The term “thought leadership” is overused almost to the point of meaninglessness. However, the principle behind the jargon – providing content that positions you as a go-to authority on a given topic – is sound. A well-executed SMB thought leadership program boosts the trust that SMBs have in your brand, and as a result their propensity to do business with you.
So what are the elements of an effective SMB thought leadership program? What content topics and formats do SMBs prefer for thought leadership content, where in the sales cycle do they consume it, where do they look for it, who do they want it from, what attributes make it most effective, what gets them to share it with their peers, what is its impact, and who is doing it well?
To answer all of these questions, we recently surveyed over 300 U.S. SMB principals. The results are instructive; there are some great learnings on how thought leadership content can drive revenue.
Join us for a fifteen-minute fastcast at 1pm Eastern on Thursday, June 9 for a discussion of these new research results, which in brief include:
Business outlook: up slightly
SMBs are slightly more optimistic about their 2016 revenue outlook. In February, 47% of SMBs expected to grow compared to 2015. In March, that percentage increased to 52%, with most of the increase going to businesses expecting to grow by double digits.
SMBs want to learn about…
…Technology, more than any other topic. 54% of SMBs go online often or very often to find thought leadership content on that broad topic. After that, they are most interested in news and trends about their industry (52%), law and taxes (51%), marketing (48%) and financial planning and management (39%).
…in these formats
SMBs most prefer thought leadership content in the form of a research report, at a 50% top-two box score. The runners up are webcasts (44%), white papers (43%), case studies (42%) and eBooks / guides (42%). The least popular thought leadership format? LinkedIn posts (20%).
…from these experts
SMBs rate internal and external experts exactly the same – a 51% top-two box score. Other Bredin research bears this out; SMBs are much more interested in the quality, relevance and actionability of your content than the byline.
…at this stage in the sales cycle
As a general rule, SMBs rely on social or “visual” content (e.g. LinkedIn and blog posts; infographics) for awareness, and longer form content (e.g. analyst and research reports; webcasts) to conduct research. The most impactful content to close a sale? White papers and eBooks / guides.
…from these industries
SMBs are most receptive to thought leadership content from local technology solution providers, which is consistent with their desire to learn about technology. 34% of SMBs are likely or very likely to look for information from that industry, followed by insurance companies and marketing services (tied at 33%), banks and hardware (e.g. PC, printer, server) manufacturers (tied at 32%).
The benefits of thought leadership content
Thought leadership content can drive traffic, transactions and trust. 46% of SMBs are more likely to visit the site of a thought leadership content sponsor, 45% are more likely to think positively of that company, and 43% are more likely to do business with the sponsor.
SMBs rate Microsoft highest in terms of developing effective thought leadership content, at a 39% top-two box score. The runners-up are Google (37%), Apple (36%), PayPal (35%), and Adobe (34%).
Register today for our fastcast on Thursday, June 9 to learn more about how to develop and promote thought leadership content to engage and convert SMB customers.