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How does thought leadership content impact B2B purchase decisions? We review Edelman & LinkedIn’s report to see how thought leadership can deliver value throughout the funnel.

Thought leadership content is an important tool to position yourself and your brand in the minds of potential customers. But beyond awareness, how effective is thought leadership content in impacting decisions throughout the funnel? And what can be done to improve B2B thought leadership content?

A recent report by Edelman & LinkedIn,“How Thought Leadership Impacts B2B Demand Generation” reviewed just this, exploring how thought leadership influences behaviour throughout the B2B purchase process and how quality content can influence decision makers. We review key takeaways and tips on how to drive impact with B2B thought leadership below.

“B2B companies often use thought leadership to build reputation and strategically position themselves in the minds of potential customers. But beyond its ability to drive awareness and shift perception, marketers and communicators have sometimes struggled to determine how thought leadership efforts translate to sales impact.”

How Does Thought Leadership Influence B2B Purchase Decisions? Key Takeaways:

1. Thought leadership content can influence behaviours throughout the purchase funnel


Relevant, buyer mapped content, delivered at the right time, is core to effective marketing strategies. However, having a thought leader deliver this content, can lead to greater impact by creating familiarity, confidence and preference with buyers - and even directly contribute to winning business.

44% of business decision makers and 55% of C-level execs have given an organisation their contact information after seeing good thought leadership content. 

Of course you would expect thought leadership to have a top of funnel impact, and indeed, 44% of business decision makers and 55% of C-level execs have given an organisation their contact information after seeing good thought leadership content.

However, thought leadership content also drives impact further down the funnel:

  • According to the report, 45% (nearly half) of decision makers and 48% of C-level execs said thought leadership directly led them to award business to a company.
  • Another 31% of business leaders and 42% of C-suite executives reached out to an organisation to follow up after seeing their content.

One respondent cited:

“I am more willing to pay a premium to work with an organisation that has publicly articulated a clear vision for the future.”

Content Takeaways: In light of this, be sure to map your own thought leadership content through all stages of the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, decision) and ensure it addresses stage-relevant buyer challenges. Where possible (and where you need your content to resonate with specific key accounts) personalising your thought leadership content (as in an account-based marketing campaign) can help. In short, be sure to consider thought leadership content with a full-funnel approach. 

Related: Why B2B Marketing Personalisation Should Be A Priority

2. The quality of thought leadership content can have far-reaching impact

Quality of thought leadership is also an integral factor. If content isn’t perceived as quality, or doesn’t deliver value, it can have a negative impact on purchasing decisions.

In fact, the report found that more than half (53%) of C-level execs have lost respect or admiration for an organisation because of poor thought leadership content. Additionally, 30% of decision makers and 35% of C-level execs decided NOT to award business because of the quality of thought leadership content through the buying process.

More than half (53%) of C-level execs have lost respect or admiration for an organisation because of poor thought leadership content.

In addition;

  • 51% of respondents were disappointed by the overall quality of the thought leadership they see
  • Only 14% of respondents felt thought leadership content was ‘very good/ excellent’.

Clearly for these execs and decision makers to regard thought leadership content in a positive light, quality and perceived value are important. Relevance, timeliness and referrals from trusted sources matter the most to decision makers:

  • 63% will engage with content where the topic is something they are currently working on

  • 67% will engage if content comes from a source they have opted into

  • 84% will engage if content is from someone they know and admire

  • 34% will engage if ideas are completely new and original


Content Takeaways: Focus on producing quality content on thought leadership topics that will educate, deliver value and nurture prospects to ensure you’re not ignored. Be original to add true insight.

To be relevant, produce content that is short, easily absorbed and can be delivered when potential customers need it most. Add unique insight and opinions that will resonate. 71% of business decision makers and 67% of C-Suite executives prefer documents no more than 3-4 pages long, want to be kept advised of business trends and issues that will affect them.

3. Fact-based insight forms more effective thought leadership

The opinions and insight delivered in thought leadership content may be important, but will have more impact if they are fact-based:

  • 78% of decision makers and 79% of C-level execs rate content that “identifies new trends and issues that I should be aware of” as important.
  • 66% of decision makers and 63% of C-suite executives also indicated a preference for data in content: e.g. charts/infographics.

Content Takeaways: Support your content with key facts and figures and deliver data in a form that is easily digestible. Videos are the preferred medium for 49% of C-Suite executives and 45% of business decision makers. Growing in popularity, video is a great way to share industry insights, particularly if delivered by a thought leader and industry expert.

Related: 20 Stats That Show The Value Of Video Content

Improving Your Content In Light Of These Findings

Clearly if done well, B2B thought leadership has the potential to bring value, stronger customer relationships/ brand awareness and greater conversion.

To maximise your own thought leadership content and ensure it delivers value:

  • Be sure to create thought leadership content at the highest quality possible, making the most of facts and data.

  • Like other content assets, ensure thought leadership is aligned with your persona’s purchase stage-appropriate buying challenges. 

  • Keep content clear, digestible and in a format that your readers can draw value from (such as videos, brief posts, infographics and charts)

  • Go into the level of depth that prospects are looking for and expecting - focus on quality and aim to add insight that nobody else can.

  • Leverage your employee’s social networks by encouraging them to share and advocate content through their own work profiles.

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