Ben Laws, deputy US lead for the business marketing practice at Edelman, says that thought leadership is "something that we all sort of intrinsically know is a necessary part of the marketing and communications toolkit."

In order to get some hard data on the effectiveness of thought leadership, Edelman has been putting out an annual report on "the link between thought leadership and changing perceptions" for the past five years.

The big takeaway from the latest report? "It's harder than ever to break through for an organization trying to sell to the b2b buyer."

A major reason behind that is "companies are anticipating that there's going to be a recession" and senior procurement functions are cranking up the pressure on budgets.

According to Laws, "44 percent of business decision makers... said they're personally going to be less receptive to sales pitches and to marketing outreach."

But there's a difference between less receptive and not receptive at all. Law tells Simon that "91 percent of the same decision makers say that some non-critical providers can do something to stand out."

And one of those things is thought leadership, which "in the views of these big decision makers is something that's better than a product sheet."

Laws says that a key virtue of thought leadership it that it can help brands communicate to clients that "we understand what you're facing and we provide some value in terms of helping you understand what to do about it."

The growing power of the metaverse is also addressed in the conversation. While Laws notes that "in most cases, B2B brands are lagging some others in their metaverse strategy," he says that "among those that have dipped their toe in the water, it seems like something that's promising."

Another essential component of effective thought leadership, Laws notes, is data. "But you don't necessarily have to put out a big survey every time or otherwise invest in a ton of research," he tells Simon. "In-depth interviews with buyers" can be a great way to develop insights that can be the basis for thought leadership.

He also says that the threat of recession has turned "being nimble" into a must-have. "If you're doing thought leadership and the budget's under pressure where you're not going to be able to bring together a big budget to put out quantitative research, then maybe think about some things like qualitative research in that more nimble way to get to insights that you can bring to the market."

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