Following the Leaders
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND RESPONDENT DEMOGRAPHICS
A Research Study by Bob Buday and Jason Mlicki
We designed our latest thought leadership study to enable us to look at the marketplace for ideas across multiple dimensions – from the broad state of the profession, to the characteristics, mindsets and behaviors of top performers and the outlook on thought leadership within key industry sectors. More specifically, we looked at the ways B2B companies of many types in North America were practicing thought leadership marketing — from their strategies and content development techniques to the ways they bring their content to market.
In all 312 companies responded to the survey with heaviest participation in 8 B2B sectors: management consulting, financial services, software and hardware, IT services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, architecture and engineering, law, and accounting. Respondents were predominantly marketing professionals with responsibility for setting their company’s thought leadership strategies.
The 35 question survey was developed in January and February 2018. It was fielded online between March and August of 2018 using SurveyMonkey and Phronesis Partners’ proprietary survey platform. Respondents were recruited via Bloom Group and Rattleback’s newsletter subscribers, via social media (largely Twitter and LinkedIn), and with the assistance of research firm Phronesis Partners. Respondents were compensated with a discount for attendance at our third annual conference.
We analyzed the results by:
- Survey respondents across the board
- Leaders and followers – two groups of respondents at the upper and lower end of effectiveness in thought leadership marketing (as determined by how they answered a question about their effectiveness in generating market awareness and leads for the business)
- Industry sector
We found differences in the firmographics (firm types, size, etc.) of leaders. Also, we found major differences in the psychographics of leaders (the mindsets they bring to their work and the behaviors and processes that result). The firmographics of leaders are shared in this section of the report. Our summary of the biggest differences in psychographics of leaders and followers can be found in the Seven Capabilities of Exceptional Thought Leadership Marketers.
Majority of Respondents Were Marketers or Corporate Editorial Leaders
Respondents by role
All Had Some Responsibility for Their Firm’s Thought Leadership Agenda
Respondents by responsibility
To qualify for the survey, participants had to play some role in their companies’ thought leadership activities (either conducting specific activities, managing thought leadership projects or defining and overseeing the overall thought leadership strategy). The clear majority of respondents were in marketing and/or editorial roles.
68% of Respondents Were in Middle Market Firms
Respondents by firm revenue
The average revenue of survey respondents was $1 billion, and the median was $240 million. Less than a quarter had revenue of more than $1 billion, and slightly more than half were between $50 million and $1 billion.
Respondents Primarily Came from 8 Sectors
Respondents by firm type
Respondents primarily came from 8 B2B sectors: management consulting, financial services, software and hardware, IT services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, architecture and engineering, law, and accounting.
We segmented responses into two groups:
Those who stated their thought leadership marketing activities were “extremely effective” at generating market awareness and leads for their business. This comprised 12% of the total survey population.
Those whose thought leadership marketing activities were “not at all effective” or “not very effective” at generating market awareness and leads for their business. This comprised 16% of the total survey population.
While these were subjective answers – what’s “extremely effective” for one firm might be seen as only “somewhat effective” for another – the data bares out that leaders were in fact leaders. Leaders on average generated more than twice as many leads per month from their thought leadership marketing programs than did followers (an average 68 leads vs. 31 for followers) and they command a price premium – often, a significant one.
Leaders Invest Nearly 2x as Much on Thought Leadership Marketing
Percent of leaders and followers by percent of firm revenue invested in thought leadership marketing
84% of Leaders Command a Price Premium
Percent of leaders and followers by the perceived price premium their firm earns as a result of its thought leadership marketing efforts
While leaders invest more in thought leadership marketing than their peers they’re rewarded by price premiums for their products and services – often substantial ones. On average leaders spend 7% of revenue on thought leadership marketing. By contrast, followers spend only 3%. But, 84% of leaders believe their investments lead to price premiums for their companies – with 21% saying that premium was in excess of 20%. By contrast, only 24% of followers believe their programs enable a price premium for their companies.
Leaders Tend to Be Upper Middle Market Companies
Percent of leaders and followers by company size
Leaders Are More Likely to Be Financial Services or Software Companies
Percent of leaders and followers by industry
The Seven Capabilities of Exceptional Thought Leadership Marketers shows us that the mindsets, behaviors and processes of the most successful firms cut across industry sectors and company size. That said, the data tells us that there is a higher likelihood that leaders will be found in either software or financial services companies and in upper middle market companies and large corporations (companies with revenue in excess of $500M).
What’s in the DNA of top performers?
Find out in Following the Leaders: The Seven Capabilities of Exceptional Thought Leadership Marketers
Learn more about the mindsets, behaviors, processes, strategies and tactics of exceptional thought leadership marketers.
As co-founder of Bloom Group, Bob has helped clients across a range of B2B sectors publish their thinking in the right places (including numerous books, 20+ Harvard Business Review articles and opinion pieces in the Financial Times, Business Week, Forbes, CIO magazine and other leading publications)
As Principal of Rattleback, Jason helps professional services firms from all over the world turn their thought leadership marketing efforts into demand generation programs.
Copyright 2019. Rattleback, Inc. and Bloom Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Research Design: Bob Buday and Jason Mlicki
Research Sponsor: Phronesis Partners
Authors: Bob Buday and Jason Mlicki
Creative Director: John Randle
Designer: Kaitlin Lewis