Ask not, “What is keeping my clients awake at night” but, “What should be…”

Posted on December 10, 2014 by Rachael Evans

Speaking to an audience of B2B marketing professionals at the 19th annual PSMG conference,“Managing Clients is the route to success - and don’t let systems get in the way", Gareth Tipton, General Counsel at BT, introduced the idea of “useful worrying”. This idea struck me.  Not because I’m a worrier, but for what it means to professional services firms looking to differentiate through thought leadership in crowded markets.

Think ahead to differentiate

Gareth would argue that great services, products and talented people are a given. I agree. So how then do B2B businesses differentiate? Useful worrying could be the answer. Businesses that actively worry about - and seek to identify - challenges on the horizon for their clients, are those who are ultimately able to give the best strategic advice.

As B2B marketing professionals, your competitors are most likely asking: “What is keeping my clients awake at night”, but what we should do is think ahead and ask ourselves; “What should be keeping our clients awake at night? If you can name and frame the challenge through thought leadership, clients will turn to you to solve it ahead of your competition.

How to avoid ‘thought followership’

CMOs in the UK’s largest professional services firms admit that two thirds (62%) of their own so-called thought leadership output is in fact thought followership, worthless content already covered by competitors. Therefore, how B2B marketers approach idea generation is key to avoiding followership in thought leadership.

During the initial creative brainstorm, there are four questions you should ask yourself in order to stress test any thought leadership ideas:

Is this a trending topic? If yes, your competitors - and every man and his dog - are likely commenting and churning out content on this topic. The opportunity to create thought leadership that cuts through the noise is limited.

What are the emerging themes? If you are able to think ahead, name and frame new challenges through your thought leadership, clients will turn to you for advice.

Are we first to recognise their significance? Don’t join a debate, start a new one. To have real impact, your thought leadership should lead the debate.

Do the emerging themes connect to client’s business strategy? To be relevant and generate demand, your thought leadership should always connect to your client’s business objectives.

If you’re interested in what your peers have to say about the state of thought leadership in professional services, and for further advice, please download the ‘Follow the Leader’ report.


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