7 Ways B2B Companies Can Use Thought Leadership to Overcome Their COVID-19 Challenges
By Austin LaRoche, ATAK Interactive CEO
There is an opportunity for every business in every industry to use the uncertainty of this moment to utilize thought leadership. If you want to lead, what better time than in a crisis?
Thought leadership is the gateway to customer trust. By exemplifying knowledge and leadership in a given industry, thought leaders develop content that is compelling, has a strong point-of-view, and educates. This builds credibility and eases customer hesitations. In fact, Edelman’s 2019 B2B Thought Leader Impact Study found that 58% of B2B decision makers made buying decisions based on thought leadership.
Thought leadership in the time of the Coronavirus is vital. Simply put – the people willing to guide their target market towards a better future have the opportunity to come out of this crisis in better economic shape than those that sit still. Those are the stakes.
So, how do you exhibit thought leadership? Create content through this simple lens: based on my experience and knowledge, what can I provide for my customers and industry that guides them to a better tomorrow?
Your work will be an investment that should come with no immediate expectation. You’re not just educating the people that keep your company’s lights on, but also your competitors and others in the industry. You will need to be creative to standout in the crowd. Everyone is at home with a lot of time to brainstorm ideas and develop something unique.
Here’s a few ideas that may help you get ahead of the competition.
7 Creative Ways You Can Use Thought Leadership to Overcome COVID-19 Challenges
1. Create a Virtual Trade Show
One of the most common setbacks clients in the B2B space have seen is the cancellation and postponement of trade shows. This is certainly not an ideal scenario. There were thousands upon thousands of people in their target market who were planning on walking by their booth, offering an opportunity to catch their eye and begin, at the very least, a conversation. That target market still exists. In most industries, the need they have for these products and services has not vanished either.
Anyone with access to their product or service can set up individual or group meetings on Zoom to demo their product or service. Video conference technology (Zoom/GTM/Google Hangouts/etc) makes it easy. If you boil it down, all we’re suggesting is to do a video conference demo. But if you package it the right way, it becomes a can’t miss opportunity for everyone sitting at home bored out of their mind and in dire need of excitement and content.
Let’s say your company sells shoelaces.
You can email your mailing list and let them know “In lieu of Shoelace Expo 2020 being canceled, we are taking private one-on-one meetings to demo our new shoelaces. Please reach out if you’re interested.” That is something you can do, however, I doubt it would be very effective.
What if you went this way…
“Announcing Virtual Shoelace 2020! Our Private Shoelace event starts Monday.
Due to the cancellation of Shoelace Expo 2020, our team at Schu Laces is hosting a virtual trade show Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. We will debut 7 new product lines and provide a sneak peek to the first 10 customers that book a private appointment for Monday. Access is INVITE Only and by receiving this email, you are on the list of prospective buyers to which we are extending an invitation. Click on this calendar link now and book your spot to get an exclusive early look at the Schu Lace Spring line.”
Now that sounds a helluva lot more exciting than getting a one-on-one demo, right? It keeps the spirit of the trade show alive and provides your company with the chance to possibly bring in some partner businesses (that are not competitors) and set up different rooms, demos, and time slots.
2. Develop a Mega-Panel Webinar
Circling back to the uncertainty of COVID-19, every industry is trying to figure out “what happens next?” While no one can be certain, industry leaders should have the insight and foresight to be able to help others get an idea of where the winds are shifting.
The best way to approach this idea is to find 2-3 others you feel would make a great “panel” with you. Evaluate these potential panel-mates based on personality, chemistry, vision, audience, success, and industry-specific factors to determine who would be right to host the panel with you.
From there, come up with a title for the presentation that directly touches on your industry’s impact as a result of the virus. Don’t be afraid to go “State of the Union” with a title like “The Future of the Shoelace Industry Post-Corona” or “How the Shoelace Industry Will Look After COVID-19”. Make sure the idea is both topical and looking ahead.
Lastly, work with your panel on a rough outline of what the presentation should look like, the technology you will use, how you will organize Q&As, and how you will promote the event to your industry. Set your plan and execute it!
3. Go Live on Social Media to React to Industry News
Many thought leaders do a great job of making you feel like you could be there best friend if you knew them in real life. They are relatable and speak conversationally so that their audience feels comfortable and accepting of their message.
One of the great ways to exemplify that is by utilizing the live tools on social media. Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Linkedin Live can be great resources to utilize for thought leaders.
If you’re going to go this route, stay on message, and be consistent. Let’s say you decide you want to move ahead and go live on Linkedin every day. Pick a consistent time. If you’re going to recap the news from the day, maybe look at 4 pm to 6 pm as a window. Go live and have continuity to what you are saying.
Let’s keep using our Shoelace company as an example. Their Linkedin Live might look something like:
“I’m Johnny Schu, and as we have been doing since the beginning, we’re talking about how the Shoelace market is being affected by the Coronavirus. Today, the state of California issued a ‘Stay-at-Home’ Order, effectively shutting down all not essential businesses in the country’s most populated state. The brick and mortar athletic stores on the west coast are going to take a hit, and Shoelace companies solely relying on traditional retail, especially regionally, are going to need to shift focus. Ecommerce shoe stores, such as Zappos, are still open and the expectation is that the loss of revenue from this ban may result in an uptick in online sales. If you sell shoelaces, this is another indicator that online stores should be your sole focus right now.”
That would be a way to start, but one of the key things to do with any live feed is to have at least one hour of content planned or have the ability to improvise. Live feeds get prime placement in the algorithm of most social networks, but people peruse them in and out and by going longer, you are giving yourself more time for people to come in and see the content.
Additionally, you should have a Q&A component at the end of every live session so you can answer questions and give your audience a chance to engage with you.
4. Become a Trusted Source Through Aggregation
Of all the terrifying aspects of the Coronavirus, perhaps the most horrific has been the spread of misinformation. It is so hard to keep up with what has been determined to be factual and what turns out to be bogus.
If you want to earn trust with your audience and be seen as a credible voice, one of the easiest things you can do is consolidate the most accurate and relevant information of the day and put it into a single source.
This can simply be a blog post that you email to your database and share on social media. If you can do this consistently, you will be able to garner the attention of your target market by simply only sharing and aggregating accurate and relevant information.
5. Start an Industry Slack Channel and Facilitate the COVID Conversation
Slack is a perfect platform to facilitate conversations centered around shared interests. If our friend Johnny Schu were to create a “Shoelace Industry + COVID19” Channel, he could be the straw that stirs the drink in his particular field of work.
By organizing the channel, inviting the industry folks to participate, consistently providing good information to that channel (especially if he’s already investing in aggregating this information on his blog), asking for engagement and ideas, Johnny is positioning himself as a leading voice on the topic, even if he is not providing one iota of an opinion.
Slack channels are free, easy to create and give you the perfect platform to control the message.
6. Develop a Virtual Training Program
One thing I often hear business leaders complaining about is their lack of time. COVID-19 has provided many with more time than they ever believed they would recapture. Using this time to invest in others is a great way for thought leaders to educate their employees, customers, and industry.
With software like Absorb or Mindflash, creating a virtual training program with an LMS has never been easier or more customizable. If you know the curriculum in which you want to develop, these programs will help you cross the finish line.
Remember, teaching is leading. And every industry, especially those hit hardest by the Coronavirus, needs to learn a thing or two as the pandemic extends.
7. Learn Something New and Document the Journey
Have you ever wanted to learn a new process, technology, or platform? What better time than now? And what better way to learn than to showcase the experience to your industry?
Companies see shiny new objects in their industry all the time. However, rarely do business leaders have the capacity to become early adopters. With the Coronavirus and the conditions it has built, anyone can take advantage of the newfound time and try something new – the crazy AR technology somebody told you about, the email automation platform your competitors started using – you name it. Dig your claws into it and share the journey for all to see.
If you’ve built your name as a thought leader in your industry, your opinions on the learning experience are going to carry more weight than you may realize.
In the end, these 7 ideas are all connected by a single mission – to get you to speak up and distribute your point-of-view for the world to see. How you do it is up to you, but the opportunity is yours to grasp. Are you the leader you present yourself to be? Then step up and start publishing 😉
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