We're pleased to present this guest post by Craig Badings, an authority on thought leadership. Read on for how to deliver thought leadership that your prospects and customers are seeking.
It stands to reason that those organisations steeped in thought leadership for over 10 years, and in a sector where you live or die by your ideas and insights, should be very good at it. Thought leadership originated within the ranks of the management consultancies. In fact the person who is credited with inventing the name in the 1990s, Joel Kurtzman, was then editing Booz-Allen & Hamilton’s Strategy & Business publication.
But first my definition of thought leadership: Delivering new ideas and content to your target publics based on deep insightsinto the business issues and challenges they face. The value you deliver should go well beyond merely selling your product or service.
Your point of view should differentiate you from your competitors, establish you as the ‘go to’ expert in that field and position you as a trusted advisor - all with the intent of underpinning the sale.
When you compete for clients based on showcasing your insights and ideas year in and year out it is inevitable that you start leading the way in the thought leadership stakes and become increasingly sophisticated in what and how you take your ideas to market. This is precisely what has happened to many of the large consulting firms.
It’s clear that producing good thought leadership is, in many decision makers’ minds, a fundamental characteristic of an established, high-class consultant.
What to clients want from your thought leadership?
The leaders in the thought leadership stakes are doing some if not all of the following:
- Creatively packaging their content.
- Bundling content i.e. curating related articles, in a mix of different formats, in the same place.
- Personalising their recommendations i.e. suggesting articles to a particular client or prospect that they think the client may find interesting and sending it to them with a personalised note. This is often backed up by a sophisticated client relationship management program in order to manage this in a campaign-like manner rather than relying on the discretion of individuals within the firm.
- Cataloguing their thought leadership online so that it is easy to find i.e. creating better search engines on your site.
Companies delivering on all of these have taken their thought leadership to a new level and are leading the way.
The next logical step is personalising each piece of thought leadership
Someone who sees and analyses a lot of thought leadership material is Fiona Czerniawska from Sourceforconsulting, which publishes White Space, a subscriber-based web service providing detailed analysis of the thought leadership of around 30 leading global consulting firms. Fiona says that what clients really value is someone making a personal effort to tell them why they should read a particular piece of material. They want someone to say: “Read this particular chapter/ piece/ article because it's important to you and your business.” Or: “Come to this event as we will be covering x, y and z which is of particular relevance to you right now.”
This is the way of the sophisticated thought leaders. No longer are they content with the thumping, big 70 page report – clients just don’t have the time to read it. Make no mistake, good research is still required but it needs to be better packaged, well edited and have a customised, personalised feel to it based on the clients’ particular sector or needs.
Thought leadership is becoming even more strategic
This implies thinking more strategically and a lot more carefully about to whom and how you send your thought leadership material, who it comes from within your firm and what personalised message should go with it. The trick is to show you understand the issues impacting your clients’ business and as a result why a particular piece or section of the thought leadership material you have produced is important to them.
Companies embracing this approach are leading the way and setting the trend. The question is whether you are customising your thought leadership for your market and if not, why not?
About the author: Craig Badings is a director at Sydney-based, Cannings Corporate Communications. He is the co-author of the forthcoming book: #THOUGHTLEADERSHIP Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign. And the author of: Brand Stand: seven steps to thought leadership. You can follow him on Twitter @thoughtstrategy or join him on LinkedIn.
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