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B2B Can’t B2Boring - The Importance of Strategic Thought Leadership

Written by Kaitlin Olson ·

June 2024

B2B Can’t B2Boring - The Importance of Strategic Thought Leadership

The cost of boring B2B content

“Being safe is risky.” Seth Godin, Author and Marketing Hall of Famer

This is the paradox at the heart of modern marketing—being safe is risky. But this safety isn’t confined to ad land alone: much of today’s B2B thought leadership landscape is dominated by similar aesthetics, narratives, and overall strategies. The digital era demands engaging B2B content, leaving brands to face the dual challenge of staying relevant amid ever-evolving competition, while resonating with a sophisticated yet increasingly jaded audience.

The importance of digital content marketing was accelerated by the pandemic. With a switch to remote work, floodgates of low-quality content opened, diluting the perceived value of thought leadership among B2B decision makers. The market is oversaturated. Still, consumption remains high — over half of C-suites report they spend more time reading thought leadership now than before the pandemic. Despite its increasing popularity, 71% of B2B decision-makers say that less than half of thought leadership they consume gives them any valuable insight at all.

In today’s digital-first B2B environment, thought leadership content is more important than ever, but harder than ever to do well. In a marketplace where attention is currency, being bold, differentiated, and engaging isn’t just a creative choice — it’s a strategic imperative for brands to accelerate growth and engagement.

The modern buyer team journey is changing the game

The once-linear customer journey has been replaced by a complex discovery, comparing and buying process broken across distinct stages—but this modern buyer journey doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not experienced by individuals, but by entire teams.

The modern buyer team for complex B2B solutions involves 6 to 10 decision makers‚ each armed with 4 or 5 pieces of information gathered independently and must de-conflict with the group. These dynamics make it increasingly difficult for teams to buy— 75% of teams surveyed described their buying journey as very complex or difficult. - Gartner

Modern buyer teams are digital natives—more and more, B2B purchasing doesn’t include direct engagement until the last few stages of the journey, with 83% of a typical B2B buying decision happening before a buyer team engages directly with a provider at all. And modern buyer teams prefer it that way—70-80% of B2B decision-makers prefer a fully remote or digital buying journey. This is why thought leadership is so critical to get right. Fact is, it may be the only touchpoint that your brand gets with a buyer team for a majority of the decision-making journey. The problem is that buyers get distracted—if you don’t engage them in the moment, they move on to the next thing.

B2B thought leadership, when done well, significantly influences buyer perception of your brand and, ultimately, their purchase decisions—whether or not the buyer team is directly engaging with your sales process yet. According to Edelman and LinkedIn’s 2021 research study, a single piece of best-in-class thought leadership has the proven power to unlock new B2B business opportunities.

  • 42% of buyers invited a B2B vendor to bid a project when the firm wasn’t on their original shortlist after reading a piece of thought leadership content
  • 48% of buyers awarded business to B2B vendors actively engaging in thought leadership
  • 53% of buyers decided to grow the amount of business they did with existing B2B vendors after reading their content
  • 54% of buyers closed a sale with a B2B vendor as a direct result of their thought leadership presence

The key to unlocking this growth is differentiation. But how? Pinpointing the key moments across the digital content journey where members of a buyer team signal their intent—in what have been dubbed micro-moments—and creating a targeted, best-in-class reader experience in those precise moments of opportunity. It’s about delivering the right content in the right way at the right time.

"Thought leadership has evolved from a one-way broadcast to conversation and community. It requires authenticity, having a point of view, and delivering something of value." - Kevin Marasco, CMO, Zenefits

B2B brands have to adapt to modern buyer teams’ new engagement models. It’s about adapting to be conversational and shifting focus from individual readers to entire decision-making teams—igniting conversations across entire buyer teams with content designed to engage “choosers” and “users” alike, and empowering engagement with an actionable fast-lane to keep the conversation going with your brand.

Sheesh. No wonder brands are struggling to keep up.

Navigating the ever-shifting content landscape

No one wants to lose out on a content marketing opportunity, yet when talk shifts to creating thought leadership, leaders often look towards the status quo. Don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s always been this way. The reality is, assumptions around what thought leadership content “must be” are frequently based on how it’s been in the past, or how the other guys are doing it. B2B’s obsession with uniformity and keeping up with the Joneses often overlooks what readers actually want or need. As a result, B2B brands find their content falling into a sea of sameness with the competition — and that comes at a cost.

The fact is, modern business leaders are looking for the exact opposite of uniformity — bold thinking, on-demand know-how, and accessible content that not only entertains and educates them, but empowers them to ignite conversations and consensus. So, how exactly can B2B brands navigate the new content landscape when their thought leadership content has been running on auto-pilot? How do we solve for the thought leadership content problem at scale?

The answer is two-fold:

  1. Pinpoint a distinct content space: Pinpoint a distinct content space: Uncover a distinct content niche to bring your brand and offerings to life for the full gamut of your target audience — from C-levels to technical or operational teams alike — by digging into the nuances of your brand’s target buyer teams and their current-state content experience at every stage of the journey. By unlocking these insights, you can uncover the micro-moments across the journey where buyer teams signal their intent to determine where your brand can deliver the right content in the right way at the right time. It all starts by digging into your reader’s stories, and crafting your own stories that align.

  2. Define a content design system: Build the tools that content ops needs to deliver a best-in-class reader experience with the power to move your brand forward with a competitive edge—while also empowering content orgs to rapidly generate distinctive stories that spark real conversations with entire prospective buyer teams.

What exactly do we mean by this? A content design system is more than a set of templates or guidelines—it's a framework for both the architecture and design of thought leadership content, built to empower content teams to create consistent, best-in-class reader experiences with the power to build real conversations with your audience.

  • It typically includes a suite of “starter” collateral templates coupled with modular design components to empower content designers to rapidly generate best-in-class collateral with a consistent, ownable look and feel.

  • It typically includes a clear content architecture framework and narrative guidelines to empower content writers to create snackable, scannable, stand out stories that build conversations with readers.


Uniformity in the B2B content landscape presents a clear call to action for marketing and business leaders: differentiate or be lost in the shuffle. By challenging the sea of sameness, pinpointing a distinct content space, and defining an ownable content design framework, B2B brands can set themselves apart.

If your thought leadership feels like it's on auto-pilot, it’s time to take a closer look. At IMM, we’ve seen the power of thought leadership firsthand - not only in our business, but in our clients’. Fast-growing technologies mean ever-changing conversations and market opportunities. By unlocking these new B2B consumer insights and data-rich experience strategies, IMM has helped our partners define a distinct content space and shape design frameworks with the power to unlock a measurable competitive advantage. Curious to learn more about our work and how our expertise can help your brand? Give us a call to discuss how we can help improve your B2B positioning.

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About IMM

We build immersive digital experiences, but most importantly we build momentum. Ideas Made Measurable is a full-service digital agency designed for brands ready to capitalize on change. With data as our northstar, our extensive expertise inspires consumer action to drive results that can completely transform our clients’ businesses. And we’re lucky enough to do what we love with Boulder, Colorado as our backdrop.