Why “Thought Leadership” is a Bad B2B Content Marketing Goal

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A question about “thought leadership” in content marketing was asked of me recently. It was clear from the question itself (“Which is better, content marketing or thought leadership?”), the person asking really didn’t understand B2B content marketing and instead was being lured by the elusive promises of supposed thought leadership.

But, here’s the thing. Thought leadership is a bad content marketing goal, especially for a B2B company trying to effectively use content marketing.

Here’s why you should dismiss thought leadership as one of your content marketing goals, if it is.

It’s virtually undefinable

There’s no agreement on what a thought leader looks like. The term is too vague and subjective. Who decides when someone achieves thought leader status? If you asked 10 people to define it, you’d probably get 10 different answers.

It’s not specific

With any B2B content marketing goals, specificity is important. The more clear that you and everyone in your organization are on what you’re trying to accomplish with content marketing, the better. Get as focused, or as specific as you can.

It’s not measurable

There’s no way to measure whether or not you’ve achieved thought leader status. Measuring return on investment (ROI) is critical to B2B content marketing success. It’s also one of the biggest challenges facing B2B marketing leaders. Selecting thought leadership as a goal only makes showing ROI much harder.

It’s not relevant

B2B content marketing should be all about our prospects or customers. Thought leadership flips this around and makes it all about us. We begin to focus on how to become the thought leader. At the end of the day, the prospect doesn’t care about you or me. They care about how we can help them.

It’s not timely

Any helpful goal has an expected time frame on when it can be achieved. How long does it take to become a thought leader? I don’t know if anyone knows. At a minimum, there are dozens of subjective variables that make it almost impossible to predict.


B2B content marketing is a marathon-like commitment, not a sprint. One key to following through on the commitment is tracking ROI. Proving your content marketing is contributing to your B2B marketing goals helps it to take root in your company.

Thought leadership, if you achieve that status in anyone’s eyes, will be a byproduct of good content marketing that helps and engages your prospects and customers.

But don’t choose thought leadership as a content marketing goal. There’s no promise as to when you’ll “arrive.”

Your turn. What do you think about “thought leadership”? What are some content marketing goals that have worked for you? 

Author: Steve Sonn

Steve Sonn is the Principal of S2 Marketing Communications. He has more than 25 years of healthcare copywriting and marketing experience.

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