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Thursday, January 13th, 2011
How to Focus Thought Leadership on Customers’ NeedsBy all the awesome people who spoke at our conference
Thought leadership can be a waste of time and money if you’re trying to look smart in an area that customers no longer care about. GE Healthcare had long focused on helping make hospitals more efficient (along with most of its competitors). But then the company decided to do some in-depth research with customers to see if the priority on efficiency was still valid.
It wasn’t, said Bret Barczak, CMO, Service and Solutions, GE Healthcare.
Instead, the research revealed that hospital leaders were desperate for creative ways to grow and that few of GE’s competitors were focusing on that need. So GE targeted its thought leadership strategy on growth.
Finding the right subject matter is important, but if you want customers to consume your thought leadership, you must know them and the ways they like to interact and consume content. Here, GE’s research revealed some challenges. The target audience—high-level hospital administrators—is nearly all older, white males. Digital and social media do not interest them at all.
But they do like to network with each other. Though they tend to change jobs frequently, the administrators rarely leave the field and they form long-term relationships with peers through third-party meetings. With this knowledge, GE created a thought leadership strategy based on four pillars:
The results of the effort so far have been a clear increase in the sales funnel and increased awareness for GE Healthcare and its subject matter experts, said Barczak.
Give It Away to Win
The Grateful Dead built a following not by selling records but by letting concert-goers create bootleg tapes of the band’s concerts and passing them on to their friends.
The internet is capable of doing for thought leadership marketers what bootleg tapes did for the Grateful Dead. “Create remarkable content and make it freely available,” said Halligan. “Each piece of content attracts links, ranks in Google, can get tweeted. Content behaves like compounding interest.”
And that’s why, as unlikely as it seems, B2B marketers can learn some key lessons from the Grateful Dead. The band embraced new technologies early to create competitive advantage. It cut out the middleman and went directly to the customer. But most of all, it had great content.
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