In partnership with LinkedIn, Edelman has produced its 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study.
The agency surveyed 3,600 business decision-makers across a wide geographical range of industries in the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Singapore and India.
‘Glut of low-quality content’
While the pandemic has permanently shifted how businesses and brands reach customers, the report suggests it has also induced a "glut of low-quality content" – "diluting" the value of thought leadership among b2b decision-makers.
The results show that 38 per cent of decision-makers thought the market was "oversaturated" with content – and just 15 per cent believed the quality of the content was "good" or "excellent".
While two-thirds of respondents said the pandemic triggered the amount of content available, nearly 40 per cent claimed there was "more content than they can manage or keep up with".
A majority believed that no more than half of the content they consume gives them any sort of "valuable insight", but more than half said they spent more than an hour a week reading or reviewing this type of content.
Breaking through the noise
With the report claiming that 55 per cent of buyers would only consume thought leadership for one minute if it doesn’t pique their interest, Edelman states that "breaking through the noise is harder than ever".
While up to 80 per cent of respondents prefered making decisions digitally, b2b sales reps only have about five per cent of a customer’s time throughout their entire buying journey.
The findings show that most decision-makers want "provocative insights" that "challenge their assumptions" rather than validate their current thinking, and nearly two-thirds favour a "more human, less formal tone of voice" rather than that of an academic.
Andrew Mildren, head of business marketing at Edelman UK and Ireland, said: “Quality content grounded in fresh insights, demonstrating personality and which puts people at the centre of stories, is more important than ever.
“Professionals are actively looking for information and advice that’s genuinely worth sharing with colleagues. The data shows the short-term benefits of doing this are better engagement and performance, more effective media spend and higher quality of leads and customer interactions.
“Longer-term, we’ve found it results in companies being considered for more tenders, closing deals faster and earning the trust needed to charge a premium for their services.”