Positioning a consulting firm as a thought leader is almost de rigueur.
What's more, companies in other industries have caught on—and
catching up—to the need to demonstrate their thought-leadership
A (Pretty) Penny for Your Thoughts:
The Benefits of Thought Leadership
Time was, only strategy
or management consulting firms dared to call themselves "thought leaders." And those firms that
wore this label most successfully adhered, by and large, to the
following four-step model:
1. Develop a
methodology, approach, or concept.
2. Publish article on said topic in the Harvard Business Review.
3. Come out with a blockbuster business book.
The fourth step? Enjoy
the market share (and the revered status as a business guru) that
thought leadership brings.
Aboard the Bandwagon
the effectiveness of such an approach, other consulting firms soon
clambered aboard the thought-leadership bandwagon. Now, positioning a
consulting firm as a thought leader is almost de rigueur. What's more,
companies in other industries have caught on—and are catching up—to the need to
demonstrate their thought-leadership capabilities.
A recent Google search on "thought leadership" produced links to Cisco,
Symantec, and Oracle, among other firms. Interestingly enough, the
first three pages of search results provided just one link to a
consulting company: A.T. Kearney. This same search also came up with a
few sites that refer to thought leadership as "jargon" or a "buzzword"—another indication that
the thought-leadership pool is getting a bit crowded.
Out Among the Thought Leaders
benefits to be gained from thought leadership are substantial, from
boosting market awareness to generating larger numbers of business
leads. But as more and more companies wade into the thought-leadership
waters, it's getting harder and harder to stand out. Therefore, we
offer a few tips to help you do just that:
– Say something new. Most thought-leadership articles tend to
around a small number of topics. Take business processes, for example.
"This is one of the most crowded areas of the market, ... yet firms
continue to churn out articles on it as if they're the only ones to
have any say on this subject," according to Management Consulting
Whatever the topic, demonstrate genuine thought leadership by having
something new to say, introducing a unique angle, or having a strong—even unconventional—opinion.
timely and add
Markets, technology, the world ... they're all in constant flux. Stay
on top of breaking news and trends, understand how they can affect your
industry, and then provide your audience with recommendations and
approaches for solving its problems and dealing with the needs of its
a claim. Differentiate
your company from the competition by providing expertise in a specific
sector. "Applying thought leadership to a particular industry reduces
the level of immediate competition, shows you can apply your thinking,
and is more likely to be perceived as relevant to your potential
audience," Management Consulting News reports.
that you've done your homework. Whatever your opinion, your
recommendation, or your angle, back it up with hard evidence and real
research. Benchmarking data, survey results, and the like all
underscore the depth of knowledge that you offer.
your materials interesting and enjoyable to read. If a reader's eyes glaze
over as he attempts to read your article, book, or white paper, you've
you've gained no ground in the thought-leadership battle.
Most companies would agree that thought leadership provides a
significant return on investment. By demonstrating the depth and
breadth of your expertise with useful information tailored to your
prospects' and clients' needs, you too can position your company as a
recognized leader and trusted resource.
Sources: Fiona Czerniawska, "Thought Leadership: Are You Making It or Faking It?"
Management Consulting News.
David Meerman Scott, "How Online Thought Leadership
Can Transform You (and Your Company) into a Trusted Resource,"
MarketingProfs.com, June 26,
2007. (Subscription required.)