Thought leaders are industry experts that people turn to for advice and put great value in their opinions. They are the leaders of the business world.
Thought leadership is a term marketers use often in reference to the content that these industry experts share. This form of content is typically used to elevate the name of a thought leader in tandem with their brand.
The recent 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, surveyed 1,200 US business decision-makers, content creators and salespeople to see how each group perceived the value of thought leadership for their business or the businesses they choose to buy from.
From as much as we hear marketers talk about "thought leadership," it is shocking (and ironic) to discover how little value content creators actually see in this practice. The Edelman-LinkedIn survey results show that there is a major gap in understanding here. Brands seem to be radically unaware of the true impact their thought leadership efforts have on their business.
It’s more powerful than marketers think. B2B marketers and salespeople significantly underestimate the impact of thought leadership on demand generation and sales efforts compared to actual feedback from B2B buyers.
Consumption of thought leadership has grown from 50% to 58% over the past year. And 55% of decision-makers say they use thought leadership as an important way to vet business.
Decision-makers aren't just choosing to work with new businesses off of great content, these high-level execs say they will remove businesses from consideration if they don't see a strong thought leadership presence. As companies continue to use thought leadership as a main deciding point for who they want to give their money to, sales and marketing teams need to wake up and see the value in this practice. It's time to make this content a priority.
The following stats prove the lack of understanding sales and marketing leaders have about the value of thought leadership.
Having a CEO (or other high-up exec) consume your content and proceed to, voluntarily, share their information with you is a huge win for salespeople. In this case, you have already won over the respect of this person and locked in a valuable new lead.
The fact that only 39% of content creators notice the value their work brings to the business is unfortunate.
We can see that thought leadership matters at every stage of the sales process. It should be considered during planning for top and bottom of the funnel sales and marketing efforts.
If 58% decision makers say they choose a business off of their thought leadership output, it is highly possible that your sales team has a strong top-funnel outreach but will lose the support of a decision-maker as they proceed to do research on the brand.
There is a major gap between what decision-makers are saying (61% willing to pay more for a product or service based on thought leadership) versus what sellers believe to be true (14% believe thought leadership allows them to charge higher prices than competitors).
Tom Pepper from LinkedIn says in a recent article: "Marketers who treat thought leadership solely as a means of driving awareness are likely to worry less about how fulfilled an audience is when reading content – and be more concerned that they notice it and engage with it in the first place. Our research proves that this is a costly mistake."
Whatever you choose to believe, the fact is that high-level executives care a great deal about the image of a business. They want to see proof of intelligence and integrity before signing any contract.
There are plenty more shocking numbers proving the importance of thought leadership in this study, but I believe these three stats can stand on their own.