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How Thought Leadership Impacts B2B Demand Generation - Summary


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Strong thought leadership makes headlines. But does it also create demand?

Edelman and LinkedIn have collaborated on a new research study of more than 1,300 business decision makers and C-suite executives that explores how thought leadership influences their own behaviors throughout the B2B purchase process.

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How Thought Leadership Impacts B2B Demand Generation - Summary

  1. 1. Powered by HOW THOUGHT LEADERSHIP IMPACTS B2B DEMAND GENERATION An Edelman Study, Powered by LinkedIn Data Powered by 1
  2. 2. Powered by Powered by Introduction Strong thought leadership makes headlines. but does it also create demand? For B2B companies, demonstrating insights on timely issues and trends affecting their industries is an effective way to capture customers' attention and create competitive differentiation. To this end, publishing thought leadership has become an important method for engaging potential customers. But beyond its ability to drive awareness, the impact of thought leadership on generating business opportunities has been difficult to evaluate for many companies. Our study of 1,300 business decision makers and C-suite executives finds that thought leadership goes beyond gaining attention and impacts every stage of the B2B buying process. Poorly executed, however, thought leadership becomes a double-edged sword that not only damages credibility but may remove your firm from contention with potential customers. In fact, most respondents are disappointed by the lack of valuable insights gained from thought leadership content. Despite the strong business development advantages that thought leadership appears to deliver, there’s clearly room for improvement. To better understand how thought leadership impacts demand in B2B purchase decisions— including the risks associated with poor thought leadership efforts and how companies can avoid such pitfalls—Edelman and LinkedIn asked business decision makers across several industries how thought leadership affects their own purchase behaviors. The results may surprise you. Thought Leadership has impact beyond driving awareness It attracts invitations to bid (RFPs), earns buyer preference by building trust, directly contributes to wins, and even impacts and pricing considerations Disappointment with quality of thought leadership 86% of thought leadership consumed is considered merely good, mediocre or poor in quality, according to business decision- makers You can find out more at: 2
  3. 3. Powered by CXOs indicated that they were much more likely than the master sample to give contact information after interacting with a company’s thought leadership. In fact, we found that 16% of CXOs spend four hours or more per week engaging with thought leadership content. Thought leadership is more than twice as effective at attracting RFP opportunities than its authors believe, especially in terms of earning new opportunities to pitch against incumbents or established companies. Our survey respondents also strongly indicated that thought leadership was an important vetting tool, delivering insights on the caliber of thinking that a company is likely to deliver. When it comes to closing the sale, thought leadership continues to outperform its authors’ expectations. Altogether, our findings indicate a substantial lead-attribution gap, where thought leadership does not typically receive its due credit for its role in increasing the number of available opportunities or closing a sale. THE ATTRIBUTION GAP How creators of thought leadership view the impact of their work. 42% of creators who publish thought leadership believe that it brings more RFP opportunities to their business. 17% of creators who publish thought leadership believe that it brings more RFP opportunities to their business. 20% of the creators of thought leadership said ”it helps us close and win”—but it’s 2X as effective at helping to win business than they believe. It’s important to win more accounts, but even more important to win quality accounts. We find that, here, the attribution gap is most dramatic in terms of the difference between how thought leadership’s authors perceive their work to perform and how it actually appears to affect their business. 10% of creators said thought leadership “allows us to charge more than our competitors who produce lower quality thought leadership”—but it’s 5X more effective at commanding a premium for products and services than its they believe. 3 Summary of Findings Thought leadership is key to initiating contact with decision-makers, and especially CXOs. Thought leadership attracts RFP opportunities. Thought leadership helps you close and win. Beyond the win, thought leadership even helps you command a premium.
  4. 4. Powered by Thought leadership has to be as carefully planned and crafted as any other communications or marketing instrument. As you'll see next, there are ways to ensure that your thought leadership doesn't fall into the trap of working against you. What makes for effective thought leadership? 4 Thought Leadership: Handle With Care Sources Forwarded by someone I know and respect Comes from a source that I have opted into Forwarded by my boss 84% 86% 68% 48% 67% 70% Topic is something I am currently working on Ideas are completely new and original It is short and easily absorbed 63% 63% 53% 50% 34% 36% Content But, poor thought leadership content can remove your company from contention. It's not enough to have a unique understanding of the issues that affect a prospect's business, or deliver an original idea. It's not even enough to deliver it in a particular format, though understanding this helps. To be effective, your thought leadership needs to be relevant to what your audience is working on right now. More than brevity and originality, 63% of respondents placed a significant premium on relevance and timeliness—the received thought leadership content had to relate to an item that the recipient was currently working on. This aspect of thought leadership was considered nearly twice as important as originality. It’s therefore clear that effective thought leadership requires a understanding your customers and prospects in a way that goes well-beyond possessing a unique grasp of industry issues and trends. In a finding that strongly reflects the trend toward account- based marketing (ABM), thought leadership must reflect the very current concerns and priorities facing prospects.
  5. 5. Powered by Thought leadership, done well, can drive tangible business demand. Align thought leadership strategy with demand generation efforts • Align with sales and company leadership to elevate thought leadership as a cross-functional business development discipline • Explore thought leadership topics at the intersection between timely industry trends and your company’s growth priorities • Use sales-enablement tactics such as customer engagement playbooks and content sharing tools to directly engage high-value customers and prospects Customers want high quality insights, not just product messages. Focus on delivering value, not selling • Aspire to journalistic-quality content that goes beyond products and services to educate customers • Help customers understand the drivers of current issues and how to be better professionals day-to-day • Explore how your thought leadership can be an episodic franchise, rather than a single event, to generate opt-in subscribers (and captive audience) over time In B2B, personalization of content is vital for breaking through the noise. Know your customer • Engage frontline sales and customer relationship managers to learn what topics most concern current customers and prospects on a day-to-day basis • Evaluate the B2B buyer committee to determine how customer pain points may vary by function, seniority and role within the decision-making process • Instead of a one-to-many editorial approach, consider granular personalization, targeting and delivery of content to niche audiences that is enabled by modern marketing technologies Customers need information they can quickly absorb. Be brief, and timely • Know the channels where your prospects spend time and optimize media formats accordingly • Create short, snackable media that quickly capture attention and entice readers to consume longer-from content assets • Evaluate tools and data platforms that signal timely content consumption behaviors such as search engines, predictive intent data, account-based marketing (ABM) and marketing automation Plan for ROI before executing thought leadership. Close the attribution gap • Plan for an analytics and measurement approach that will help you understand content performance from awareness through purchase • Align sales and marketing on KPIs such as MQL, SQL and other measures of how content drives customer behavior (e.g. marketing-originated or influenced leads) Referral from trusted sources drives engagement with thought leadership. Harness the power of employees • Know whom your buyer is likely to know and respect—they are your most effective amplifiers • Develop a social-digital footprint for senior executives and subject matter experts who can attract relevant followers, creating strong distribution channels for thought leadership • Encourage employees to share thought leadership content across their professional social networks, especially those who are well connected to the target audience 5 How to Make B2B Thought Leadership Work Harder
  6. 6. Powered by Powered by TO LEARN MORE CONTACT: Joe Kingsbury U.S. Managing Director, B2B Edelman HOW THOUGHT LEADERSHIP IMPACTS B2B DEMAND GENERATION An Edelman Study, Powered by LinkedIn Data 6