The Smart CIO’s Guide to Thought Leadership in Tech
Research in both the B2B and B2C sectors has widely found that most buyers prioritize brand trust more than any other factor in a purchase decision — even price. So how do you establish that all-important trust to win customers? One effective way is through thought leadership.
Thought leadership in tech is even more critical because of the pace at which the industry changes and its extended reach into every company. There’s no doubt about it: technology is just part of the way we all do business.
Tech companies often choose their CIO as the face and voice behind their thought leadership content, and for good reason. CIOs oversee the people, processes, and technologies that determine their outcomes.
In the sections that follow, we’ll cover everything you need to know about thought leadership, its benefits, and specific ways CIOs can establish their thought leader reputations with great content.
- Thought leadership content establishes the expert reputation of individual professionals and companies.
- Thought leadership is especially important in fast-changing, technical industries like tech.
- B2B buyers find thought leadership content to be more valuable in assessing companies than marketing materials.
- Since the pandemic, there has been a significant increase in thought leadership content.
- CIOs can share thought leadership content through blog posts, expert interviews, guest appearances, and social media.
- CIOs must balance their own unique perspective with their company’s priorities and messaging.
What is thought leadership?
Thought leadership is the continual sharing of ideas that demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in a particular industry or topic.
For as long as companies have marketed products and services, thought leadership has played an important role in establishing authority and creating “go-to” brands. But the arrival of the internet and search engines has made it an even more critical marketing strategy for companies of all sizes and in every industry.
Today — and especially in the B2B world — buyers control the buying process more than ever before. They conduct 83% of their research before ever reaching out to a company. Over time, B2B decision makers learn through their research who the top voices in their industry are. They eventually begin to turn to them first without even having to research alternatives.
Thought leadership content is what puts you on the map as one of those top voices companies look for when they need a solution or plan to make a purchase. In fact, 64% of recently surveyed B2B decision makers reported that for them, thought leadership is a more trustworthy basis for evaluating a company than marketing materials. Similarly, 63% said thought leadership provides proof that an organization truly understands their business challenges.
Image Source: LinkedIn
One of the first steps for companies who want to leverage thought leadership is to choose the right person in their organization to be its voice. Company thought leaders balance sharing their own unique perspectives and aligning them with larger company messages and priorities. They aim to share novel ideas and provide value to their audience by helping them solve problems and find innovative solutions.
In tech, this person is often the CIO. Let’s explore why thought leadership is so important in the tech world specifically, plus X ways that CIOs can build their reputation as a thought leader.
Benefits of Thought Leadership in Tech
Tech is the fastest-changing industry in the world. New innovations, tools, and capabilities are continuously reshaping the way every company does business. At the same time, it’s transforming the way companies and customers communicate at every stage of the customer journey.
Companies of all types, then, turn to tech thought leadership to understand emerging trends and potential disruptions.
For CIOs and other tech thought leaders, this presents a huge opportunity. Establishing yourself as a tech thought leader gives you a wide audience and a platform for increasing your brand’s (and your own) visibility.
The thing is, the increased importance of thought leadership also means that there’s more competition for space. Research has found that the pandemic spawned a significant increase in thought leadership content. According to B2B decision makers, the market is oversaturated with thought leadership content. They say there is more content available now than they can even manage to read.
Image Source: LinkedIn
This means your thought leadership content has to truly stand out. The best way to do that is by remaining value-focused. Nothing engages buyers more than content that truly helps them address their problems and implement successful solutions. In the next section, we’ll cover 4 specific ways you can provide high-value thought leadership content your audience will love.
4 Ways CIOs Can Grow Their Thought Leadership in Tech
Regular blog posts
Blogs are the cornerstone of every good content marketing strategy. Consistent, high-value blog content drives organic traffic to your website and increases your search engine rankings for topics important to your audience. In short: it makes it easier for your potential customers to find you.
Publishing thought leadership content to your blog is a sure way to make it visible and easily accessible. It does, however, take significant time to develop topic ideas and write blogs on a regular basis. Many company thought leaders work with their marketing department to find someone who can ghostwrite their blogs.
Ghostwriters can collaborate with thought leaders to uncover their most important ideas and perspectives. Then, they can draft something for review before each blog is published.
Expert interviews are becoming an increasingly common way for B2B buyers and other business professionals to conduct research on a particular topic or company. There are even expert network firms who specialize in finding experts and conducting interviews with them to share with clients.
Tech is a heavily specialized field. As such, CIOs can absolutely participate in expert interviews to share knowledge and establish their reputation. Below is an expert interview example from Boston Consulting Group featuring former HSBC CIO, Darryl West.
Another route, however, is to work with your internal teams to conduct interviews and create engaging content around them. Content like video interviews, Q&As on social media stories, interviews published in blog articles, and feature interviews in publications or email campaigns can all be great ways to establish your expert reputation, especially as you begin your thought leadership efforts.
The biggest advantage of working on expert interviews internally is that you can cover topics most relevant to your unique audience at any given time. These topics can be industry trends and developments, but they can also include current events and news that your CIO provides commentary on.
Content generated by guest appearances can be a huge indicator of authority. After all, why would other brands feature your CIO if they were not truly an expert? Guest appearances can come in written form (like guest blog posts), video form (like webinars), or even in-person events. The main consideration for guest appearances is to ensure the companies you partner with have a strong reputation themselves and will reflect positively on your brand.
Guest appearances extend your reach to new audiences and create new partnership opportunities.
Social media is a massive platform for thought leaders. Nowhere do CIOs have more control over the thoughts, content, and messages they share than on their own social media pages.
Social media can be a valuable tool for amplifying content (like blog posts). CIOs can also use it to share interesting industry content that you find valuable or want to discuss.
Most of all, it gives CIOs a direct channel for engaging with peers and potential customers. An active social media presence can help you build a true following. That following can extends to other channels (like your blog, email newsletter, or company website) and makes you more relatable to the customers you serve.
LinkedIn and Twitter are two of the most powerful platforms for B2B brands.
The Risks (and How to Handle Them)
CIOs who take on the role of thought leader do have some risks and challenges to consider as their visibility grows.
With visibility comes the potential for public scrutiny, and it’s important to remember that what you say and share will be seen and assessed by a large audience. Of course, no thought leader will go without criticism. Part of thought leadership is inspiring discourse. But CIOs should take care to vet the articles they share, review content published under their name, and be generally prepared for all types of feedback.
From an internal perspective, CIOs have to balance their own thought leadership agenda with their company’s priorities. No one wants to read thought leadership content that just restates the company line — for that, we can go to company websites and brochures. It’s important that thought leaders have a unique perspective and develop their own voice.
At the same time, CIOs represent their companies. Marketing departments often want to harness thought leadership content for their own purposes. They may want to have a hand in how it’s developed, too.
CIO leaders need to confidently toe this line, creating content that both reflects their unique voice and represents their brand well.
Over to You
Ready to grow your thought leadership presence? The first step is to have a library of great content. The team of writers and SEO experts at Marketing Insider Group can work with you to develop and deliver optimized content every single week for one year (or more).