Accountants guide to Thought Leadership
A research-based publication or campaign on a subject of current interest, produced with the aim attracting media coverage, building a firm’s brand and providing opportunities to engage a wider range of external and internal audiences including clients, prospects and colleagues.
Thought Leadership Excellence
- Well written and digestible
- Multi-channel delivery
- Strong visual presentation
- Sector and geographic insights
- Clear point of view
Organizations undertaking thought leadership for the first time should be realistic; it is much easier to make the case for increased budget in year two following a small successful campaign in year one.
Second, any professional firm that is truly in touch with its clients will recognize that there is a need for thought leadership. Research undertaken by Meridian West has shown that 90% of clients of professional firms say thought leadership and white papers are beneficial for improving the quality of the advice and service received by external advisers (FT 2012). 67% of clients say it is essential for their advisers to understand industry sector issues and trends to deliver successful advice.
The perfect campaign plan works from the outcome backwards. Marketers can avoid ambiguity of purpose by thinking through the following questions:
- What would a successful campaign look like for your clients, potential clients and internal audiences?
- What products and services are fee-earners trying to sell to clients off the back of the campaign?
- In which market segments, do you want to focus your business development activities?
- Are there particular client organizations or individuals that you want to target through the campaign – what issues are furthest up their agenda?
- How do fee-earners prefer to use thought leadership with their clients?
- Which fee-earners will take the lead on using thought leadership with clients and communicating the messages to colleagues internally?
- Which research methodologies will give you sufficiently robust insights to support your proposed campaign roll-out activities?
- Which topic will resonate most with your audience and provide the hooks for business development conversations?
In general terms, thought leadership themes can be divided into three broad areas:
Innovation; M & A activity; Emerging markets; Financial growth; Digitization
Operational; Supply chain; Collaboration; Attracting and incentivising talent; Fiscal
Macroeconomic volatility; Regulation; Challenging customer demand; Disruptive competitors; Governance and reporting
The most successful campaigns often blend two or more of the following:
- Online research
- Face to face
- Desk research
Focus on the outcome at the beginning to form a consensus about campaign objectives and how thought leadership will be used
Maintain the involvement of a core group of fee-earners throughout to develop a clear point of view on the issues and ensure buy-in
Save time and energy for the roll-out phase, because this is where thought leadership has maximum impact for both clients and advisory firms
Drive the change
- Which part of the business is going to be most amenable to change?
- Who needs to win work the most?
- Which team is already most flexible in their thinking?
Questions to ask?
- What work do we want to win?
- Who are the people most affected by particular problems?
- Do we have the capability to make their pain go away?
- What do we want to be famous for?
Draft content questions
- What is the real issue?
- What is new, and what does it mean to the client?
- Who are we promoting as the thought leader?
- Who is best to actually draft content?
- How can we make content generation easy for the practitioner?
Engage the client
- How do we best broadcast the firm’s thinking on an issue, and build profile for particular practitioners?
- How do we best then connect with target clients face to face and preferably one to one?
- Who is best to contact the client direct, offering tailored client briefings?
- Who is best to coach and prepare the thought leader on how best to engage with a client, to ensure a genuine two-way exchange of ideas?
Ask for the work?
- How do we best ask for the work and when?
- Who is best to ask for the work, and do they need help or coaching?
- Are we clear what we are offering?
- Can we solve the client’s particular problem as they have articulated it?
- Can we involve the client in the development of the solution?
- Could a solutions workshop itself be a billable event?
Leverage your content
- How can we leverage a growing archive of thought leadership content?
- Can we make the archive available on the firm’s website, for all to see and search for?
- How do we best circulate content internally?
- Great for building reputations within a sector and market
- Combining content marketing and digital strategy is indeed powerful
- The real point of content marketing in professional services should be to facilitate deeper engagement between fee-earner and client
- Thought leadership is teaching, tailoring and taking control
- Clients value the bringing forward of valuable ideas. They just want service providers to solve their problems
- Professional services marketers can build brand and facilitate relationship-building and sales by helping fee-earners to focus on client problems and proactively bringing tailored solutions, not selling what firms happen to make
- win the work they want to win