Thought leadership – e-papers, presentations, white papers, webinars, mobile content etc – commissioned by B2B technology and service brands has succeeded in engaging prospects away from the ‘hard-sales’ interaction. As a forum between supplier and customer, using a thought leadership, knowledge based approach, has helped create open and honest conversations.

But what is the future of thought leadership in B2B? Here are some recent findings from Davies Hickman’s qualitative research team in May 2011:

Peer to peer collaboration is increasing through Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs and industry forums. Industry knowledge levels are rising around technology capability, people training, consumer trends and futures. This requires thought leadership to be more sophisticated to extend the boundaries of knowledge – and to involve the targets of the research.

Story-telling enlivens content. ‘Give me 5 bullet points’ is both unrealistic in communicating findings. Customer experience and engagement stories build compelling evidence and convincing dialogue.

Own-brand thought leadership transfers the attention to the supplier brand. This should involve the marketing and sales teams in the early stages, giving greater employee engagement in the final findings.

Transparency is vital. The days of using ‘hockey stick’ adoption curves or claims as a result of ‘Bad Science’ research are numbered; buyers are cynical.  Equally as brands engage more with suppliers the honesty and openness about case studies and capability will create more trusting relationships.

In the future, Thought leadership will be an integrated part of marketing campaigns, rather than produced in isolation. The content will force an exchange between gurus and industry practitioners, providing more value for customers and B2B suppliers. At present, compelling research often doesn’t receive the awareness it deserves and content and communication plans are regularly reported to be weak.