Survey Says: High-Quality Thought Leadership Content Drives B2B Purchasing Decisions
A study from The Economist Group provides some fascinating insights into B2B executives’ relationship with thought leadership marketing content.
According to the study, three in five executives globally are simply overwhelmed by all the content they encounter and not sure what they should and shouldn’t read. In fact, three-quarters said they are more selective about what they consume—mostly because of the volume of content they’re exposed to. That’s not surprising given the exponential increase in the amount of content being generated and distributed today, and the explosion in the number of channels available for bringing content to market.
But that’s not to say executives don’t value it. Executives do see thought leadership content as important—so much so that one-third consume it daily and nearly two in 10 have increased their consumption “a lot” in the past two years. What’s more, around eight in 10 said superior thought leadership influences both their purchasing decisions and choice of business partner. In other words, for companies that get thought leadership right, the payoff can be significant.
What does getting it right mean? According to B2B executives, it primarily means what we’ve always known it does: making sure thought leadership showcases innovative thinking, paints the big picture, delivers transformative ideas, and is credible. So, largely self-serving studies, superficial surveys, research using data of questionable provenance, and white papers espousing mere theories or unsubstantiated opinions are not going to make an impact with target readers.
Yet in our experience, B2B companies still struggle to get it right. In fact, some take a truly self-defeating approach to developing thought leadership marketing content. Eager to join the conversation, and short on time and resources, they churn out content too quickly. And when they rush it, they get predictable results: White papers, articles, research studies, books and other content that are largely ignored and produce little return on marketing’s investment in them. They also contribute to the avalanche of mediocre content that makes their target readers increasingly less likely to read or even see what they produce. In fact, in the Economist study, B2B marketers themselves acknowledged that three-quarters of the content they produce is not engaged with.
This should be a clear call to action for companies to do what it takes to create thought leadership content that meets the standards of quality that executives expect and value. For instance, they need to ensure their research studies are based on compelling hypotheses so that they’ll produce intriguing, credible, and relevant data. They have to take the time to deeply analyze that data to identify novel insights that will capture target executives’ fancy. They should spend enough time crafting a powerful, logical argument that clearly lays out their point of view and proof points—what the issue is, how they can solve it, and what benefits doing so delivers. And they need to involve the right subject matter experts who can make sure the content benefits from the company’s latest and greatest thinking.
To be sure, developing top-notch thought leadership marketing content takes time, effort and money. But as the stats stated earlier clearly show, it will pay for itself many times over by converting prospects to sales and creating evangelists for a B2B company’s brand.