Event Season And Modern Marketing: My Personal Take On Thought Leadership

Fred Isbell

One of my favorite movies in recent years is “Wedding Crashers.” OK, I will admit to crashing a wedding or two in my youth. (Playing in a symphony orchestra does has its benefits, including owning a tux!) But, the scene declaring “wedding crashing season” still really cracks me up.

Now that we are at the peak of “event season,” I have attended (not crashed) some interesting workshops and conferences recently. Last month brought the TSIA Technology Services World event in Las Vegas and the Boston Tech Target Summit, and last week was the IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) Annual Conference in Cambridge, Mass. As I look outside my office on a blustery fall day watching the leaves peel off the trees, my mind drifts to thought leadership.

What is thought leadership?

One of my favorite sayings is “Take a hundred economists and line them up end to end. They will all disagree.” The same applies to thought leadership – it means different things to many people. When I took on a new role in Global Service & Support Marketing at SAP to add more and better thought leadership to our content repertoire, I was faced with that very question. I did embark on the typical approach of Googling various public sources of information. Next, I reached out to some of the great analysts we work with at SAP: Forrester, Sirius Decisions, and ITSMA. It didn’t hurt that I’ve been in the technology industry for close to 30 years, which brings in-depth marketing experience, a plethora of perspective, and a number of stories.

But over time, I’ve been able to distill my own approach to thought leadership into this two-minute elevator pitch that hopefully everyone can understand:

TL 2 min drill

Thought leadership is great storytelling that focuses on early awareness and consideration. Most important, it is consistently delivered throughout the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle. Although it is mostly consumed digitally, an offline format can be a suitable option as well. They key is making sure it engages your intended audience with content that adds value and is easy to consume.

Leveraging the best minds in the organization and beyond, thought leadership focuses on customer issues and concerns from an outside-in perspective. Part art and part science, it is a key element of modern marketing that is best built on a platform that supports structure and consistency. And from my experience, the best thought leadership is independent of rank and level in an organization. It’s all about the story, message, and perspective brought to the table by subject-matter experts.

My colleagues in Global Service & Support Marketing at SAP launched a new thought leadership program in early 2015 to build on our past efforts. We’ve published blogs in the Digitalist Magazine, SAP Community Network, and LinkedIn with regular and coordinated social media promotion through Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I’ve discussed my teaching experience at a middle school, high school, and MBA program in previous blogs. All the while, I’ve imparted my thought leadership, which resonated quite well.

Our efforts have focused on some great areas including corporate learning in the future of work, business and digital transformation, technology and innovation adoption, and much more. Because successful thought leadership isn’t a one-man band, we’ve leveraged contributions across our core and extended team and stakeholders.

Here’s a small sampling of just a few my own favorite contributions to date:

In addition to encouraging everyone to sign up for the Digitalist Magazine, we also promote our thought leadership on SAP Services Hub and the SAP Services section of SAP Community Network. Like the adage, “If a tree falls in the forest with no one present, is there a sound?” Thought leadership is only effective when it’s shared and available to the target audience when they need it as easy as possible.

Well back to “event season.” Once the leaves stop falling in Boston, something else falls from the sky that’s white and cold. Guess I’ll find “Wedding Crashers” on Netflix to get my mind off of that initial snow event!

For more on getting your message to your target audience, check out our e-book How to Deliver a Coordinated Customer Experience Across Every Channel.

Fred M. Isbell is the senior director and head of thought leadership for Services & Support Marketing at SAP.

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About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell worked at SAP for nearly 19 years in senior roles in SAP Marketing. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing spanning nearly 30 years. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.