Report: Thought Leadership Has a More Direct Effect Than You Think

A recent study from Edelman and LinkedIn finds that while leaders put a lot of value into good B2B thought leadership and make decisions based on it, sales departments often discount its value.

In the association world and beyond, thought leadership is a frequent topic of discussion—thanks in no small part to the perceived impact it can have on an organization’s bottom line.

But while it may garner a lot of appreciation near the top of the organization, the ROI of thought leadership isn’t always entirely understood in the place where it perhaps needs to be understood the most—the sales department.

That’s according to the 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, a survey of more than 1,200 decision makers. The report, based on LinkedIn survey responses from leaders at organizations large and small, found decision makers were increasingly accessing more thought leadership content, with 37 percent accessing such content one to three hours per week and 21 percent accessing thought leadership content more than four hours each week.

Nearly 7 in 10 executives found that thought leadership was a great way to uncover the caliber of a potential partner’s thinking, and 55 percent said it was important as a part of their vetting process.

However, this value is not always fully understood throughout an organization: The report found that salespeople and producers of thought leadership content appreciated this far less than their peers. Just 39 percent of sellers felt that thought leadership assisted with lead generation, and just 17 percent felt thought leadership helped to generate more RFPs—despite evidence, in both cases, that leaders showed more interest as a result of an organization’s insights.

Perhaps the reason behind this dichotomy is that thought leadership is a double-edged sword: Decision makers thought that only 18 percent of thought leadership content was excellent or very good, while 30 percent was believed to be poor. And poor thought leadership can prove a deterring factor for leaders: While 92 percent of respondents were more likely to respect an organization with good thought leadership, 46 percent said their opinion of an organization lowered with poor thought leadership, and 60 percent had stopped following a writer or an organization whose thought leadership didn’t live up to their standards.

In a blog post on the study, Edelman Head of Global Thought Leadership Research David M. Bersoff, Ph.D., stated that the study reflected a tendency by organizations to take thought leadership for granted, when it’s really putting an organization’s full value on display.

“It is often treated as an exemplar of an organization’s thinking and a testament to the quality of work it does for their customers and clients,” Bersoff wrote. “As a consequence, thought leadership development should be approached with the attitude that new business opportunities hang in the balance. Because more often than you think, they do.”

(AOosthuizen/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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