapid pace, that professionals who have ‘been there, done that’ are more valuable and impactful than ever before. With many technologies and ways of doing marketing now being so new, expertise and experience that can be shared in any form, are gold.
Stats matter in opinion pieces, but marketers want insights too
Marketing is becoming more of a numbers game each day, with big data sitting behind the majority of marketers’ key decisions on when to send what messages to which customers and how.
While thought leadership and opinion pieces often involve stats, they also talk to the data from a third party perspective, adding commentary on how the stats fit into the bigger picture.
Arguably, analysts can provide this level of commentary, too, though it will generally be based on a set range of pre-determined measurements that have been allocated based on a pre-determined structure for delivering information. Analysts are the second most common information source IT decision makers look for, and the third most effective at helping them make decisions on vendors.
And despite there being obvious shifts within organisations for IT and marketing teams to work more collaboratively together, these differences in information preferences highlight some of the core ways in which these teams will value and use the resources available at their fingertips.
If you’re interested in more differences between what marketers look for and what actually helps, or for differences between marketing and IT decision makers, here’s an infographic with the latest stats: