More than 9 in 10 business leaders agree that thought leadership is critical to building authority in their industry, and likewise upwards of 9 in 10 see it as an indicator of a category or industry leader, according to a Harris Poll report [download page].
Although the vast majority (83%) of respondents create thought leadership, almost as many (78%) feel that while most organizations check the box on thought leadership, they don’t push the envelope. Two-thirds (66%), including 72% of those in B2B industries, also feel that the market is over-saturated with uninteresting thought leadership. This has been a long-running issue: a 2016 survey found 3 in 5 executives around the world professing to being at least sometimes confused or overwhelmed by the amount of content they encountered.
Indeed, 6 in 10 (61% of) executives surveyed by the Harris Poll admit to worrying about their thought leadership efforts going unnoticed in a saturated market, with 58% saying that their company is not investing enough in having a distinct point of view. As such, surfacing new or innovative ideas or topics (69%) and reaching desired audiences (67%) stand out as key thought leadership challenges.
Research can help, as virtually all (94% of) respondents say that custom research makes thought leadership more effective. In fact a recent study found that, at least in the B2B world, buyers play close attention to content that includes research and data, and that this is a factor in their decision of whether or not to share content.
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The Benefits of Thought Leadership
What’s clear from this study is that executives see the benefits of strong thought leadership across the organization and with many stakeholders. While Sales/Marketing (65%) is most often cited as benefiting from thought leadership, respondents also see it driving value for C-Suite/Executives (62%), R&D/Innovation (60%), Research and Insights (53%) and Human Resources (50%).
Moreover, business leaders are using thought leadership to connect with a variety of stakeholders not just limited to customers or clients (76%), Additionally, thought leadership can be used to connect with employees (75%), consumers in general (68%), prospects (64%), investors (62%) and media (53%), among others. Respondents at Fortune 100 companies are particularly likely to say that thought leadership can generate media coverage.
Given this ability to connect with various stakeholders, executives are using thought leadership for a variety of purposes, from driving sales/revenue (89%) to building trust with clients/prospects (85%), building brand authority (83%), attracting and retaining talent (82%), understanding where the market is going (80%) and informing investor conversations (70%).
Finally, it’s worth noting that executives themselves are influenced by thought leadership: 84% of those surveyed said that it has at least some influence on their decision when selecting a partner or vendor. This brings to mind recent research in which 84% of B2B buyers surveyed agreeing that a winning vendor’s content has had a significant impact on their buying decision.
For more, download the Harris Poll study here.
About the Data: The results are based on a May survey of 500 full-time employees at director level or higher representing a mix of industries and functions.