Why You Must Shed Your Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome

Rodney Dangerfield had his shtick, and it brought millions of laughs over an illustrious career. The self-deprecating comedic genius, with his bulging eyes roving and his nervous hands tie tightening, was famous for the catchphrase “I don’t get no respect.”

A not-so-funny matter is that many companies that bring thought leadership to market think the same way. They believe the content they produce doesn't get much respect from the executives they’re trying to impress. That belief, whether those thought leadership marketers know it or not, makes them far less effective at thought leadership. And I don’t think most realize it.

How do I know most thought leadership marketers believe they get no respect from the executives they’re trying to influence? A recent survey by Edelman and LinkedIn confirmed it. The two firms polled more than 1,200 decision makers and influencers in U.S. organizations (about a third of which had more than 1,000 employees). These executives are big consumers of thought leadership content. In fact, 55% believe it is an important way to evaluate companies they’re thinking of using. After reading thought leadership content, 45% actually invited the company that published it to bid on work. These companies hadn’t been in the running for that work previously.

Yet while more than half of executives who read thought leadership believe it has impact, a much smaller percentage of thought leadership marketers think the same thing. When Edelman/LinkedIn surveyed thought leadership producers – the kinds of firms we work with at Bloom Group – about whether their content increased the number of requests for proposals they get, only 17% said it did.

In a similar vein, 58% of executive consumers of thought leadership said it directly led to awarding business to the producers of that content.  

Yet most thought leadership marketers don’t believe that, according to the survey. Less than half as many producers of thought leadership content (26%) said it helps their firms close business. What’s more, 61% of executives are willing to pay a premium for companies that establish themselves as thought leaders. Only 14% of thought leadership marketers believe their thought leadership lets them charge more than competitors with lower quality content or none at all.

Why does it matter that most thought leadership marketers have a Rodney Dangerfield syndrome? It’s because if they have it, their bosses are likely to have it. And if their bosses have it, they aren’t likely to give marketing the budget and attention necessary for thought leadership to gain respect with clients – i.e., to generate leads and revenue.

Our own research shows that the most effective firms at thought leadership marketing have much bigger budgets than the least effective firms. Of the 312 U.S. B2B thought leadership marketers that we surveyed, the most effective ones had an average budget (7.0% of revenue) that was more than twice the size of the least effective marketers (3.2% of revenue). And the most effective thought leadership marketers are far more likely to know the impact on leads and revenue.

If you want more budget, you better believe it will generate more leads and revenue. (And, of course, you need to prove it.)

But if you don’t believe it, be prepared to deal with another side effect of the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome: Your salespeople will ignore your content. If you feel your content doesn’t generate many leads, why should they talk about it with clients and prospects? They won’t.

And that, in turn, will only deeper the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome that bedevils many thought leadership marketers. If you produce compelling content and get it into the hands of clients and prospects, you need to believe it will have impact. Most of them clearly do. So should you.

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