How can you create differentiated thought leadership?

Our recent research has shown that thought leadership plays an integral role when it comes to the extent to which clients trust consulting firms, as well as the prices they are willing to pay. With thought leadership clearly playing such an important role, it is more important than ever that your firm’s thought leadership output stands out in the marketplace.

There are many ways to achieve this, but the key to attracting your audience’s attention in a world in which they are bombarded with content is differentiation: Is your content relevant to your audience right now, and does it tell them something new? In other words, is it different from your competitors’ pieces?

Using our thought leadership database, White Space, we recently analysed the most-popular topics that consulting firms had written about over the course of Q1 2022 to help you discover the opportunities for differentiation in the thought leadership landscape.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, given the current geopolitical climate and the challenges of the last two years, risk was one of the most popular areas of focus for consulting firms’ content. Clients of all stripes are going to need to better understand the impact these events are likely to have on their businesses; it’s fortunate that they have the output of consulting firms to help address these challenges.

Second on the most-popular-topics hitlist is HR & change. While media coverage of global talent shortages may have cooled, many businesses are still facing the fallout from the “great resignation” of last year. As talent issues rage on, client organisations look for ways to increase retention and reorganise their workforces—often turning to consultants for support in these endeavours. Smart consulting firms have produced a wave of content on this topic to help meet client needs.

However, there are a couple of standout topics that don’t make the top three: namely cybersecurity. This is a topic driving a great deal of consulting demand—indeed, in the UK in 2021, cybersecurity consulting grew almost 20%, way ahead of the UK consulting market as a whole. After two years of remote working, client organisations are seeking advice on how best to protect their increasingly digitised systems while also putting existing provisions through their paces with penetration testing and wargaming initiatives. Producing content on this topic—with actionable recommendations and advice on how they can help—could prove a useful tool for consulting firms looking to establish themselves in this space, particularly given the relative lack of content in this space.

Yet, producing a differentiated piece of thought leadership, or having a differentiated content strategy doesn’t mean avoiding writing about the same topics as your competition; it means writing about them in a different way, and telling your audience something they didn’t know before. A good way of doing this is by ensuring that your content is rooted in strong evidence; conducting your own in-depth research, or partnering up with another organisation (as Bain did in this piece), is a sure-fire way to find an interesting—and crucially, new—statistic or insight. So, if you want to write about risk, HR & change, or technology—feel free; just ensure that you’re telling your audience something new.