Every year we conduct a big survey of clients (senior end users of consulting services) in which we ask them a wide range of questions relating to their interaction with consulting firms and their use of consulting services. We use the results across many parts of our business; it informs our Market Trends programme and the Global Data Model that underpins it, it’s central to our Client & Brand Insight work, and it’s one of the strands of research on which our Emerging Trends programme is based. All of which means that we’re able to set the individual components of the survey within a wider context and see things in a new light as a result.
This year, we had 8,265 responses to our survey, some of which were about thought leadership. So, what did we learn? Well, we know there’s a danger of us preaching to the converted here, but thought leadership matters. In fact, it really, really matters. Zoom in on marketing and it’s now completely dominant: We asked people which, out of a range of marketing activities, has the greatest impact in forming or changing their perception of a consulting firm and thought leadership stood out to such an extent that you almost have to wonder why firms bother with anything else. OK, that might be overstating things a little, but not a lot.
But what happens when you zoom out and look at thought leadership in the context of all the other things a firm does? At this point, innovation, methodologies, and account management overtake it as the things that matter most to clients. But quality of thought leadership is still fourth, ahead of things like the breadth of a firm’s service, its ability to implement, and its brand and reputation. It’s a stunning result, particularly when you consider that the average piece of thought leadership, in our most recent quality ratings report (there’s a new one due out soon) scored 9.77 out of a possible 20. Imagine what could be possible with a piece that scores above, say, 15.
At which point, while declaring an elephant-sized interest on our part, the obvious conclusion is that there are few better things you can do anywhere in your firm, let alone in marketing, than figure out how to improve the quality of your thought leadership. If you can do that for yourselves, that’s great. If you want some help, give us a call on 0203 478 1204.