With an economic slowdown looming as a major possibility for 2023, many B2B marketers say that thought leadership could play a pivotal role in determining which brands weather the storm most successfully.

The “2022 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report,” a joint effort from Edelman and LinkedIn, says that 62 percent of the C-suite executives who were surveyed are making their plans for next year with the expectation that there will be “a period of economic downturn.”

That expectation could make things tougher for brands that want to do business with them. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the C-suite execs said that their companies have made their procurement process more rigorous in anticipation of a challenging economic climate. And nearly half (44 percent) of what the study terms “B2B decision makers” (execs who consume thought leadership and play a major role in the services or products their company acquires) said an economic slump would make them less receptive to sales calls or marketing outreach.

That tougher environment will hit non-critical goods and services (what the study calls “nice-to-haves rather than must-haves”) hardest, with 55 percent of decision-makers saying any necessary spending cuts would come from those areas.

However, more than nine out 10 decision-makers (91 percent) say that there are steps “non-critical providers” can take to increase their chances of success in tough economic times.

Edelman/LinkedIn 2022 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report

One of the most effective of those steps? Thought leadership. More than six out of 10 decision-makers (61 percent) said that thought leadership can be more effective at demonstrating the potential value of products/services than “traditional product-oriented marketing.” In addition, half of the C-suite execs (50 percent) said the impact of high-quality thought leadership on purchase decisions actually goes up during economic downturns.

The emphasis there is on “high-quality.” Respondents said in order to be considered of high quality, thought leadership needs to “offer a strong, data-backed point of view on how to succeed during a downturn.”

That includes such things as identifying new opportunities or industry trends stemming from the downturn (cited by 48 percent), explaining how organizations can do well despite the downturn (44 percent) and demonstrating an understanding of an organization’s major pain points (43 percent).

Some communications basics are also central to putting together a high-quality piece of thought leadership. More than half of decision-makers (51 percent) said thought leadership should be “quick and easy to consume and absorb.” Respondents also said that top-drawer thought leadership should include “robust research and strong supporting data” (49 percent) and “provocative ideas that challenge people’s assumptions” (48 percent).

When it comes to their own thought leadership, 60 percent of respondents said they expect it to keep their brand “top of mind during a downturn.” However, only a third (33 percent) of thought leadership producers rated their own content as “very good or excellent.”

The Edelman/LinkedIn study surveyed 3,449 global business executives across a wide range on industries and company sizes in November. Surveys were conducts online using the LinkedIn platform.