Sunday, January 29, 2023

[Research Round-Up] The Continuing Importance of B2B Thought Leadership

Source:  Edelman and LinkedIn

(This month's Research Round-Up focuses exclusively on the latest B2B thought leadership impact study by Edelman and LinkedIn. This research is conducted annually, and it consistently provides useful insights about the importance and value of B2B thought leadership content.)

Edelman and LinkedIn recently published the findings of their latest B2B thought leadership impact study. The 2022 study involved an online survey of 3,449 global business executives (LinkedIn members) drawn from a wide range of industries and company sizes. The survey was conducted in November 2022 and included respondents from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia. and India.

The 2022 survey is the fifth edition of this research examining the impact of thought leadership content on the perceptions and behaviors of business decision makers.

Edelman and LinkedIn reported the survey results by type of survey respondent. The three respondent categories were:

  • Decision-makers - Executives who consume thought leadership and are involved in making purchase decisions for their company
  • C-suite executives - Company owners, partners or founders, and C-level executives having responsibility for a business function
  • Thought leadership producers - Respondents working for organizations that produce thought leadership content 
Survey Respondents Foresee Economic Troubles
The central theme of the 2022 study was the importance and value of compelling thought leadership content during an economic slowdown. Sixty-two percent of the surveyed C-suite executives said their company's planning assumes there will be an economic downturn in 2023.
This pessimistic outlook should not be surprising. For the past several months, stories about the rising risk of a recession have appeared daily in the business media.
Whether or not a recession actually occurs this year, the Edelman/LinkedIn survey indicates that market conditions will be challenging for many B2B sellers.
  • 64% of surveyed C-suite executives said their organization's procurement process has been made more rigorous because of the expected economic slowdown.
  • 47% of surveyed decision-makers said they will be less receptive to sales calls and marketing programs if an economic downturn occurs.
The Value of Thought Leadership in a Slow Economy
The good news for B2B marketers is that compelling thought leadership content can be an effective marketing tool even in an economic slowdown. Sixty-one percent of the decision-makers  in the Edelman/LinkedIn survey said that, during an economic downturn, an organization's thought leadership can be more effective than traditional product-oriented marketing content at showing the potential value of its products or services.
In addition, 50% of the surveyed C-suite executives reported that high-quality thought leadership content has more impact on their buying decisions during economic slowdowns than it does when economic conditions are good.
While thought leadership content can be effective during an economic downturn, the survey found that business buyers have specific expectations for thought leadership when economic conditions are difficult. Surveyed decision-makers identified four things that thought leadership content must accomplish to have an impact on their buying decisions.
  • "Identify new opportunities or industry trends stemming from the economic downturn" (48% of decision-makers)
  • "Explain how the organization can help our business do well despite the economic downturn (44%)
  • "Give me information and insights that will make me more effective/successful in my job (44%)
  • "Demonstrate an understanding of our organization's major pain points" (43%)
The Edelman/LinkedIn survey also found that thought leadership producers have significant expectations for how their thought leadership content will support their business during an economic slowdown.
  • 60% said they expect it to keep their brand and capabilities top of mind among customers and prospects.
  • 49% said they expect it to protect their current relationships with customers/clients.
However, most thought leadership producers don't have a very high opinion of their thought leadership content. Only 33% rate the overall quality of their thought leadership content as very good or excellent.
Unfortunately, the survey report doesn't include data for other quality ratings given by thought leadership producers. If, for example, an substantial plurality (or even a majority) of these respondents rated the quality of their content as "good" or "above average" or something similar, that would provide some important context on this issue.
If you're involved in developing your company's thought leadership strategy or in creating thought leadership content, I recommend that you review the full study report.

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