Project delivery and execution alone don’t quite cut it anymore. Today’s expectations include a long list, with ‘more for less’ serving as the overwhelming wrapper. It’s not enough to be the recipient of great client service coupled with valuable industry insight and relevant strategic counsel. In the age of customer-obsessed cultures, professional service and B2B organizations have all inserted the term thought leadership into their strategic business plans. Unlike a singular focus on bolstering brand imminence, an authentic thought leadership strategy both builds the buzz and feeds the need for leads – a welcome role for marketing to play given today’s focus on revenue generation in the marketing arena.
While organizations like consulting firms and B2B companies are all racing to be the first to market when it comes to thought-provoking and relevant content, there are three traits of thought leadership strategies that stand the test of time. Follow these and you can truly create authentic two-way dialogue with intended stakeholders.
- Simplicity is Key: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius. When embarking upon our thought leadership strategy at North Highland we consulted with a terrific partner in Source for Consulting. One of the key points made during one of our initial conversations was to keep your overall thought ware thematic lens to be consistent with your brand. Seeking to be bold, yet approachable; a challenger brand that helps our clients, rather than impress them. No one enjoys laborious lectures or feeling as if you need to use a thesaurus or a search engine to understand what you’re reading. Thought leadership should be no different.
- A Team Sport: Investing time, resources and organization voice – should all be backed by more than one person at your organization. At North Highland, we’ve found a really successful mechanism to reign in group thought and a multitude of perspectives is through a more robust campaign – with a variety of assets. Keep your blog open to all levels and functions. Capture the voice of the individual who worked directly with a client on a new project via a video case study. Trending thought ware topics are not agnostic to the most experienced levels. Interest around customer experience and innovation are areas ripe for the picking among a wide variety of professionals. Consider gamifying your attempt in involving all levels. At North Highland, we held a whitepaper Shark Tank of sorts – allowing for our consultants to compete in winning marketing’s time and resources to publish the best team’s whitepaper concept.
- Tell Me a Story: Research matters in the sport of thought leadership. However, so many get lost in the mega surveys and focus on slicing and dicing data in a way that will capture media headlines, rather than telling the story in a really interesting way – one that captures both head and heart. As a marketer, of course I am interested in learning more about how I can best hone in our content marketing strategy to capture more leads; but what keeps me interested is reading accounts of how a team embarked on that adventure and the obstacles they faced while on that journey. Oh, and a few fun illustrations to accompany the story don’t hurt either (design matters).
The concept of offering clients incremental value via thought capital is certainly not a new one. Our ability to share experience, relevant insight and stories in a meaningful way, however, will serve as the true litmus test in whose thought capital will win the hearts and minds of our clients.