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The Marketing Strategist:

Featured Research: How to Ensure That Customers See You as Credible

September 12, 2013

There are lots of ways to build thought leadership assets—and plenty of tradeoffs to consider when deciding how to create them. As long as you focus on issues critical to your customers, you’ll have a powerful hook for your audience. And as long as you have something useful to say about those issues and say it vividly, your customers will want to hear from you again. But aside from those two imperatives, there is a lot of latitude in how you create and produce thought leadership. As part of ITSMA’s Thought Leadership Selling Survey, which closed earlier this month, we asked respondents what kinds of thought leadership were most useful in the sales process. The top three choices reveal two truths about usefulness and credibility when creating thought leadership:
  1. Get independent validation
  2. Conduct primary research
Get independent validation. Independence speaks volumes. When independent analysts explain why your company is a leader in a particular space, customers listen. This is particularly true of the largest analyst firms. Many companies don t have this option. But there are many analyst firms, many ways to slice your business capabilities, and many independent analysts—or influencers, or respected customers—who may not be associated with Gartner or Forrester but still have credibility. Be creative. According to survey respondents, independently published pieces by your subject matter experts (SMEs) represent another form of independent validation. The editor of the journal or trade publication is implicitly endorsing what appears in each issue. The reader can be confident that it’s not a sales pitch. And it’s not—but it is still your SME delivering your message. Conduct primary research. Conclusions based on high-quality primary research have credibility that news and opinions do not. Surveys, data-driven reports, even qualitative research—all have a factual foundation that cuts through the noise and merits customer attention. It doesn’t matter that there’s no third party validation. The factual underpinning is its own validation. And since traditional and social media are far more likely to pick up assertions based on primary research, there is a good chance that third parties will reinforce your message. To learn more about the topic of thought leadership, join ITSMA at our upcoming Lunch Briefings, EU Virtual Round Table, and Online Briefing.

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