Simon Murphy is Head of Business Marketing for Edelman in Asia Pacific (APAC) and brings direct commercial understanding of the many reputational issues and opportunities faced by business today.

The Asia Pacific (APAC) is poised to account for 42% of global GDP by 2040, which makes it potentially the single biggest opportunity for B2B marketers anywhere in the world. With over 2.5 billion internet users, the region is a beacon of digital transformation, reshaping business-customer dynamics at a rapid pace.

Nevertheless, with the growth of mobile and social commerce, evolving privacy laws, and a growing preference among buyers to shop online, successful business marketers also must take a new approach to engaging with prospects.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) offer powerful new tools for driving efficiency and opening new markets. Yet, the efficacy of these technologies hinges on customer trust—an imperative that finds robust support in thought leadership, as demonstrated by the latest Edelman-LinkedIn Thought Leadership Impact Report.

This report, the sixth annual collaboration between Edelman and LinkedIn, surveyed nearly 3,500 management-level professionals across seven countries to understand how thought leadership affects buying behaviors among B2B decision-makers and C-suite executives. It reveals five key learnings for business marketers to consider:

  1. Trust and Credibility: In today’s saturated marketplace, where consumers are inundated with marketing messages, establishing trust and credibility is paramount for businesses. Unlike traditional marketing materials, which often prioritize promotion over substance, thought-leadership content dives deeper into industry insights, trends, and solutions. As a result, about 73% of B2B decision-makers believe that an organisation’s thought-leadership content provides a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities than traditional marketing materials and product sheets.
  2. Influence on Sales and Pricing: In the competitive B2B sales landscape, high-quality thought leadership can help organisations become known for their expertise and innovation. When consistently produced, thought-leadership content not only captures attention but nurtures trust and confidence in the brand. Consequently, a remarkable 90% of respondents indicated they are more likely to respond to sales or marketing outreach from companies that consistently produce high-quality thought leadership.
  3. Customer Retention: While acquiring new customers is undeniably important, retaining existing ones is equally—if not more—crucial for long-term success. Thought leadership can help organisations defend fend off competition, with 70% of C-suite leaders reporting that quality thought leadership has led them to question whether they should continue working with an existing supplier.
  4. Resource Allocation: Despite its importance, 30% of thought-leadership producers believe their organisations under-resource, misuse, and improperly measure thought leadership efforts.
  5. Quality and Impact: Quality stands out as a distinguishing factor that separates impactful thought leadership from mere noise. Yet despite the proliferation of thought leadership content, only 15% of respondents rate the quality of thought leadership they encounter as very good or excellent, highlighting a significant opportunity for improvement.

The hallmark of quality thought leadership has always been based on content that is sufficiently resourced and provides B2B buyers with concrete guidance. As the insights above demonstrate, not only can this help to stimulate demand, but also ensure a pricing premium and defend against customers going to competitors.

However, effective thought leadership goes beyond mere content creation; it involves demonstrating deep industry knowledge and a commitment to solving industry-specific problems. It introduces new perspectives on existing problems, engages with key industry debates, offers usable insights for professionals, shapes opinions among the intended audience, and motivates further discussion.

Paradoxically, these discussions are particularly relevant for emerging technologies with disruptive potential, such as AI. With a regional trust score of 62 points in the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer—which is 12 points higher than the global average—AI already enjoys public confidence in APAC, and this is helpful for improving direct customer experience, personalisation, and creative testing for business marketers.

Great thought leadership doesn’t just promote new technology; it embraces it by streamlining operations and providing data-driven insights and predictive analytics that result in better content. Moreover, when coupled with the many practical benefits of AI, thought leadership becomes a tool for businesses to differentiate themselves by building a brand that is seen as both innovative and wise—a critical combination for winning over customers in competitive markets.

As the APAC region continues to lead the digital transformation race, the integration of emerging technologies such as AI with strategic thought leadership is becoming the norm rather than the exception. To benefit from this powerful integration, business marketers must keep up with technological advancements and invest in developing compelling thought leadership that both engages potential customers and builds long-lasting trust.

To learn more, see the full findings of the 2024 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report.