Thought leadership can have an impact throughout the purchase funnel, but poor quality content may ultimately drive decision-makers away, according to an Edelman and LinkedIn survey of more than 1,300 US business decision-makers who are LinkedIn members. Almost half (45%) said that thought leadership has directly led them to decide to do business with a company, while 30% said it had led them to remove a company from consideration.
In terms of the benefits arising from thought leadership, the report identified a range of positive responses from business decision-makers:
These findings are supported by earlier research from the Economist Group, in which more than 7 in 10 executives reported being more inclined to do business with organizations that are thought leaders. About three-quarters of respondents to that survey likewise said that thought leadership influences purchasing decisions with the individual or brand.
There’s room for improvement in the quality of thought leadership, however. Just 14% of the business decision-makers surveyed said that the overall quality of most of the thought leadership they read is “very good” or “excellent”, with twice as many (26%) feeling that it’s “poor” or “mediocre.” The largest portion – 6 in 10 – find it just “good.”
In fact, respondents estimated gaining valuable insight from thought leadership just 44% of the time, with half disappointed by that.
Poor thought leadership can have a detrimental impact on an organization: 45% report that their respect and admiration for an organization has decreased on that basis, while poor quality content has directly led 30% to decide to not award a piece of business to a company.
The report highlights 4 areas of thought leadership content, highlighting within them the 3 triggers most important to decision-makers.
The most important trigger on this end is the thought leadership being forwarded by someone the executive knows and respects, with 84% identifying this as important (top-2 box on a 5-point scale). Roughly two-thirds (68%) of business decision-makers, though only 48% of CXOs say that thought leadership forwarded by their boss is important in getting them to engage. Likewise, two-thirds (67%) feel it important to engage with content that comes from a source they have opted in to.
The most important aspect of content is that the topic relates to something the executive is working on (63%). The next-most important (53%) is that it is short and easily absorbed, while fewer believe it necessary that the ideas be completely new and original (34%).
B2B decision-makers are more likely to find short-form 3-4 page documents (71%) important in getting them to engage with thought leadership than snackable media that can be digested in 1-2 minutes (53%) or short-form 3-4 minute videos (45%).
The most important facets dealing with facts and insight are:
1. The identification of new trends or issues that they should know about (78%);
2. The data – such as charts, infographics, key factors or figures (66%); and
3. The analysis of the causes and drivers underlying important current events and issues.
The use of research and data in content has come up a few times of late: a survey from Demand Gen Report found strong enthusiasm among B2B buyers for the use of more data and research to support content, which more than three-quarters (76%) of the survey’s respondents strongly agreed would improve the quality of the content created and provided by B2B vendors.
Meanwhile, a study released earlier this year indicated that research and original data are perceived to be the most effective content types by marketers, and a similar survey last year also found research reports considered the most effective content format.
The full study from Edelman and LinkedIn can be found here.
About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 1,329 US business decision-makers. The survey was fielded online, using the LinkedIn platform to survey LinkedIn members.
Half identified their vetting role as “giving input” while 27% “manage the process” and 23% are the “final decision-maker.” Respondents hail from a variety of seniority levels and company sizes.
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