There’s no longer any doubt that thought leadership content is having a major impact on B2B buying decisions. Several recent research studies have shown that business buyers are consuming more thought leadership content than in the past, and that thought leadership affects decisions at every stage of the buying process.

Research has also shown, however, that business buyers are becoming more selective about the content they consume. The volume of “thought leadership content” has grown exponentially over the past few years, and companies are finding it harder to create content that will stand out from the crowd and capture the attention of potential buyers.

A new study by Longitude – a marketing agency based in London – sought to identify the attributes and practices of companies that excel at the development and use of thought leadership in their marketing efforts. This research was based on a survey of 360 executives who are responsible for the management of thought leadership at their organization.

Based on an analysis of survey responses, Longitude identified a set of organizations that are outperforming their peers at “thought leadership marketing.” These high-performing companies were designated as Thought-Leading Brands, while the balance of survey respondents were called Followers.

Longitude found that Thought-Leading Brands achieve far better business outcomes than Followers. The table below shows the percentage of Thought-Leading Brands and Followers who reported that they are nearly always successful at using thought leadership to achieve five strategic goals:

The study also found that there was no single reason for the superior performance of the Thought-Leading Brands. In the study report, Longitude observed:  “Instead, it is a combination of factors; they are consistently adopting a broad range of best practices to ensure success.”

Longitude asked survey participants to rate their company’s performance across eight thought leadership capabilities. The following table shows the percentage of Thought-Leading Brands and Followers who scored themselves as excellent on those eight capabilities:

The Longitude study also highlighted the growing importance of original research in thought leadership success. The study report described the important role of original research in emphatic terms:  “Business audiences are more discerning and will only engage with content that looks too important to ignore. Only the most interesting topics and campaigns – those backed up by robust and genuinely insightful research – stand any chance of getting noticed.”

Top image courtesy of Affen Ajlfe ( via Flickr CC.

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