58% of Respondents Choose a Business Based on Thought Leadership. How's Yours?

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When it comes to sales, thought leadership is apparently underrated. You may look at your product, your marketing, your website, your understanding of your niche, but do you gauge your thought leadership presence?

It may be time to.

The recent 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, surveyed 1,200 U.S. 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.

Here are some numbers:

  • 58% of decision-makers say they choose a business off of thought leadership. 
  • 61% say they are more willing to pay premium prices to work with a brand that articulates a clear vision through thought leadership. But only 14% of sellers believe that thought leadership allows them to charge higher prices than competitors. That's an obvious disconnect.
  • 55% of decision-makers say they use thought leadership as an important way to vet businesses. Yet on the other side, only 39% of sellers and content creators think that thought leadership helps with lead generation. 
  • 47% of C-suite execs say that they will share information with sellers if they read quality thought leadership from that brand.

Some thought leadership can be formulated at industry events where conversations with other shakers and movers may stir new ideas and enhanced ways to frame your company's goals and mission. (There just happens to be such an event coming up in less than three weeks now—SIPA Annual 2019.)

When decision-makers consume thought leadership, "they aren't just engaging with new ideas," wrote Tom Pepper, LinkedIn's senior director, head of marketing solutions UK, last week in a post. "They are consciously evaluating organizations and the caliber of their thinking in depth. And they are doing so with a view to drawing up shortlists and awarding business.

"Only 25% of sellers expect thought-leadership content to deliver more RFPs, and the same proportion expect it to help them close business—roughly half the percentage of buyers who say they have already used thought leadership to select shortlists and choose a supplier," continued Pepper.

I'm reminded of a recent study by Disqus where a good portion of respondents said that they paid for online news from a company because they support that publication's mission and success. That idea of supporting a mission also came up in a 2017 American Press Institute survey, especially when it came to young people.

Also from the Survey...

Decision-makers want:

  • genuinely valuable thinking (73% say half of the thought leadership they see lacks valuable insights);
  • relevance (60% say that content relating to what they are working on is a critical factor influencing them to engage);
  • boldness (93% believe it's important for companies to set out a clear vision for the future); and
  • credible authorship and sharing (83% say they are more likely to respond to content from someone they know and respect).

The survey also confirmed that decision-makers appreciate valuable content that doesn't make too many demands on their time. Half say they prefer thought leadership in formats that can be digested in a few minutes. For that mode, I really like Fast Company's "X-minute read" before their articles.

Or Pepper suggested that when you have original, quality content, "break it into formats that can deliver aspects of that value quickly (short videos or blog posts focused on particular insights, or infographics focused on telling concise stories through stats). However, bring length down by being focused rather than diluting or dumbing down. Value and quality are what decision-makers expect more than anything."

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…