The Marketing Strategist:

Four Ways to Measure Your Thought Leadership Reputation with Buyers

March 27, 2012

In this first article of our three-part series on thought leadership metrics, we focus on reputation.

Measuring the impact of thought leadership on revenue is a little like all of those “George Washington Slept Here” signs that dot the eastern states—you can claim to have been part of something big, but you can’t say that you played a key role in the outcome.

It’s rare for a buyer of complex B2B services to read a white paper and then sign a contract. There are many other factors involved (including the fact that the buyer is rarely one person but rather is a committee). All we can do with thought leadership is influence buyers to enter into a relationship with our companies. If you can show that buyers at least consumed your content along the path to a sale, you’ve done as much as you can do. Influencing the buyer is everything in thought leadership.

Three Categories of Measures

But influence is a murky term when it comes to metrics. We need to break it down into more concrete terms. At ITSMA, we categorize thought leadership influence in three ways:

  • Reputation
  • Relationships
  • Revenue

This month, we examine how to measure reputation. In the coming months, we will look at relationships and revenue.

How to Measure Reputation

Reputation—influencing the way buyers view of your company—is the classic goal of thought leadership marketing and the easiest to measure. Reputation breaks down into four subcomponents:

1. Awareness. This metric is particularly valuable for companies that aren’t well known in their target markets or are trying to launch a new offering. How can companies measure awareness? ITSMA has done this kind of research for many years. There are two important questions to ask to gauge awareness:

  • Which companies first come to mind when you think of [XYZ Solutions]? Known as unaided awareness, this question tests for broad knowledge of the field of providers. Companies want the percentage mentioning them to rise steadily over time until it is near 100% in their most important markets.
  • Have you ever heard of [Company Name]? Hey, some people can’t remember the movie they saw last night unless they get a little help. Aided awareness determines whether buyers recognize that your company is in the market.

Awareness is a measure of the overall impact of thought leadership, but it is also influenced by other marketing tactics, such as advertising, PR, and general marketing campaigns. These other tactics should be factored in when measuring.

2. Reach. Reputation can also be influenced by the reach of your thought leadership materials. However, it’s important to qualify the reach. Increasing the numbers of white paper downloads is great, but if the people downloading them are not part of your target audience, the numbers are meaningless.

3. Familiarity. Thought leadership has more impact when buyers are familiar with your point of view and your business themes. Just as a newspaper or magazine builds trust with readers over time by providing consistent content targeted to readers’ interests, so too must B2B providers. This helps build your reputation over time.

4. Status. It’s good to know that your thought leadership is being consumed on a regular basis by your target audience, but it’s also important to know whether all that content is conferring a higher status on your company as a provider. In other words, thought leadership isn’t just for knowing you, it’s for knowing that you are the best. To test for status when working with clients, we ask questions like “Who do you see as the top five providers?” In the end, status is more important than downloads. It’s more important to increase your status with a few key influencers than it is to max out the number of retweets on Twitter. Other ways to measure status include:

  • External speaking requests
  • Membership on advisory councils
  • Award nominations

Metrics are just one of the six pillars necessary for a successful thought leadership marketing strategy. To learn about the others, read the forthcoming ITSMA Special Report Thought Leadership Marketing: How to Build Relationships and Revenue Through Ideas.

Want the latest news from ITSMA?

Subscribe to our newsletters and alerts for ITSMA blog posts, research publications, events, and more.

Further reading