The results of a recent global survey we carried out of 3,500 senior buyers of consulting will be particularly interesting to those within consulting firms who have an interest in the success of thought leadership. The survey reveals that when senior buyers of consulting come across a piece of thought leadership on a topic that interests them, all but a tiny proportion will take action. Just what form that action will take varies in terms of degree of proactivity, but consulting firms should rest assured that their investment is justified: There are plenty of senior executives who, as a result of reading a piece of thought leadership, are not only likely to read other content by the firm, but also share the piece with a colleague, post about the piece on social media, and even get in touch with the firm as a result.
So far, so good when it comes to proving ROI. However, we must remember that the question was asked about thought leadership “that interests you”. Key to unlocking thought leadership’s potential is working out how to deliver on the “interesting” imperative. It’s our view, that to achieve this, your material needs to deliver on a number of fronts.
- It should tell your audience something useful they didn’t already know. Your readers are unlikely to pay attention to content that covers ground that has already been trodden by other firms or mainstream media, and has nothing new or different to tell them.
- It also needs to be relevant, and in order for the audience to understand that a piece is relevant to them, it needs to be clear about the topic covered, who it is aimed at, and just how it will reward the reader for their time investment.
- Making all of this clear upfront is vital—our research with clients tells us that you need to engage them in the first 20 seconds of reading, and failure to do so will result in their attention moving on to the next piece of more compelling content they come across.
These are not trivial requirements. But the prize—that of getting your audience to spread the word about your thinking for you—is worthwhile. Even more worthwhile since we hear from clients that the pandemic has made them more risk averse, and more likely to place firms they are considering buying from under greater scrutiny. A “read this” recommendation from a peer either via email or social media could just be the factor that boosts their confidence sufficiently to help make their buying decision.
*Based on a survey of 3,449 senior clients globally, carried out in October-December 2020