If you think about spending $200K to develop one major anchor piece of thought leadership, your immediate reaction might be that it’s far too expensive. On the surface, it may sound egregious. Who has budgets like that? Very few.
On the other hand, in certain B2B categories and segments (high-trust, high-ticket products and services), if your thought leadership lands one—literally one—new seven-figure deal, your ROI is at a minimum 400%. If you fall in the mid-seven figures, ROI exceeds 2000%. That’s the part of thought leadership spending that seems counterintuitive to many.
The spend is justified by the above-average yield. But keep in mind it’s a long play. It can take a few months to generate closed business.
A realistic budget includes:
~20% Internal time (marketing, subject matter experts, and supporting resources)
~40% Primary research (from defining research and commercial objectives to final analysis)
~25% Writing and creative (text, graphics, videos—supported by third-party specialists)
~5% Distribution strategy and execution (your realistic plan for influencing and converting that one high-stakes decision-maker)
~≥0% Media buys (although, topic for another post, I would say these are close to unnecessary)
~10% Reserve for contingency
By the way, you can typically expect more than one result. Sometimes, thought leadership starts a conversation that closes a deal. Sometimes, it primes the pump for a later yes. Attribution is tricky.
And, you don’t even have to spend that much. I’ve seen clients achieve similar outcomes with well under half of that spend. And with more than one conversion. Sometimes, all it takes is a clear and compelling insight to make a difference for your buyers. Trust matters.