One good example of how a B2B selling organization in a commodity industry – Sugar Processing – has executed a systematic thought leadership selling program is The Imperial Sugar Company. The Imperial Sugar Company created its own newsroom and has captured thought leadership in a commodity industry.
Looking under the covers, we think the ISC Newsroom is unique and effective thought leadership selling program for several reasons.
It is built on high quality proprietary content. It is populated with original thought leadership content and stories created by Imperial Sugar – it does not simply aggregate content from third party sources like 99% of thought leadership web site. This single asset allows it to differentiate it’s brand and selling experience from all other sugar companies many times it’s size with much bigger advertising and marketing budgets.
It has content that directly supports sales. This original content helps Imperial Sugar’s salespeople make compelling and relevant sales calls, like this article that cites new research indicating cane sugar is in fact a healthy part of the diet. This piece gives sales professionals relevant news and educational insights that allow them to continue their ongoing dialogue with food manufacturers about the tradeoffs between cane sugar vs. corn based fructose. The focus on content that gives salespeople reasons to call, reasons to call again, reasons to be referred and reasons to be remembered is the key to turning marketing and communications dollars into measurable sales results.
You can learn about how this program was started and supported in this article by its founder David Henderson called Making Your Own News. In it, he proposes it takes CEO level leadership, a formal thought leadership organization and a new breed of marketing services provider to make thought leadership selling happen. All of these conditions exist at Imperial Sugar.
David also wrote a great book on the entire Thought Leadership Selling trend entitled: Making News in the Digital Era. The book discusses how traditional advertising and public relations agency support structures is ill equipped to execute 21st century thought leadership programs because they lack the tools (read press releases don’t work), the original content and stories, and skills to execute programs that selling channels – including support face to face selling, call center, interactive, mobile and social media channels.