Thought leadership is a bit like baking. There are vast numbers of books, articles and online guides that tell you how to bake, and the basic ingredients you need are straightforward.
However, as anyone who has ever tried a slice of birthday cake made by a dodgy occasional baker can tell you, just because anyone can make a cake in theory, doesn’t mean that all cakes are equally delicious.
The basic elements of thought leadership are straightforward, but professional firms produce campaigns whose quality, effectiveness and ROI also vary drastically.
If executed well, thought leadership can achieve some the highest ROI of any marketing activity undertaken by professional firms. It can do so much more than highlight your technical expertise. The best thought leadership campaigns lead directly to new business from both new and existing clients.
Recently, Meridian West worked with a professional firm to deliver revenue of over £1m from a campaign that cost under £20k in external spend. This is evidence that good thought leadership can deliver outstanding returns.
So how do you avoid a soggy, icing-soaked, slightly-too-salty campaign, and instead produce a gleaming, mirror-glazed thought leadership masterpiece that wouldn’t be out of place in the window display of a Parisian patisserie?
There are three essential elements baked into the development of every effective thought leadership campaign:
1: Understand why you are doing it
Many firms come up with ideas for “interesting” thought leadership, without questioning why they are investing in a campaign in the first place.
Thought leadership can serve many purposes from building the brand reputation of your firm to gaining media coverage, and from launching a new service area or service proposition to providing conversation starters for business development conversations.
While it’s possible for thought leadership to address multiple objective, be clear about what your primary purpose is from the start. This will allow you to set clear expectations internally, and to focus roll-out efforts on the activities that will meet your primary objectives.
2: Co-develop themes with your audience
Thought leadership adds significant value when it is used to cement your relationships with clients and prospects. The majority of firms wait until they have content developed before they share it with their important clients.
The most forward thinking firms involve clients up front, by co-creating topics and themes from the outset. Ask clients what kinds of insight they would genuinely value and focus your attention there. Some professional firms run regular client-focused panel. Others ask a few warm clients for a few minutes of their time to test the water before they invest in content creation.
Whatever approach you take, don’t be shy of going to client with the outline idea and allow them to co-create with you. You will be genuinely surprised with the result.
3: Make your investment count
If you’ve put in the effort and investment to create content, don’t let it linger unread on your website or in a hard copy in your firm’s reception area.
To make the most of any campaign it is essential to give thought to how the content will be repurposes across various channels to maximise your chance of getting it in front of the right people. Plan for a regular social media posting, and how you might use a range of digital assets to relay key messages and to signpost potential clients to other information about your service offerings.
The most effective firms know that time spent working with professionals to help them understand the relevant of content for their own clients and contacts is repaid in greater engagement online, in business development meetings, and in making the business case for future thought leadership investment.
The elusive return on investment that everybody is seeking will only be delivered if thought leadership is actively used by people in your business as a lead generation and business development tool.
Whatever the flavour of your next campaign if you following these simple guidelines you can maximise your chances of a good rise on your ROI and avoid the embarrassment of a soggy bottom. Happy baking!
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