Edelman and LinkedIn have collaborated on a new research study of more than 1,300 business decision makers and C-suite executives that explores how and to what degree thought leadership influences the business-to-business purchase process.

We’re excited to share the findings because many B2B companies — even avid publishers of thought leadership — have struggled to measure and attribute its impact on demand generation and sales.

While some of the findings confirm natural assumptions (e.g., thought leadership can drive engagement with a target audience), what decision-makers told us about thought leadership’s impact on their own purchasing behaviors might surprise you.

Done well, thought leadership attracts RFP opportunities (where your firm was not previously in contention), earns preference by building trust with buyers, and directly contributes to closed deals. It can even help to command a premium for your products or services.

Poorly executed, however, thought leadership becomes a double-edged sword: it can damage your credibility and even remove you from contention for a business opportunity.

If you’re a B2B company publishing insights on topics you know a lot about — and you make that knowledge freely available so potential customers can benefit from it — you’ve probably witnessed this effect to some degree.

According to respondents, demonstrating a high caliber of thinking is an important indicator of the quality of service that customers are likely to receive from a company. Helping buyers understand industry trends, challenges and how to succeed professionally is more than just a way to differentiate from competitors—it is an important tool that buyers use to vet potential providers.

If you are a B2B marketer, communicator or sales leader, I encourage you to check out the full research study.

In the coming weeks, colleagues from across Edelman will publish additional insights and recommendations on related topics, including content optimization, the role of paid media in creating timely engagement with prospects, and attribution modeling. 

Joe Kingsbury is managing director, Digital B2B.