New Edelman and LinkedIn Report Reveals Importance of B2B Thought Leadership During Economic Uncertainty

Economic headwinds will force B2B buyers to re-think the value of external services and partners, increasing the importance of high-quality thought leadership

Edelman and LinkedIn released the 5th annual B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report, which reveals that high-quality thought leadership will be more important than ever for organizations seeking to break through with decision-makers at current and prospective clients.

This year’s report, set against the backdrop of economic uncertainty in 2023, taps the collective perspective of nearly 3,500 management-level professionals to help marketers, communicators, and salespeople understand the value that thought leadership can provide during this time. It also identifies what B2B decision-makers and C-suite executives expect from the thought leadership their prospective partners publish.

“As budgets tighten and resources shrink, B2B companies have difficult decisions to make on how and where to spend their marketing dollars,” said Joe Kingsbury, Managing Director of Edelman Business Marketing. “While there are many tactics in the marketer’s toolbox – advertising, trade shows, in-person sales pitches, and more – our report reveals that high-quality thought leadership will be a very effective tool in demonstrating value to customers during a tough economy.”

The report sheds light on how an organization can refresh and improve the way it approaches, delivers, and measures thought leadership during an uncertain economic environment – ultimately providing important insights on how to best position its products and services as crucial to customers’ success during a time of increased scrutiny.

“Increased economic uncertainty makes the B2B purchase cycle more complex,” said Tusar BarikLinkedIn’s Agency and Partner Marketing Director. “Thought leadership is an essential tool that can help B2B marketers reach decision-makers, communicate the long-term value of their brands, and influence future buyers’ purchase decisions.”

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Notable highlights from the research include:

Most B2B companies are planning for a possible economic downturn in 2023.

44% of decision-makers say that they will be less receptive to sales calls and marketing outreach if a downturn hits. That means it will become more challenging than ever for B2B marketers and sellers to get the attention of decision-makers and successfully pass the procurement process.

64% of C-suite executives say their organizations have already tightened their procurement process in anticipation of looming challenges.

Economic uncertainty will force B2B buyers to distinguish between which products and services are must-haves vs. nice-to-haves.

55% of decision-makers say that as budgets are cut, products and services deemed nice-to-haves rather than must-haves will be where any necessary spending reductions come from. Providers in this category will need to do more than meet minimal expectations and instead prove they are essential to helping prospective customers succeed, even during tough times.

54% of respondents say that “non-critical” companies can increase their chances of winning business by proving that they will increase profit margins or minimize losses, while 51% say they can do so by showing they can help them outperform, or take market share, from competitors.

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Thought leadership is one of the most effective tools an organization can use to demonstrate its value to customers during a tough economy.

61% of decision-makers say that an organization’s thought leadership can be moderately or a lot more effective at demonstrating the potential value of its products and services compared to traditional product-oriented marketing.

50% of C-suite executives say that high-quality thought leadership has more impact on their purchase decision-making during economic downturns than when times are good.

Decision-makers expect high-quality thought leadership to offer a strong, data-backed point of view on how to succeed during a downturn.

55% of decision-makers say it’s more important than ever for the suppliers of non-essential products and services to produce high-quality thought leadership in order to win business during economic uncertainty.

43% of decision-makers expect the thought leadership they consume to demonstrate an understanding of their organization’s major pain points, while 48% expect the content to identify new opportunities or industry trends stemming from economic uncertainty (48%).

Producers of thought leadership have high expectations for the content’s ability to support their business during an economic downturn – yet they tend to express little confidence in the quality of their own thought leadership content.

60% of thought leadership producers expect the content to keep their brand and capabilities top of mind during a downturn even among clients or prospects who cannot buy from them because of budget constraints. 49% expect it to protect their current client relationships from disruption or shrinkage.

Yet, only 33% of thought leadership producers believe that the overall quality of the thought leadership their organization publishes is very good or excellent. That number decreases to 29% among C-Suite executives. As we enter a period of uncertainty, there is an opportunity for B2B companies to improve how they deliver thought leadership and measure its impact.

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