Alterra Research: Great Thought Leadership Opportunities for Midsize Supply Chain Software Companies
Thought leadership marketing is critical to B2B companies, especially those that sell complex products, services, or solutions. It sets a company apart from its competitors and makes prospects eager to learn more about how the company can help solve their business problems. But despite thought leadership’s importance, many companies struggle to produce great thought leadership content, or produce enough of it. And that can make it tough to win against more prolific competitors.
Recent Alterra Group research bears this out. We studied nearly 50 midsized supply chain software companies to understand how they were faring in their thought leadership efforts. In our evaluation, we assessed the types and quantity of thought leadership published on their websites. In doing so, we were able to create a snapshot of how committed to thought leadership this segment appears to be (based on their output) and how deep and substantive the thought leadership is (based on the types of thought leadership materials they favored).
At a high level, our research generated three main findings.
Finding 1: The vast majority of midsize supply chain software companies are directing at least some investment toward thought leadership.
More than 90% of companies researched featured thought leadership pieces on their website. On the surface, this appears to be good news for the segment. Nine in 10 companies seem to recognize the value of thought leadership and are actively engaged in producing some type of thought leadership content. But there’s more to the story.
Finding 2: Content that is faster and easier to produce is far more pervasive than more substantive thought leadership among companies we studied.
Blogs and case studies are the thought leadership vehicles of choice for the companies we studied. That’s not surprising, as these pieces require less investment in time and effort than more substantive pieces such as white papers, research studies, and books—which are far less prevalent across our sample.
Finding 3: Even companies producing the greatest amount of content are passing up a chance to add depth and richness to their efforts.
The content portfolio—i.e., the percentage of a company’s total thought leadership output each type of content accounts for—is fairly consistent whether a company is producing a lot of content or only a little. In other words, midsize supply chain software companies that are generating the highest volume of content aren’t necessarily producing deeper or more substantive content. Thus, they’re missing the opportunity to really differentiate themselves in the market from the companies that are essentially doing little to nothing in the thought leadership realm.
These findings show that midsize supply chain software companies recognize the need to get content in front of buyers. But it also demonstrates that many, if not all, have ample opportunity to drive more return from their thought leadership investment. How can they capitalize on that opportunity? Five things can help them build on what they’re currently doing and increase their use of thought leadership (and resulting market impact).
1. Strike the right balance in the thought leadership content mix. These companies should continue to work to increase the maturity of their thought leadership program. This means having a mix of all types of content to balance the need for both regular touch points with buyers to stay top of mind, and more in-depth examinations of issues to establish and sustain their voice of authority.
2. Beef up those case studies. Brief one-pagers are fine for a slide in a presentation, when the speaker can expand on it in front of the audience. But case studies posted to a company’s website should be much more substantive to truly show how the company’s ideas or offerings improved the client’s or customer’s business.
3. Don’t be afraid of books. Business books are the best way to demonstrate thought leadership, are a goldmine of content that can fuel many additional thought leadership marketing initiatives, and can be a springboard to speaking events, book reviews, and byline articles.
4. Use video the right way. Short-form video’s format doesn’t provide enough time or “real estate” for a company to look deeply at key issues; thus, it’s a poor choice as a primary thought leadership marketing tool. Instead, video is best used to enhance, augment, and promote a more substantive piece of thought leadership.
5. Make sure to do it right. B2B executives say superior thought leadership influences both their purchasing decisions and choice of business partner. Thus, ensuring the content produced is the highest quality is paramount. This means making sure thought leadership showcases innovative thinking, paints the big picture, delivers transformative ideas, and is credible.
As our research found, most midsize supply chain software companies’ thought leadership marketing efforts to date have been limited. While virtually all engage in it, the vast majority are essentially still dipping their toes in the water—producing very few pieces or concentrating on only one type of (superficial) content. But therein lies opportunity: Except for a handful of leaders, no company in this segment is yet a prolific thought leadership marketer. And that leaves plenty of room for those that choose to develop richer, deeper, and more diverse content that can separate them from the pack and help them get noticed by the buyers who matter.
To read more about our research, findings, and recommendations, click here for our full report.