For leading business service firms and in particular for professional firms, the creation and publication of business research and its use to engage with clients, the media and internal stakeholders, is now widely recognised as an effective marketing and business development channel.
But many firms and their fee earners are failing to drive the full return on their investment in the research required to create insightful thought leadership initiatives and the opportunity costs of internal engagement with stakeholders. With our help, service firms are pioneering an approach which transforms the cost of business research from a marketing expense into an investment with a measurable return.
The new approach requires the following from firms who want to shift their Thought Leadership to Thought Capital:
1. Commitment and engagement from the start with stakeholders.
Thought Leadership which achieves a good ROI to become Thought Capital needs to be supported by senior level sponsors within your organisation. Engage stakeholders to invest time in the crucial theme development phase, the deliverables drafting phase and in the communications and go-to-market phase. Involvement is needed at all these stages to ensure that the programme of Thought Capital is used effectively by the organisation.
2. Creation of a programme of Thought Capital aligned with your firm’s strategic and business development objectives.
For Thought Leadership to become Thought Capital it must not exist as individual pieces in a vacuum. Organisations are increasingly preparing coherent programme of several pieces over time which all support the strategic, business development and brand / communications objectives of the organisation. Conduct careful and rigorous planning up front to design your programme to ensure that these objectives are met. Involve stakeholders from each of these areas in the programme design.
3. Deliverables designed to support your internal audience.
Teams preparing Thought Leadership often do not think carefully enough about how the deliverables are to be used by their internal audience. Ask senior executives and fee earners about what deliverables would be most useful for them to take to a client or prospect. For example, use a working document approach with a ‘placemat’ of key findings rather than a printed report. This functions as a tool to engage with a client or prospect to discuss the findings and identifies their own situation in comparison. It also includes how your organisation is best placed to assist in dealing with that situation.
4. Adopt a multi-channel approach to engage your external audience.
Creating Thought Capital starts with the deliverables rather than ends with a final report. Shift the focus away from just preparing a report and towards a more intelligent and visual use of content:
- Design your content on the basis of where, when and how your external audience of clients and prospects are likely to access e.g. via a tablet, on the train home from work in the evening.
- Create Thought Capital assets, e.g. an online content portal which works across different devices to store and leverage the content you already have and keep updating it with the next part of the Thought Leadership programme.
- Let your audience do the work for you – invite your external audience to add to the content themselves with self-assessment.
- Measure ROI easily and accurately by using your online content portal to track what your audience views, downloads and asks for a meeting to discuss further.
5. Creation of your own IP to support your Thought Capital.
Key to owning an area of Thought Leadership and shifting it to become Thought Capital over the longer term, is developing your own IP. Involve the thinkers of your organisation to shape models, approaches or visuals to frame or summarise the insights you have investigated. Use your new IP as the core of your programme of Thought Leadership. IP becomes a centre for debate and if carefully produced can become a long term reference tool on the subject.
Find out more about how Gulland Padfield partners with clients to design and implement global Thought Capital programmes.
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