21 Sep 2010
The article on thought leadership which appeared in the Economist fascinates me – read it here http://tinyurl.com/2acq8gk I first heard about it as a result of a reader’s comments on this blog – thanks Tom.
The journalist who penned the article questions why consulting firms provide what they ‘annoyingly call thought leadership’ and also whether it is worth it.
Nothing wrong with questioning its worth but what the author neglected to do is ask even one client what they think of the thought leadership material provided to them by their consulting firm.
The first irony in the article is that the author inadvertently stumbles upon the very essence of thought leadership albeit in a negative sense: “Their reports (and increasingly their webinars and podcast) are an excuse to contact potential clients and a way of boasting about the brainpower they can apply to problems.”
While it is stated in kind of a negative way that is precisely it – absolutely your thought leadership material should be getting you in front of your clients and prospects. Importantly it also enables you and your team to hold discussions with your prospect on issues of importance to them while sharing your insights about their sector or industry. If this boasts your brainpower fantastic – through these insights, you want your prospects to realise that you have a deep understanding of their challenges and are therefore in a position to help solve them.
If these are the sorts of opportunities and conversations thought leadership delivers isn’t this far less ‘annoying’ than trying to ‘sell’ a product or your service?
The second irony is that The Economist has a number of its own thought leadership platforms i.e. The Economist Intelligence Unit. The Economist Debates and The Economist Conferences and there may be more but I’m not aware of them.
Maybe they don’t overtly call any of these thought leadership and maybe the author has a point because the loose use of the word thought leadership is annoying because a lot of it doesn’t come close. But where I do take the author to task is on measurement.
A true thought leadership campaign should have very firm business metrics in place. Among others these could include:
· The number of prospect meetings
· The number of returning clients
· The number of appointments and incoming, qualified leads and the conversion rate
· The number of attendees at thought leadership seminars and the resultant follow up and conversion
· Delivery of key messages through identified and targeted media
· Effective leverage of content across all client and prospective client touch points
· Research, preferably benchmarked annually of your brand against others in the market place
· Research internally of what the thought leadership material delivers to your sales and marketing team as well as the consultants, engineers, accountants, etc in the business
A fellow writer on marketing and thought leadership, Dana van den Heuvel has also taken issue with The Economist article. You can read his blog on the topic here http://tinyurl.com/25nykgr
I’d be interested in your views. Please share them.
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