Business buyers broadly agree that thought leadership content has a significant impact on their purchase decisions at every stage of the buying process. But they consistently rate the impact of their organization’s thought leadership content substantially lower.
That is one of the more ironic findings of a recent study by Edelman and LinkedIn. How Thought Leadership Impacts B2B Demand Generation was based on a survey of 1,329 business decision makers representing a wide range of industries and company sizes. Fifty-one percent of the survey respondents worked for organizations that produce thought leadership content.
The goal of this study was to better understand how thought leadership content impacts B2B purchase decisions. So, Edelman and LinkedIn asked survey participants several specific questions about how thought leadership affects their own purchase behaviors. Survey participants whose companies produce thought leadership content were also asked comparable questions about the impact of their organization’s content on the buying behaviors of their potential customers.
The following table shows how survey respondents evaluated the impact of thought leadership content on various aspects of the B2B demand generation process. In this table, “Thought Leadership Producers” refers to survey respondents who said their company uses thought leadership content in its marketing efforts. The study report indicates that these respondents were “typically marketers and communicators within an organization.”
As this table shows, there are several significant differences between how decision makers view the impact of thought leadership on their attitudes and behaviors as buyers, and how they perceive the impact of their organization’s thought leadership content on their potential customers. For example, 45% of decision makers said that thought leadership had directly led them to award business to a company, but only 20% of producers said that thought leadership content had helped them win business.
The authors of the study report contend that producers of thought leadership content tend to underestimate its impact on influencing sales. They write, “Beyond its ability to drive awareness, very few creators of thought leadership . . . ascribe downstream marketing and sales impact to their own thought leadership efforts.”
It’s likely that many business and marketing leaders are underestimating the impact of their company’s thought leadership content, and it’s easy to understand why this can happen. It’s not hard for someone to recognize how good thought leadership content has affected his or her personal buying attitudes and behaviors. It’s more difficult for a marketing organization to accurately measure the impact of thought leadership content on its potential customers.
The Edelman/LinkedIn research clearly shows that outstanding thought leadership content can make a significant impact on potential buyers at every stage of the buying process. So marketers need to be sure they aren’t underestimating its value and impact.
Top image courtesy of mags via Flickr CC.