Football photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash

In the playing field of B2B, the word ”influencer” is thrown around like a ball these days; many businesses think they need one on their team to provide value. In both B2C and B2B, companies are constantly seeking well-known content writers or personalities to share their voice with customers. Content marketers forget about the importance of educational and helpful copy, instead settling on quick hits in the form of a popular online presence to “influence” their audiences. 

That’s not to say influencers can’t be important. Think of them as a player on your favorite sports team who got signed for a 10-day contract. Sure, you may win a few games by adding them to the roster, but they probably won’t provide long-term value. So their ROI could be short-lived. According to, 65 percent of influencer marketing budgets will increase in 2020. However, in B2B marketing specifically, brands should tackle the influencer position in a different way: by aspiring to be something more authentic and enduring, i.e., a thought leader. 

What’s the difference between an influencer and a thought leader?

According to Sprout Social, influencer marketing is “a form of advertising that builds brand authority on the back of another person’s reputation.” You may have seen your favorite celebrity or YouTube star post about a product sent to them on their social media accounts. That’s an example of influencer marketing. 

On the other hand, a thought leader uses one’s own experiences and knowledge to become a go-to expert on industry topics. Sprout Social terms this empowering your people to build your brand. Doing this will not only amplify the brand’s reach but also demonstrate a close connection with issues that are important to your audiences.

Luckily, most B2B brands usually have an in-house, go-to expert: someone who is constantly keeping up with industry news, developments, and has years of experience in their field. When you integrate their expertise with blogging and other content media, you have the perfect game plan for thought leadership.

Three reasons why you should add blogging to your content marketing playbook

Thought leaders are respected.

People look to leaders for guidance. So as a brand, why not use your company’s respected industry experts to your advantage? According to Forbes, 88 percent of business decision makers indicate their respect for an organization grows after engaging with its thought leadership content. And 83 percent of buyers requested a proposal based on similar content. 

Think of a thought leadership blog as a coach’s game plan. Before each game, a coach will present a strategy to the team, one based on a pedigree of success and experience. The players trust the coach not only because of their experience but also because of the respect they have earned. Do you have a successful and respected coach on your team? It’s time to get them blogging and sharing their knowledge within your industry. 

Getting personal creates connections with audiences.

Putting a face to your products will improve trust for your business. Oftentimes, customers only see and interact with a product or logo. Why not give them an opportunity to interact with a person behind the brand?

Gilbarco Veeder-Root did just that by positioning their vice president of marketing, Chris Whitley, as the face of their retail and commercial petroleum sector. After only a few timely, well-conceived blogs, he’s already averaging 139 social media interactions on each. Whitley is also seeing increased traffic to his LinkedIn profile, positioning him and Gilbarco Veeder-Root as trusted resources in their space. As an industry veteran, he uses his own experiences and knowledge to connect with audiences. (To see what I mean, go check out his post on dog-poop bags.

But he’s just one example of this. If you’re curious about what other B2B leaders are doing, please review the thought leadership content generated from Andre Patenaude at Emerson or Dane Parker at General Motors.

Thought leaders create new relationships. 

In B2B marketing, relationships are paramount. Don Peppers and Martha Rogers predicted a more personal marketing model in 1993 in their prophetic book, The One to One Future. They wrote, “People buy from people they like. People buy from companies they like. There’s no easy button for this, but it’s not hard. You just need to care enough to want to build relationships.” The right executive turned thought leader can help your organization achieve the B2B relationships needed to humanize your brand. 

Social media can be an important part of your organization’s content game plan. Customers for your products are on social media, and a solid content strategy has the potential to score big if you’re creative and provide value. LinkedIn is “the” place for making connections in the professional space and the number one channel for B2B marketers to distribute thought leadership content digitally. According to the latest LinkedIn statistics from Omnicore, there are 675 million LinkedIn users; 90 million of them are senior-level influencers. Additionally, 80 percent of B2B social media leads come from LinkedIn and 94 percent of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for content marketing.

Win your audience with helpful content

The time for thought leadership is now! When every aspect of B2B marketing is being forced to go digital, people are looking for guidance and leadership in their respective industries. Thought leadership from your executives can be a winning game plan — taking your marketing efforts to the next level with real knowledge and expertise. 

If you’re unsure of how to get started on a content strategy with your expert, read Michelle Crawley’s blog.