Thought leadership content plays a big role in content marketing strategy. It helps establish brands as credible, knowledgeable, trustworthy sources for information about industry trends and strategies for future planning. But does thought leadership help B2B buyers understand what their own businesses needs are and identify challenges of which they may not even be aware?
Challenger Marketing takes a different approach to this early stage content designed to educate buyers. Instead of thought leadership, it looks at commercial insights.
What Is Challenger Marketing?
Built on the foundation of the Challenger Sale, Challenger Marketing sees the role of marketing not so much to serve as a partner along the buyer’s journey but to challenge the B2B buyer’s status quo.
Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President, Gartner, and co-author of The Challenger Sale, explains that organizations place too much importance on thought leadership as a strategy that leads to sales. What happens, he says, is that “…it really leads to people thinking you’re smart.”
Having buyers think you and your brand are smart is not a bad thing, but if you really want to loosen the status quo—the goal of early-stage content laid out by SiriusDecisions—you need to challenge the buyer’s thinking.
Delivering Commercial Insights
Rather than focusing on establishing your brand and your experts as smart, the Challenger Marketing strategy focuses on providing commercial insights. What are commercial insights as opposed to thought leadership?
Challenger defines commercial insights as “a compelling, defensible perspective from a supplier that materially impacts a customer’s performance and directly leads back to their unique capabilities.” Adamson frames it as a question: “What do our customers currently not know about their business, but should?”
This means educating the buyer about the cost of not taking any action at all—loosening the status quo and urging the buyer to begin evaluating the decision to make a change—and a purchase.
This requires more work on your part as a content marketer, but it also promises much greater rewards. For example, you may have to identify one or more industry trends and then go a step further to show the buyer how it’s going to directly affect the buyer’s business. You’ll point out the consequences if they don’t take action, whether that’s losing market leadership, incurring additional costs or other business risks.
As Challenger describes it, it’s about being a teacher for the buyer. The Challenger salesperson pushes the buyer out of his or her comfort zone. And the Challenger Marketer can help in that process.
Having buyers think you and your brand are smart is not a bad thing, but if you really want to loosen the status quo—the goal of early-stage content laid out by SiriusDecisions—you need to challenge the buyer’s thinking. Take a look at how five B2C brands have incorporated the Challenger marketing strategy in this post from the award-winning London-based agency Don’t Panic.
What's the Difference?
How is commercial insights content different from traditional thought leadership content?
Traditional thought leadership makes observations on the state of things or how trends may change circumstances in the future. Commercial insights, conversely, challenge what we know or how we think circumstances will unfold and presents scenarios or contingencies we may not have been anticipating. They outline the “micro” consequences that can affect our business’ future and lay out the consequences of not taking action to ameliorate those consequences—and the actions that we can take.
With this in mind, effective commercial insights content should have these qualities in each stage of the buyer’s journey:
- Create curiosity about a different way of doing things as a first step to educate the buyer and loosen the status quo.
- Introduce the alternative framework for thinking about a problem as the buyer evaluates the possible solutions.
- Finally, apply this new framework—with a concrete solution or set of actions—to the buyer’s own business when the buyer is ready to make a purchase decision.
Creating Commercial Insights Content
Now, let’s look at an example of content you might create to provide commercial insights that loosens the status quo and moves the buyer toward evaluation and purchase.
Take the example of a company that provides a wide area network (WAN) security solution. If you are a content marketer for the company, you might create these three pieces of content that follow the Challenger Marketing model:
- An infographic introduces the new reality of security that doesn’t stop at the edge of the data center or cloud. It shows how businesses now need to address endpoint security where users are connecting from remote workplaces or at edge computing sites.
- An E-book provides detailed information on modern WAN architecture and the myriad connection points with their associated cybersecurity risks. It focuses on how most businesses don’t have the internal staff, skills or budget to adequately address those risks.
- A case study portfolio provides three examples of businesses that have implemented your company’s comprehensive security solution that identifies and responds to internal and external threats using AI and human experts—and does so cost-effectively.
The Challenger Sale and Challenger Marketing can help you separate your brand from the competition.
Check out my recent blog post that looks at the Mobilizer as the primary target in the Challenger Sale, “The Challenger Sale In Marketing: Gain Buying Group Consensus.”
Browse our client content portfolio as inspiration for your own commercial insights content.