It’s now clear that thought leadership content is having a major impact on B2B buying decisions. Several recent studies have confirmed that business buyers are consuming more thought leadership content, and that thought leadership affects decisions at every stage of the buying process. However, many of the same studies have also found that business buyers are becoming more selective about the thought leadership content they consume.

The reality is, thought leadership is a classic double-edged sword. Great thought leadership makes a significant positive impact on potential buyers, but poor thought leadership can have a major negative impact on a company’s demand generation performance. In a recent survey by Edelman and LinkedIn, over a third of C-level respondents (35%) said that a company’s poor thought leadership content had directly led them not to do business with the company.

Thought leadership marketing is challenging because buyers have high standards for thought leadership content. In a survey by The Economist Group, business executives were asked why they consume thought leadership content. The top reason chosen was to encounter thoughts that go beyond current thinking. When the executives were asked what qualities make thought leadership compelling, the most popular attributes identified were innovative, big picture, transformative, and credible.

In a recent survey by Grist, senior executives were asked what qualities were most valuable in thought leadership content. The three most favored attributes identified by survey respondents were fresh thinking, forward-thinking, and evidence-led.

These high buyer standards mean that effective thought leadership content must provide buyers with information and insights that they cannot get from other sources. But developing such content on a consistent basis is challenging for most companies.

One of the most potent and reliable sources for compelling thought leadership content is original research, and a new study by Buzzsumo and Mantis Research indicates that original research is becoming an integral part of the marketing mix at many B2B companies.

This study consisted of a global survey that produced 698 responses from marketers. More than half of the respondents (53%) were affiliated with B2B companies, and another 26% worked for hybrid B2B/B2C companies. The focus of this survey was to understand how companies are developing and using original research in their marketing efforts.

In this study, nearly half of the respondents (47%) said their marketing team had created and published original research in the previous twelve months. The study also found that B2B marketers were significantly more likely to have used original research than B2C marketers (50% vs. 35%).

Most of the respondents who had used original research were satisfied with the results. Over half (56%) said their research had met or exceeded most or all of their expectations. Given this level of satisfaction, it’s not surprising that nine out of ten of the respondents who are using research plan to conduct additional research in the coming twelve months.

The Buzzsumo/Mantis Research study also suggests that the use of original research is poised to increase. Half of the survey respondents who are not currently using original research said they are considering adding original research to their marketing efforts in the coming twelve months.

Finally, large majorities of the survey respondents in this study indicated that original research provides important support for their content marketing programs. Seventy percent of the respondents said that original research produces more content/editorial ideas, and 67% said it produces higher quality content/editorial ideas.

When reviewing any survey, it’s important to consider how the demographics of the respondents may affect the survey results. In the Buzzsumo/Mantis Research survey, nearly two-thirds of the respondents (65%) worked for advertising or marketing agencies, technology companies, and professional services/consulting firms.

In my experience, these types of organizations tend to be relatively heavy users of original research. Therefore, this survey may somewhat overstate the use of original research in the overall population of companies. That being said, there’s no doubt that original research is becoming increasingly important as source material for compelling thought leadership content.

Image courtesy of Thomas Haynie ( via Flickr CC.

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