June 30, 2022

How to Play the B2B Thought Leadership Long Game

Peter Winick, founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage, has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise, with two decades of experience building thought leadership platforms that actually drive revenue and differentiation.

He stopped by a CMO Huddles Bonus Huddle to discuss thoughtful thought leadership for B2B CMOs—and now you can listen to the conversation on Renegade Marketers Unite. Tune in to learn how to get buy-in for thought leadership programs, what works and what doesn’t, and how CMOs can approach building their own thought leadership brand.

What you’ll learn:

  • What it takes to create thoughtful thought leadership
  • How to get buy-in, what works, what doesn’t
  • How to measure thought leadership programs

Resources Mentioned


  • [01:45] What is thought leadership?
  • [05:36] Content marketing vs. expertise vs. thought leadership
  • [10:30] Peter’s ICOPS framework #1: Ideas
  • [12:02] How to get to The Idea
  • [13:36] You can’t force thought leadership
  • [14:34] Thought leadership framework #2: Content
  • [17:09] What % of content should be thought leadership?
  • [19:00] Playing the long game and getting buy-in
  • [23:00] Institutionalizing thought leadership
  • [26:00] CMO personal branding
  • [29:40] Should your CEO write a book?
  • [31:58] Thought leadership is an inbound strategy
  • [34:18] Why & when thought leadership doesn’t work
  • [35:10] Is long form content dead?
  • [39:29] Getting the right people in the right room
  • [40:55] Success stories
  • [42:09] How many narratives should you pursue?
  • [43:23] Measuring thought leadership
  • [56:16] Kick your thought leadership up a notch </aside>

Highlighted Quotes

”Thought Leadership is not the Swiss Army knife for marketers, but it has multiple purposes and is absolutely a tool that should be in the tool shed.” —@PeterWinick Share on X ”We have to be directed not by what we want, not by what we care about, but we have to meet the buyer where they are and where they’re going to be.” —@PeterWinick Share on X ”We need a vehicle to connect with decision makers and develop relationships with them with outside of the stress of the sale situation.” —@PeterWinick Share on X ”The hardest part about deploying thought leadership at the organizational level is you've got to play the long game… You've got to be in the game for, in my opinion, at least 18 months before you can apply the heavy metrics to it.” —@PeterWinick Share on X ”All that amazing stuff that was in the 48-page white paper? Slice and dice that into smaller pieces, graphics, infographics, short form, and reuse it… If you're giving me a different version or iteration of it in a different modality, it feels… Share on X ”Books are great, but it wouldn't be my first attempt at Thought Leadership because it's very expensive, long term time horizon.” —@PeterWinick Share on X ”Don't start with a tactical experiment. Start by making an investment in strategy.” —@PeterWinick Share on X

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 299 on YouTube

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Peter Winick

Welcome to Renegade marketers unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand drive. And just plain cut through proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and chief marketing Renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew: It is rare to see a B2B marketing plan that doesn’t include some reference to thought leadership.

We marketers use. This term all the time as a noun, as a verb, as a strategy, as a tactic so much so that it’s kind of like the word marketing itself. It encompasses a lot. And in the process, I wonder if we’ve lost its meaning, but today we’re gonna solve for that. We will define what thought leadership is and what it isn’t.

We will assess both the strategies and tactics required to be a successful thought leader. We will show what great looks like and how you can measure your progress up the mountain. And I think it is a mountain. And to climb that mountain, I’m thrilled to welcome our world class Sherpa. Peter Winick the Founder of Leveraging Thought Leadership.

Peter is an expert advisor to individuals and corporations, and is consistently ranked among the top global thought leaders and influencers in the world of thought leadership. He also cos hosts the number one podcast for thought leadership with his business partner, bill Sherman called leveraging thought leadership.

Hello, Peter, how are you? Thanks for having me today. You know, I’m, I’m excited. I’m really excited that you’re here. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, but at the same time, I’m not sure what it is right now. So I’m in 10 words or less, what is thought? Leadership? I’ll give you the definition, but I,

Peter: but I think the, the key point here is

Drew: I’m not a finance person and most of us on this call aren’t.

But if we saw in our calendar invite a meeting on accounts

Peter: receivable, we’d know what that means. And I think part of the problem with thought leadership today is at a macro level. Nobody agrees on what it is. And then even inside of large organizations

Drew: that have lots of people allegedly practicing some form of thought leadership it’s, you know, like the blind man and the elephant, right?

So I. We can’t always, or, or we probably can’t have the world degree on our definition, but the first piece of advice I would

Peter: give anyone is make sure when

Drew: you’re launching thought leadership initiative,

Peter: strategies, tactics, etc. In your organization that you clearly define it. I’ll give you my definition, but you can choose

Drew: a different one.

The way I tend to define it is there’s two

Peter: pieces to it. There’s the thoughtfulness and there’s the leadership piece. So number one, under thoughtfulness, it’s a bit self explanatory, but maybe not right? Like what is it that you’re putting out there that is not just regurgitating best practices or. I already knew that or whatever it’s

Drew: thoughtful, thoughtful could come from research, thoughtful could come from real life.

Client engagements, thoughtful could come from synthesizing

Peter: different things in different fields. And then the leadership piece, I think, is the key piece. This is where you have the courage

Drew: to lead the dialogue, to lead the conversation,

Peter: to lead the discipline in a new and different direction. And it doesn’t mean you need to be contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, but you’re adding and elevating

Drew: the dialogue and the conversation.

Saying thoughtful of course plays, uh, right into the cats framework, which has been canonized in the book, Renegade marketing. So, but when I look at thoughtful, I look at it from the perspective of what is it that you can do that will help your employees, your customers, and your prospects sort of in their lives, business lives or personal lives.

Sure. So I look at thoughtful that way. Am I bending the term away from where you’re thinking about it? Well, I think you.

Peter: Rightfully. So looking at through the lens of a marketer. So I think when you look at it through the lens of the

Drew: marketer, sometimes you have to define it by what it’s not. And I think in some instances there’s been an inflation of the title and people that have been around content marketing for a long time, for some reason, thought leadership sounds sexier.

So I’ll do that. Well, there’s a

Peter: big, distinct difference between content marketing, which is embedded into the sales cycle and thought leadership, which. Part of building your brand and building the sales

Drew: cycle, but there’s a little bit of a separation between church and state there. Very interested in that.

And I love to get let’s, let’s pull that apart a little bit. What is the difference between those two? Well,

Peter: I think there’s three

Drew: different buckets

Peter: that thought leadership can be put in there’s content marketing. Right? So if I was in the business of selling diapers

Drew: to new moms,

Peter: I would want to teach them

Drew: things and trick and strategies on how to.


Peter: diaper rash on the new one. That’s

Drew: great thought leadership. It isn’t. So that’s content marketing, no offense to the content marketers, but how does it really

Peter: apply at the point of use or whatever the case may be to the specific product in question against the specific buyer or consumer avatar or whatever, the framework that we’re using

Drew: subject matter expertise is another.

Area that gets potentially confused

Peter: with thought leadership. You know, you might have people in your organization depending on what you do that have deep, deep subject matter expertise on something. That’s not thought leadership, refrigerated, logistical, trucking, or something. Lots of people care about that.

I don’t think that’s thought leadership. I think that’s deep subject matter expertise, and it’s

Drew: not that one’s better than the other.

Peter: They’re just different things. Thought leadership is, for example,

Drew: what are some people struggling with today? Well, large organizations are struggling with the great resignation.

So thought leadership might be something that a

Peter: human capital firm puts out about. What can you do to lower the odds of suffering from the great resignation? What are the things that others are doing? You know, how do you prevent it? How do you identify it before it becomes a. Can we say pandemic anymore.

in your organization. Remember when viral going viral was like the

Drew: goal all marketers. Yeah, we need, we need a new term. I initially, when I was thinking about this conversation, I mean, let’s say the content marketing is hard enough to get right. But it feels like thought leadership is particularly hard to get.

Right. Um, and, and I just wonder, is it a strategic problem or a tactical issue or really both. Yeah. That’s.

Peter: It could be both. So

Drew: I, what I find often in thought leadership are lots of tactics deployed in search of a strategy to connect them together. So

Peter: I look at and say like, anything else? What’s the objective?

Right as a marketer, why am I making investments

Drew: in this? What’s the ROI? Who am I trying to influence to do what? And then it could be, I look at it as a

Peter: continuum. There’s elements of thought

Drew: leadership that are about building your brand that are about differentiating yourself from the competition that are around fighting commoditization.

Peter: Right. So these are high level things that aren’t measurable necessarily

Drew: at the transactional level. Then on the other side of the continuum, there’s lots of

Peter: stops in between on the other side is okay. How

Drew: does it accelerate the sales process in a complex B2B

Peter: sales as a use case example

Drew: where, or in professional services or in

Peter: high tech or in any of those sorts of things?

How do we integrate it into the sales process all the

Drew: way from a prospect checking us.

Peter: To identifying the solution to getting in there so that by the time they’re interacting

Drew: with potentially a sales professional or, or, or whatever thought leadership has done the job of a,

Peter: you know, or done at least a good chunk of the job of a complex, uh,

Drew: or consultative sales person.

And, and so I immediately, as you’re talking, thinking of Brent Adamson, who talks about reframing the conversation, so the problem that you’re solving, they’re thinking about in a completely different way than they did before. And when they think about it in a completely different way than suddenly, you’re the only solution available.

And so I’m imagining that that’s part of it. But I, I guess I was wondering, you see thought leadership as multiple solutions to multiple problems. Yeah, it’s not the Swiss army

Peter: night for marketers, but it has multiple purposes and is absolutely a tool that should be in the, in the tool shed. If you.

Drew: So it is a tool.

We agree it’s and I know that just based on the attendance here, that there’s a lot of interest in getting this right. And found on your website. Uh, interesting. And I love four component frameworks. Like cats, yours doesn’t get to an acronym, but I, although I think we could call it, I cog. So let’s go through and, and those four, just for folks, it’s it’s ideas.

Content offerings and platform. And I think it’d be really helpful if we go through these one at a time. So first let’s talk about ideas. What’s critical here. Well, actually just

Peter: one little nuance on that. Drew, if

Drew: you notice in the graphic that we’ve got strategies underneath all of those.

Peter: So strategy is, is the connective tissue to all of those four in, in, in the, in the graphic there.

But ideas are basically the core insights, right? It’s it’s getting someone to say, ah, I see things a little bit differently. An idea done well can be articulated in maybe a sentence. And part of the problem with thought leadership is it’s easy for smart people. To take simple things and make them unnecessarily complex, right.

That’s not really helpful as

Drew: a market. It might be helpful in an

Peter: academic setting or in a debate, or I, I, I dunno,

Drew: but the real challenge is how do you take something complex and make

Peter: it simple or make it universal or make it sticky. So how do you get the, the core idea into a sentence or. So that’s sort of the, the idea piece.

Um, and before

Drew: we go on, let’s just talk, can you give an example of, of an idea that sort of ends up becoming a, a thought leadership program of significance? I’ll just use a tagline that I use

Peter: selfishly for our organization is that we have deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. So that’s on the side of our house that works with individual authors, thought leaders, speakers, and academics.

So they’ve got deep expertise and where do they go for help? Well, hello. That’s what we try to point down and they look at that and they go, oh, who’s

Drew: it not for? So there’s a self selection piece that sounds like me. Maybe I should give him a. And so that becomes like a guiding principle for the way you go about creating thought leadership content.

Yeah. And I, I mean, I think

Peter: another way to figure that look at that is when you look at fault leadership and I’ll just use individual thought leaders as an example, because organizations are,

Drew: there’s lots of different channels of thought leadership they can have, I call it the solve for X problem. So, so, and so is

Peter: known as the X guy.

So in Drew’s case, drew is known as the Renegade market.

Drew: Right. That’s his solve for X, not

Peter: drew, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, marketing. This marketing that it’s Renegade marketers. So Renegade means something distinct and specific. He’s not the boring marketer. He’s not the, you know, millennial marketer. It, it, it puts a state in the ground as to

Drew: what an expectation

Peter: is

Drew: when interacting with him or his organization or his work or his.

So in terms of the strategy behind ideas here, I, before we go away from that, cuz it’s such a, you know, it’s a big word and there’s a lot of things there and we’re not showing your chart, but we will share it, uh, later on. Talk a little bit about how do we get there. There’s lots of ways to get there.

Right. So

Peter: if we’re thinking about it from an organizational standpoint, not from an individual standpoint, because there’s individual thought leadership and then there’s sort of organizational thought leadership. You get there by working backwards by thinking

Drew: about who are the avatars that you’re trying to serve, because we can’t be all things to all people, right?

What are

Peter: their pain points? And then what is it that you could be known for, should be known for, are known. That you wanna highlight sometimes it’s, it’s the things that clients might

Drew: be saying about you after the

Peter: fact in a good way. Oh yeah. They’re the, you know, dependable, creative folks or they are, you know, like, how are you being described?

What is it other than your professional savvy or accreditations or something? Why are they really working with you? Because by the way, we’ve all been commoditized and there’s alternatives to every, every one of us. Right. All of our organizations, what’s the special sauce. And I think you use that as the basis to create

Drew: it.

And it has to be align with the. So let’s move on, then we’ve got ideas. And, and to me, the way you’ve said it is, it’s almost, what’s our point of view in the marketplace. What problem are we looking at? And what are we looking at it in a different way that is as both thoughtful and has some leading edge to it?

I, I guess for, yeah. And, and I just wanna clarify on that

Peter: you can’t force. And, you know, I’ve seen some funny things over the years where certain companies, you

Drew: know, forced

Peter: thought leadership. So I remember seeing as an example, you know, Sharman had a Facebook users group. And I’m thinking who the hell in there,

Drew: like, okay, great.

Big fan of Charon, nothing against Charmon. We all need

Peter: it. We love it. We learned during the pandemic, but like, what the heck am I gonna do with my time

Drew: in Facebook? Like why? Like what’s the point here and where that came to be was, oh, you know, they, a marketer, someone said, oh, we need community. Yeah. Yeah.

We need community. How

Peter: about. Community of people that love Charon,

Drew: like how about that’s a

Peter: stupid idea.

Drew: So I think when it comes to a lot of direct to consumer highly transactional things, you can’t force thought leadership into a place where it, it doesn’t belong. I don’t know. It could be a lot to talk about into the paper land.

So let’s move on. We’ve gotta of this core sort of thought provoking idea that we wanna get out there. Let’s talk about content now. That is one of the, uh, four elements of your framework. Content is the entire library of everything in every format. That’s representative

Peter: of the idea. So this is where confusion happened because we have so many choices today.

And again, we have to be directed not by what we want, not by what we care about, but we have to meet the buyer where they are, you know, meet them where they’re gonna be. And I think what happens is you see things that are

Drew: just sort of comical, you know, like, oh,

Peter: somebody jumped on TikTok, but do I really wanna see my dentist?


Drew: like, do I, does that really make me happy? So I think you have to have an understanding of too many people are in not enough forms of content. Like, Hey, you know, we’re a consulting firm,

Peter: so we write white papers. Guess what news flash people don’t read white papers anymore for the most part. So if you’re not in short form video, you’re missing the market.

If you think that, because you’re someone that reads a lot, that everybody else reads check the data. You know, the average person gets their 18 pages of the poultry,

Drew: four business books a year. They write.

Peter: So there’s not a lot of reading going up. So I think the content is all the various places that your ideas can live and come to life.

It could be, this is content, right? We’re

Drew: creating content right now being a guest on a

Peter: podcast, short form articles, but it’s, it’s infinite. And I think this where people get the deer in the headlights

Drew: probably. And I, you know, one of the things that really makes me sort of crazy is when. It’s channel first and right.

Where, where folks just say, Hey, we want a podcast. And to help us get to that’s a tactic and search of a strategy. So, so, right. Okay. So what is the, if we back up and say, oh, we’re gonna do a thought leadership podcast. We’re still kind of at a tactic. What would make that a strategy? Well, a strategy is a strategy.


Peter: I would say we

Drew: need a vehicle to connect

Peter: with decision makers and develop relationships with them

Drew: outside of the stress of a sales situation.


Peter: else might say, Hey, a podcast would be good. Let’s talk about the struggles

Drew: and trials and tribulations of a, a chief revenue officer. Cause they’re important to me.

So I’m gonna do this

Peter: CRO of the future

Drew: podcast, whatever. And I only wanna talk to

Peter: CROs. That are of this size and growing, whatever it is. Oh, by the way they happen to be my buyers. But now there’s two

Drew: calls I can make to someone. Hey, it’s Peter, I’m trying to sell you a bunch of stuff. Click or, Hey, it’s Peter, I’ve got a leading podcast on blah, blah, blah.

That keeps

Peter: you up at night. These are the other types of guests I’ve had. Would that be of interest to you? Hmm. Guess which one’s probably gonna

Drew: get answered at a higher level of prob. So one question that came out is sort of curious what percent of content marketing you would categorize as thought leadership versus other.

And I’m sure that varies, but when you think about thought leadership versus content, and since content is part of this thing, it could get confusing quickly. So let’s simplify it. Is there a point where from your perspective thought leadership should be 50% of your content or all of your content? That’s like saying

Peter: what, you know, what percentage of your ideas are your best ideas?

So it can’t be like, you can’t say 80% of your stuff is thought leadership because it it’s just not possible. I would think at a macro level, I would say maybe five, 10, 15%,

Drew: but I think the answer’s different for everybody. So for example, we have a client that we’re working with that is an electronic health records company.

Peter: They have

Drew: a chief medical officer who’s deploying thought leadership, very targeted, very specific.

Peter: All of the investments in that example is thought

Drew: leadership because content work marketing doesn’t work in that realm. So I think it depends on, you know, you as marketers know who your, your clients and your prospects are, what worked with them.

You have to do a little bit of a litmus test here and say, is this

Peter: logical that this would work? How does this fit into the mix of other things that we have. And I’ll give you, you know, an example drew coming off of, I think we’re almost done with COVID. I hope I’m not gonna go there. But given that the last two years, one of the greatest AB AB

Drew: test ever conducted for marketers was the

Peter: absence of events.

So we were all as marketers, sending people to events,

Drew: sponsoring events, whatever. And then we had forced on us, the

Peter: AB test of what happens if we had a year, maybe two, maybe two and a half without it.

Drew: And a lot of people looked and said, holy crap, what a waste of money that was

Peter: intuitively we knew. But there was a fear of I’m Coke and Pepsi’s there, or look at CES in Las

Drew: Vegas had 10% of the population there.

So I think we’ve been arguing with our client organizations to say, listen, give us a little bit of that money you didn’t spend on, uh, events and such

Peter: that, by the way, we know

Drew: didn’t always work as much as we’d like to. And let’s run a series of experiments. Now, the hardest part about deploying thought leadership at the organizational level is you’ve gotta play the long.


Peter: every market, we always wanna think in campaigns,

Drew: transactions, call to actions, et cetera. And there’s a time and place to hold fault leadership to that standard. But you’ve gotta be

Peter: in the game for, in my opinion, at least 18 months before you can apply the heavy metrics to it, you gotta set the stage, you gotta set the case.

You’ve gotta constantly put great thought leadership out there. You can’t write one article and say, oh, and to hire me, call like that just doesn’t.

Drew: Interesting. Okay. And I am thinking about that 18 months and it’s certainly in my experience creating content. It’s, you know, the relentless consistency over time is what has helped.

But I wonder as I think about the, the CMOs listening, they don’t have 18 months. a lot of times for programs, that’s a long pay.

Peter: So

Drew: I think we,

Peter: we did some research about two years ago where we, we interviewed 57 heads of thought leadership at global organizations. And the two big takeaways were, you need very senior buy in.

That’s called air cover.

Drew: And you need a long term horizon for it to work. And then

Peter: there’s a flywheel effect. So I’m not saying that over 18 months, it’s all gonna be money out the window with no impact. But if you can’t sell that, Hey, I need 18 months to do this. Do not fall into the trap of, well, I’ll settle for a campaign

Drew: or two.


Peter: is just not gonna work. And it’s gonna make the case against you. Oh, well, we gave you a couple bucks here

Drew: and we tried that Q3 of last year for an hour and a half or whatever.

Peter: You’re, you’re making the case to reject a longer term

Drew: horizon. As I’m thinking about that. So if we, if it’s gonna take 18 months to sort of build up the market credibility and really see this start to, to pay out, my thought is they’re have to have a demand gen program that’s working really well.

Totally. In the short term, that’s probably content driven, uh, or if, because events are off the table and they’re gonna have to have that, and it’s gonna have to. Do what’s job, which probably would’ve had to do anyway. So in order to give them what feels like a luxury, if I gotta do something that’s gonna pay off in 18 months, I’m not saying it’s, I personally believe in it, but I own my own company and I can.

Budget for the long term. So in most CMOs don’t own the company, they don’t have that luxury. So is that the biggest sort of hurdle to getting a, an effective thought leadership program in place is simply that you have to sell in at it’s 18 months. You’re gonna

Peter: see some hits along the way. If you can get your CEOs, buy it even better.

And if you can get them

Drew: to participate in the process in some way, shape or form, you know, people always think of about leadership, oh, it’s a book it’s this or that. It it’s also the five bullet points that your CEO has have in their jacket. As they’re

Peter: walking, you know, over the, the Hills and Davos from one dinner to the next.

So the trick is how do you use it to get the impact that your organization is looking for? So you’re always looking for the quick hits. You’re also looking for ways to conflate when logical, you know, business development and

Drew: content development, the article example I gave you a little while ago, how

Peter: do you get your CRO involved?


Drew: do you get your head of sales involved? How do you find a handful of sales folks

Peter: that get it, your senior level enterprise sales folks that say, Hey. Let me talk to you about this and, and where can I

Drew: use this? Or here’s a couple ideas that we can come together

Peter: on to figure out how to use this, to help you win the deal.

And then by the way, market

Drew: the hell out of yourself, like look at the success we had with this thing. So as I’m thinking about this and I, and sort of equating it back to LinkedIn for a moment, the companies are rarely thought leaders in individuals or thought leaders, and certainly on LinkedIn, that’s the case, right?

That you are much more likely. So as part of developing a thought leadership program is, is recognizing that there’s a leader with thoughts here. I mean, that might be the Lochness

Peter: monster in some case. Right. But I think there’s a couple things

Drew: to unpack there. Drew

Peter: number one, putting all your eggs in one basket is risky.

We’ve seen many, many cases where an organization made one person, a

Drew: rock star. Think Marcus Buckingham think

Peter: Chester Elton at O C Tanner think, uh, more recently be at Deloitte. So when you put all your eggs in one basket, People do stupid things. People get inflated, egos, or sense of self worth, or there’s just a lack of alignment saying, listen, I don’t wanna be an employee for you.

I go out and do my own thing and make five times money.

Drew: So I like the idea of institutionalizing, the thought leadership. Now you have to have faces to it. So for example, a a R

Peter: P is one of our clients and they have a huge thought leadership practice. They have 14 people in the department they’re able to specialize have basically thought leader.

Specialists based on the things that they focus on. So they have someone that focus

Drew: on the

Peter: use of technology to better age in place remotely. That’s a niche, there’s other things on health

Drew: and wellness, other things on

Peter: financial piece. So if any, one of those people

Drew: blow up or leave or

Peter: decide to, you know, be a yak farmer or whatever it’s been institutionalized and you could replace.

Now that being said, the other side is

Drew: if you’ve got a founder, that’s a rockstar. You know, you have to look at what you’ve got. You have a, you know, Howard Schultz or a Michael Dell or a mark Cuban

Peter: there. It, it’s crazy not to use some of those assets if you have, but you don’t wanna give someone leverage

Drew: or create a situation where there’s gonna be friction or tension or a lack of alignment.

You can put some of your eggs

Peter: in that

Drew: basket, but not so, and it’s interesting. I, and one of the strategies that’s many CMOs have employed is to sort of encourage their CEOs to get front and center and become thought leaders. And a lot of CMOs spend a lot of time behind the scenes making that happen.

And that’s an individual who obviously represents the company and has credibility and so forth. Is that problem. I mean any, it could be problematic, but that’s that’s work fairly

Peter: well. You know, I’ve seen instances where

Drew: boards have pretty

Peter: much told the CEO, you need to step up your game. The competitor’s doing it and you’re not, we don’t

Drew: have a point of view.

We don’t have a perspective

Peter: we’re in, you know, whatever financial services or something else. That’s, that’s fairly competitive and commoditized.

Drew: We better, we better shake this.

Peter: Right. And by the way, we’re holding you to that. So whether that means a book or a stump speech or policy or whatever the case may be, I think there’s it’s high impact.

And by the way, you have to again,

Drew: market that internally. So it

Peter: shouldn’t just be, oh, you know, the CEO has a couple of

Drew: underlings running around as a speech writer and a ghost writer,

Peter: whatever. How do you really push that

Drew: in? And. I’ve sort of veered off into a, a corner here, but I, I have to ask this question now.

So several CMOs in, I would argue our thought leaders in certainly in, in this community, but also in general. Yeah. And there’s a fine line that I’ve noticed that they walk where they’re representing their company and they’re helping their company look good. And they’re building their own personal brand.

And there have been cases in where, you know, CMOs have gone too far. What advice do you have for CMOs who are building their own thought leadership brand and, and H how can they walk that fine line? It’s a great question.

Peter: It’s not just CMOs. So I think to me, it’s all about alignment and fiduciary responsibility.

So the reality is it is transportable. So whether you’re a CMO or head of sales or

Drew: whatever

Peter: it is important, You know, at a certain level of the career to build out your thought leadership. Why?

Drew: Because all, you know, at a minimum, all else being equal, if

Peter: I

Drew: was going to hire drew versus two other people equally qualified, well, drew

Peter: comes with a book.

Drew comes with a like, Hmm. Kind of getting all that for, I mean, that’s at least if not a deciding factor at, at a minimum, a tipping point, the question is

Drew: really about alignment. How do you make the case internally? Like. I need to invest time, energy, and

Peter: effort into my thought leadership. And here’s the business case for it.

It’s not about me, not about getting the next job, even if that might be bullet point number 11, that doesn’t make it to the agenda, show them the ROI to them, show them the importance to them, show them how this is, is going to work for the organization. You know, in some instances we we’ve had organizations that we work with say, you know what?

We’re just not invited to the dance. We’re not invited to the cool parties. We don’t even get to propose on cool stuff. We’re perceived as what we used to be. 10 years ago, which is a product company and now we’re,

Drew: you know, integrated services or something, but they still think of us as where our heritage is.

Help us change. And I think it’s interesting as you was talking about, I’m thinking about the CMOs who have done a really good job in building. I I’ll call it their personal brand as thought leaders, and they’ve done it in a couple ways. One, if they’re marketing to marketers, then it makes sense for the CMO to have a high profile because they’re a CMO and they’re a practitioner and they can do it.

And, and they’ a couple of CMOs who have built their personal brand by having a strong point of view about. Building teams, for example, and just being a thought leader on what it means to be a leader. Exactly. And that sort of, and it’s very much about their own sort of personality and perspective, but it does accrue to the business and it accrues to the, uh, to the individual.

I had a client several years ago, who had a midsize PR firm primarily in the west coast.

Peter: And what she was struggling with is managing millennials. So like eight, 10 years ago, by the way, a

Drew: lot of people struggle with that.

Peter: So she figured out and, and the whole model in PR obviously is as the senior leadership, you sell the big deals and you push it down, you get the leverage on that, etcetera, et cetera.

Well, if you can’t keep an army of 30 somethings employed, it doesn’t work. Right. So it’s a, so she didn’t see

Drew: this as some sort of macro socio whatever problem she’s like, shoot. If I don’t fix this problem,

Peter: I’m outta luck. And I’ve

Drew: seen three of my friends that are competitors go outta

Peter: business because of this.

So the outcome of what she did and I won’t get into all the details is she wound up writing a book on leading and managing millennials. It was just like,

Drew: cuz people would tell her she would go out and do some talks on it. Like, oh my God, you’ve gotta write this book. And it was like, wasn’t the intent?

Wasn’t the design. It was like, what is a real problem that you’re trying to solve now? Who else? By the way, get you’re not the only

Peter: one somebody else is probably staying up late at night today having a similar issue. And how could you help

Drew: them by sharing that through thought leadership? So we’ve, we talked a little bit about CMOs, helping CEOs build their themselves.

And I know that there are several CMOs, uh, in, in CMO huddles who have helped their CEO write books. right. Which is sort of a, a wonderful bonding way. We’re gonna make you look good. It’s good for the company. It’s good for the CEO and it’s really not bad for the CMO, but we also know that books can be very expensive business cards.

Where do books fit into thought leadership today? I’ll play my consultant card and say

Peter: it depends. Right? so there is no one size fits all. I think

Drew: oftentimes what happened

Peter: is there’s a peer pressure, you know, with CEOs, tired of being at a board meeting or

Drew: hanging out with other CEO. Oh, you haven’t written a book.

You haven’t written a book, right? Whatever. Oh, geez. I guess I gotta write a book. So there there’s

Peter: ego reasons. There’s narcissistic reasons, whatever a book is a heavy lift. And I think that sometimes people use books. I mean, we just had a client. We convinced that we help actually, their CFO convinced their CEO, that the words he used were wrong.

Yes. You said you wanna so and so to write a book, what you really mean is to build out a robust, multifaceted thought leadership platform. Right? Cause what are the goals for the book? Oh, I want it on the desk of every buyer. Okay. Well, why do you want that? What you’ll so let’s play with that a little bit.

So I think. Books are great, but it wouldn’t be my first attempt at thought leadership. Cause it’s very expensive, long term time horizon. The odds of it being commercially successful are like small. You’ve gotta really get a lot of people behind it and be clear, you know, what would success look like? What would it be?

You know, what is it look like if we hit it out of the park with this book a year from. Right.

Drew: Are we elevating

Peter: the brand? Are we now being thought of at a, you know, tier one level of

Drew: competitors versus tier two? Is

Peter: it, what, what

Drew: are the expected outcome? It seems to me in a lot of these books come out when there is a vision to create a new category, for example.

And they’re so redefining the way people look at a particular industry right. And saying we’ve had a new category.

Peter: Oh, I see. One more book on right now from a CEO or a CMO on digital transformation. I may vomit.

Drew: Yeah.

Peter: Well,

Drew: that’s a, that’s. That’s not new. That’s that’s fathership not leadership, so that wouldn’t fit.

Okay. So I do wanna open the floor just in case if anybody has a question, wants to come on camera, just raise your hand. That would be awesome. Happy to have questions. I do see sort of there there’s a comment in, in chat where. They said several companies have moved towards brand publishing as their thought leadership platform.

And it’s interesting that you mention Adobe and cmo.com, which was, I consider it was really something amazing. And now one might argue it’s not, but it was at, at some point in time. How do you feel about that? Kind of is first of all, is that thought leadership and what does it take for brands to do that?

Well, I think it was thought leadership. And

Peter: I think it has that specific example, degenerated, closer

Drew: to content marketing.

Peter: And what happens is, you know, if the promise is you’re not gonna market to me in

Drew: this thing, it’s really about thought leadership.

Peter: It is so tempting to start drooling your, oh my God, we’ve got, you know, look

Drew: at the numbers.

Look how many we, oh, we gotta sell. ’em something we gotta sell. ’em something we gotta sell. ’em something like,

Peter: so as soon as you violate. You can’t get it back. So

Drew: I’ve seen lots

Peter: of examples of smaller communities that are high impact, very exclusive, et cetera, that that works really nicely.

Drew: You know, people are smart.

People know when you’re

Peter: trying to infomercial and I think you have to give your buyers credit and

Drew: say, you know, what are we sticking to the charter here? The charter is, this is

Peter: a no. Now we want

Drew: to sell, we want to, you know, marketing’s job is to support

Peter: sales, right? But in these whatever sacred

Drew: halls, if you will have thought leadership, it doesn’t happen.

So in one way, we can distinguish thought leadership from say, content marketing. And like in content marketing, you would produce a buyer’s guide. You would produce a, which is not necessarily thought leadership it’s buyer’s guide. Here’s the, here’s the way to look at the category, right. Features and benefits and board.

Right. And you sort of, and you, uh, the FAQ, there’s all sorts of sort of what we’ll call sales enablement tools that could also fit under content, but thought leader. By design is literally to get you think differently about the problem that you’re currently facing. And with that insight that this other, this company, or this individual is offered on a consistent basis, get them to sort of say.

I wanna talk to these people. They have an expertise that I didn’t. So it’s an inbound strategy. You’re trying to get people to sort of reach in when it goes off the rails. When, when thought leadership doesn’t work, what are usually the reasons.

Peter: There’s several reasons. I mean, I alluded to it before the lack of

Drew: patience.

Oh, we did, you know, we wrote

Peter: one. Great article’s


Drew: lack of patience, lack of senior

Peter: buyin into the temptation of, well, just a little bit, you know, it’s like ex smoker, well, just one cigarette. You’re, you know, three packs a day. You can’t violate, you have to have rules and say, this is where, how we will use the thought leadership in this way for these reasons.

And this is what we won’t do. Right. And I think it just, you know, it’s like scope creep. It happens and

Drew: you have to be really, really careful. So it’s, there’s this sort of, we have to have separation, as you said, we’ve got to sort of say thought leadership has a very specific role and it’s going to express a very clear point of view.

So we talked a little bit about formats and you mentioned long form content doesn’t work anymore. And I wanna challenge that for a second because before I published, uh, Renegade marketing, because the pandemic had started, we decided. Publish a 15,000 word. What I call the mother of all blog posts and on this brand process, and this still, we get two to 400 visitors a day who spend three or four minutes.

You know, you can’t read the whole thing in three or four minutes, but they spend a lot of time with it. So is long form dead or is it really just.

Peter: No, no long form is not dead, but the data is such the average business books. I mean, that’s the longest

Drew: form, right? Right. Sells 12 to 1400 units.

Peter: Think about.

Think about what it takes to do it, you’d be better off going to Starbucks every day, buying 10 random people, a cup of coffee and talking to them. And within less time, it takes to write a book. You could reach more people than that. Not only does it only sell 12 to 1400 units, the average person gets through 18 pages.


Drew: long

Peter: form is not dead. But I think we have to look at who is

Drew: our buyer. What’s their

Peter: attention spent. How deep do they want to go? You know, if I’m selling. Very complex technical solutions. I’m gonna read a technical paper, right? But the traditional, once a year, we put out our big white paper and it comes out in October and da, da, da.

You have

Drew: to constantly drip, you know, this is where you take some of the best practices from content marketing, shorter drip, multiple format. Now

Peter: there are times for a great white paper. But it’s not the only tool. And I would argue that sometimes people have, you know, why do you keep doing that white paper?

Well, we’ve always done it. OK. How’s that working out?

Drew: Well, I think the real point though, that is that a lot of white papers are not interesting. One, so they don’t pass you. They’re, they’re not, you can’t get past page one because they’re not worth reading. And two, they’re not really truly thought leadership, but they’re a sort of a regurgitation, right.

So if we raise the bar and say, This is worth reading. Cuz we do have a comment here said that long form is working better for technical audiences and international buyers got. So, I mean, I, again, I think if we’re dealing with somebody who’s taking an 18 month sales cycle and there are lots of people involved, there’s a lot of room for both content that is long and well done and thought leadership, which is long and well done.

But the, I think the, the bar is very high. Yeah, I think the bar is high. I think what happens is organizations have been practicing thought leadership for a longer period of time. I’d say professional services as an example, they are. Less apt to

Peter: experiment with newer short forms. Oh, it’s not on brand.

It’s not on this. It’s not on that. It’s like, well, get over yourself. Guess what? You know, your clients are on LinkedIn and they do wanna see a two to three minute video and

Drew: Rita. Oh, you know, we’re too smart to do a 500 word blog post. Really? I,

Peter: I don’t think so. Like if that’s, you know, think

Drew: about the use case 65% of users on LinkedIn

Peter: are, are mobile.

What does that mean? Right. I’m not sitting

Drew: here comfortably at my desk. I’m waiting online at Starbucks for my cappuccino scrolling 300 words is about the magic number. The Magna Carter. I’m not gonna read, you know, on my mobile waiting for a latte. It’s not gonna happen. I think we, we have to understand

Peter: the way people consume today is so very, very different than it was even seven,

Drew: eight years.

It’s a mix, but part of this is it’s additive, right? You need a perspective. And first and foremost, you to be a thought leader, you have to have a point of view, I think is that’s come loud and clear and you have to consistently reinforce that point of view. So the

Peter: other thing I would say is big organizations, big professional services from will literally spend millions on white papers when they, when they’re honest

Drew: about the math, you know, three FTE and,

Peter: you know, whatever, whatever, whatever, I’m a big fan of being lazy and repurposing.

So all that amazing stuff that was in the 48 page white paper slice and dice that into smaller pieces, into graphics, into infographics, into short form, whatever, and reuse it. Because guess what? Even if I did skim through it, I don’t remember. I read it three months ago. And if you’re giving me a different version or iteration of it in a different modality, it feels fresh

Drew: to me.

What you’re saying there is create one thing and then repurpose in all sorts of different ways. I’m gonna switch gears a little bit, cuz I think this is an interesting thing. This notion of convening discussions on a hot topic that, and, and maybe where you bring in lots of different viewpoints. And I’m, I’m curious if that in your opinion, sort of provides a halo effect that has been helpful.

Maybe you can speak to. Yeah. So I’ll split that in two. So it is

Peter: an effective tactic when done well

Drew: to get the right people in the quote room or zoom or

Peter: whatever we’re doing today and provide value. It isn’t always thought leadership, but that’s okay.

Drew: Your version of thought leadership could be it drew the guy that always gets a smart room together on topics

Peter: that are relevant to me.

And that’s important to me. And that’s his value prop to me as a fault leader. It’s not that what he says is not fault leadership. It’s that plus he can put

Drew: the right people in the right room, talking about things that are topical and important and relevant to me. I think that’s, and by the way, it’s

Peter: easier to do that than to have

Drew: to be the world’s biggest expert on X consistent.

Yeah, it’s it’s

Peter: much easier.

Drew: Again, lazy is good. I’m pro lazy. , it’s easier to ask the questions, uh, trust me than it is to have the, the true point of view. And it’s interesting when the minute you talked about the convening, I’m just thinking of what Margaret Malloy has been doing consistently over at Siegel and Gale and how she convenes lots of folks for, for really interesting discussions.

And, and I, I think it speaks to what their overall, uh, approach to thought leadership. So we started to get at things that, where, where it goes off the rails. And I think we’ve covered that. Are there any other sort of success stories that you wanna point to that will be enlightening, uh, to, to the CMOs who are at a various stages with, with their content?

Peter: Yeah. I mean, there’s a ton of success stories, right? In terms of achieving the objectives that you want your organizations to achieve. I mean, I think it just, I, I, you, it depends on everybody’s starting point and where you’re gonna go and try. You’re gonna get there, you know, info does some amazing stuff.

Accenture does some high quality stuff. A R P does a bunch of great stuff. Okay. I think in terms of achieving your objectives, there’s countless. I mean, we actually, it’s, it’s interesting to give you a sense of where thought leadership is going at a macro. We just partnered with Thete awards and there are now I, I forgot

Drew: how many, I dunno,

Peter: 84 different categories where thought leadership for PR for marketing, for communications, for sales, it’s coming into

Drew: its own.

And I’m, I’m loving that. Cause I’ve been at this a

Peter: long time that it is maturing and being acknowledged and recognized as a discipline, a distinct discipline, not. It’s a thing or I don’t know. It’s charisma. I mean, it is, it is a true discipline. It’s still really, really early. I mean, content, marketing’s only why, depending on how you define it, maybe you go back to Michelin guides maybe longer.

Yeah. But not it’s old, but really not, you know, in

Drew: terms of the way we currently talk about it. So, interesting question that came out, uh, just a second ago on. How many thought leadership narratives can you, or should you successfully pursue? And I’m imagining if you’re IBM, it could be a lot of narratives, but I think exactly for let’s just say a mid-size company.

Yeah, I would flip that and say, how many avatars do you have? How many trying to reach an influence, uh, as in per personas, you mean? Okay, so, so I’ll give you an example.

Peter: I was talking yesterday to a, I don’t wanna give away name, but, but one of these scooter companies, the leading. Scooter company in Europe, they’re 187 different cities, right?

And they just raised a ton of money to respect whatever they need to influence three very, very distinct constituencies regulatory at the local

Drew: level to allow these

Peter: scooters to deliver your streets and, you know, you trip over them and whatever the end user, why this is a good solution to transportation and the industry at large.

Whatever that means another potential client that is in the RFID space in Canada, and they have three, three or four, very, very distinct avatars. So I think it’s one NA one narrative, maybe two per avatar, but you, you might have to influence as marketers, very, very different groups.

Drew: And it’s not just a complexity of an IBM,

Peter: but it depends on, you know, your business and what you’re trying to achieve.

Drew: So speaking of what we’re trying to achieve, Measurement. I mean, you know, we spend a lot of time in huddles talking about how we measure the success of things. And we’ve already said we need 18 months, but what’s happening in 18 months. That didn’t happen in six months. First off, you’re gonna track every

Peter: micro success you can and, and broadcast and publish the heck out of it.

Internal, like whether that’s an anecdote from a sales team. So you gotta put the systems and processes in place. I’ll. Out of, and then back into the measurement question. So I think as marketers, a lot of us have been seduced by vanity or phone metrics. And this is like, you know, social media is a lot of those types of organizations are guilty of this.

Drew: Ooh, look, how many likes look? How many

Peter: retweets I’m like. Well, my goal is to, you know, increase top line revenue 23% or to

Drew: acquire net new client. Now here’s my goal. So that

Peter: sounds like noise, unless a, is a predictive indicator to B. I don’t wanna hear it and don’t call it data. So I think it is tempting and easy for thought

Drew: leadership to borrow from social, the ineffective

Peter: side of social.

I liked it come up with, and, and this is part of what we do for our organizational clients. Okay. Well, what

Drew: are the metrics here? How about if, if the fault leadership was mentioned in a higher percentage of your diamond accounts this year than it was last year, how about

Peter: if you got invited to 10 RFPs that you

Drew: weren’t invited to

Peter: before ultimately.

Tracking of a net new client acquisition through thought leadership channels. That’s the holy grail, right? Here’s company X and nobody existed. They followed us here. They downloaded this. They did that. You know, you could, you sort of track the

Drew: progression, but you have to be looking at

Peter: it every step of the way and say, well, what would success look like?

And some of it is. Being comfortable with partial attribution,

Drew: right? It’s not like, listen,

Peter: I download your white paper and I’m not gonna get credit

Drew: for a hundred million technology sale. So now we’ve

Peter: limited the argument to between, well, somewhere between 1% and 99%, and I’ve seen, um, a technology consulting firm

Drew: actually have some really slick internal dashboards for a high.

Long sales cycle, high complex, you know, high touch, complex sales that showed they literally graphed along the sales cycle. How many touch points from how many different people

Peter: in how many modalities on the buy side? And it was really, really interesting to watch that. And if it started to slip earlier into the negotiation, it was an indication something’s wrong.

They’ve checked out. They’re, you know, oh, they’re seeing somebody else what’s going on. So you could. You know, UN unfortunately in many instance you have to create

Drew: your own sort of proprietary dashboard, which is hard to. So in many ways, these metrics are similar to metrics that you probably you might have with regular content.

So whatever attribution modeling you have there, you, you would do. And in some cases it could also include, did someone else adopt that point of view? Right? Did you got your point of view out there? And that point of view started to resonate? You know, I, and I’m just thinking about, in some ways, creating a new category is, is very much a thought leadership idea, right?

And so when someone is up, if you’re the one who puts forward a new category and then suddenly the rest of the folks start using that idea, then one would say, you’ve probably got some mess. You, you you’ve penetrated at least your industry. I don’t know. Am I stretching it? No, you know, I don’t think you’re stretching it, but I think most of us aren’t looking to create a

Peter: new category, cuz it’s so damn hard.


Drew: What we’re looking to do is be able to justify


Peter: investments that we’re asking to be made

Drew: in thought leadership. So is there a place where, you know, firms that come to you and say, we’re thinking about thought leadership to say now you shouldn’t do. Yeah. I, I, there there’s been a, I mean, a lot of direct, not the chars calling us,

Peter: but I don’t really see a use case there.

Okay. That would make sense. But

Drew: a B2B brand has a B2B brand come to you and you, and you’ve just said, nah, I just don’t see this as something. No. I mean, where it works incredibly well, high tech.

Peter: B2B financial

Drew: services, a lot of

Peter: nonprofits, mission driven, new category, where you have to introduce, we’re seeing a lot of stuff

Drew: now in things like, you know, edible cannabis, which is like, okay, well the use

Peter: case is we need to teach the Chardonnay

Drew: mom that this is an alternative, as opposed to many of us have a have.

Peter: Preconceived notion of, oh, those are my stoner friends from high school. I’m not that well, do you know how many bottles of yellow

Drew: you’re putting away over a

Peter: weekend or better yellow, right? Like it’s could replacement for

Drew: there’s place for thought leadership there to make

Peter: a logical case because the reason some folks don’t.

There’s safety concerns and

Drew: reputational and all that. So. All right. Well, if edibles can do it, then any of the brands here can do it for sure. All right. Well, I think I have, uh, is really fascinating challenging area because it’s challenging to be a leader. Right it, and then this is not something that you enter in lightly.

I love the fact that we’re talking about it as a minimum of an 18 month thing that you need organizational commitment. I love the fact that we look for small wins and we celebrate them internally. Yeah. As a way of marketing the marketing, which is, which is great. And any final thoughts for the CMOs, uh, who are, who are listening, who were thinking about this?

Or wanna kick it up a notch, don’t start with a tactical experiment. Start by making an

Peter: investment in strategy to really, really think through, you know, you spend a lot of time

Drew: on your marketing plan organizations. We

Peter: spend a lot of time in our budget and our, you know, we spend a lot of times on lots of things, Don.

Jump into this sort of herky jerky tactical. Oh, I think we’ll, you know,

Drew: let’s start a podcast and then let’s stop it three months later, like

Peter: really put together, uh, a strategy that is not different than your marketing strategy. It’s in essence, in support of an extension of, with the specialty involved leadership would be, if you’re thinking about like, where the heck do I start?

How do I, how do I even

Drew: go about. I love it. We’re right back to cats and having a courageous start, uh, strategy to kick things off. Peter Winick thought leadership, leveraging thought leadership. Peter, where can people find you?

Peter: Sometimes my face is at the post office, but when it’s not there, you can go

Drew: to thought leadership, leverage.com,

Peter: which is course website and then LinkedIn and yeah, the

Drew: podcast leveraging thought leadership.

And then,

Peter: uh, you know, you can email me directly Peter

Drew: thought leadership, leverage.com. Perfect. All right. Thank you so much for joining us at this really amazing bonus huddle. Thanks Peter. My pleasure. Thanks every. If you are a B2B CMO and wanna hear more conversations like this one, find out if you qualify to join our community of sharing, caring, and daring cmos@cmohuddles.com.

Show Credits

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Renegade marketers. Unite is now a production of share your genius. Melissa Caffrey is our content director. The music is by the amazing burns twins and intro. Voiceover is Linda Cornelius to find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about them. And the savvy is B2B marketing boutique in New York city.

Please visit renegade.com. I’m your host Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.