Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

4 Key Revelations from the Edelman-LinkedIn 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study

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During times of difficulty and duress, leaders lead.

Today’s companies and their decision makers are navigating unprecedented change and uncertainty. B2B marketers have a crucial opportunity to establish their organizations as guiding voices through incisive and insightful thought leadership that stands out from the noise.

Are you ready to rise to the occasion?

The new 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study from Edelman and LinkedIn has arrived, and we’re very excited about this year’s edition as it is an especially pivotal time for thought leadership in the business world. 

Here are four key trends and opportunities that emerged.

1. Quantity Rises, While Quality Declines

It should come as no surprise that as business went almost fully digital in 2020, marketers scrambled to meet an increased demand for helpful digital resources. With reduced capacity to make an impression on buyers via conferences and in-person engagements, vendors started pumping out more content with hopes of bringing attention and credibility to their brands. 

Two out of three buyers in our survey said the pandemic triggered a significant increase in the amount of thought leadership in the marketplace. This means decision makers are spending even more time wading through content, but problematically, they’re too often not finding what they need.

Seventy-one percent say that less than half of the thought leadership content they consume gives them valuable insights. 
4 Key Revelations from the Edelman-LinkedIn 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study

2. Online Decision-Making Reshapes Purchase Influencers

We can all see that, compared to two years ago, much more of the researching and decision-making process is taking place online. That isn’t likely to change, since 70-80% of buyers say they prefer it this way (and are still open to making high-scale purchases via the digital space), according to McKinsey.

Marketers need to adapt by better supporting the buying process in this new paradigm. First and foremost, that means understanding exactly what buyers want from thought leadership. The top three reasons they say they seek out this content are to: 

  • Keep up-to-date with the latest thinking in my field or business sector (73%)
  • Stimulate my thinking and help me generate new ideas for my organization (72%)
  • Gain insight into future trends poised to impact my business/organization (67%)

You can find a more comprehensive list in the report to help direct your strategy. Whatever needs you’re aiming to meet, the crucial directive is to move beyond “the middle” when it comes to quality. Decision-makers rate 30% of the thought-leadership they consume to be  mediocre, poor, or very poor, a much smaller percentage (15%) consider it very good or excellent.

3. Thought Leadership Content Must Work Harder than Ever

There are a number of specific scenarios where B2B thought leadership can move the needle for a brand. These were a few that clearly emerged in the study:

  • Entering a new category
  • Changing the perception of your brand (e.g., repairing a damaged reputation)
  • Earning trust
  • Covering media blind spots
  • Recruitment

Think about ways that your thought leadership can offset or balance out some of the diminishing tactics that previously supported these objectives.

4. Stylistic Choices Make a Difference

The quality and impact of your thought leadership content are defined not only by the substance within, but also by the presentation. If you’re providing insights in the form of dry, stuffy data sheets, buyers may not be inclined to spend time with them. For example, 56% of buyers who say if a piece of thought leadership doesn't pique their interest within the first minute, they'll move on. Meanwhile, 59% say they file away thought leadership content with the intent to revisit, but never actually get back to it. 

One key finding in the research was that buyers are looking for more of a light and fun tone in the thought leadership they engage with. That doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing the substance — 87% of respondents said this content can be both intellectually rigorous and fun to consume. 
4 Key Revelations from the Edelman-LinkedIn 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study

Among the qualities that a majority of buyers said they like to see in B2B thought leadership:

  • Third-party data and insights from other trusted sources
  • Provocative ideas that challenge existing assumptions
  • Deep subject matter experts delving into specialized topics
  • A more human and less formal tone of voice
  • An identifiable author who is prominently featured (i.e., the content is not authored by a “brand” but a person from that brand)

In terms of specific format and approach, there is no one right way to go about it. Most buyers prefer thought leadership content that is relatively more concise and quickly consumed, but this can take many forms: primer-style pieces with takeaways, bite-sized content that focuses on one specific point, podcasts that can be listened to while multitasking, etc.

Make sure to gather first-hand insight from your audience to understand their preferences and how you can tailor your content accordingly. Nearly half of buyers (47%) say that most thought leadership does not seem to be created with their specific needs in mind.

Get the Full Scoop on Impactful B2B Thought Leadership

The bar has been raised for making an impact with B2B thought leadership. For those who are equipped to answer the call, the rewards are greater than ever. 

Ready to take the lead? Check out the full report from Edelman and LinkedIn for much more information and guidance around these trends and others. 

Subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog to stay abreast of B2B marketing trends.

4 Key Revelations from the Edelman-LinkedIn 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study

4 Key Revelations from the Edelman-LinkedIn 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study


By: Tusar Barik
Title: 4 Key Revelations from the Edelman-LinkedIn 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 21 Sep 2021 05:30:00 -0700

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