The saying "Knowledge is power" is first attributed to philosopher Sir Francis Bacon in 1597. It was true then and it's true now. Clients come to us for what we know.
Most firms recognize that knowledge in the form of Thought Leadership - delivering new ideas and content to your target audience based on insight into the issues and challenges they face - is an important ingredient for attracting and winning new clients. According to Hunter Business Development's recent "Client Cultivation and Thought Leadership" study, two out of three respondents rank having an ongoing Thought Leadership program as at least "very important".
What's concerning is that despite seeing the need for a program like this, only about 18% of respondents indicate that they are "very happy" with what they're doing currently. That's less than 1 in 5. It's also a "happiness" gap of almost 50 percentage points!
So, if you're anything less than "very happy" with your thought leadership program, what can you do to close the gap? Start by taking a look at your plan's foundation in relation to these 5 pillars:
Deliver value – Your audience will appreciate what you've created only if it's truly useful. And that happens when it deals with a key issue that they face.
Take a stand – Most clients want to work with firms that have a clear point of view and have the courage to stand by it.
Be consistent – Whether your medium is speaking or writing, you need to establish a consistent rhythm.
Be generous – Don't be afraid to give what you know away, especially when you first start. Remember, what you know and believe can be powerful leverage for attracting prospects and for earning their trust.
Be realistic – If you expect quick results, you're fooling yourself. Good relationship building happens over time.
You may wondering, "With everything else on my plate, how in the heck can I hope to get this done, too?" According to our study, the biggest barriers to success are "time" (55%) and "people" (39%). Getting it done in many cases starts by changing the "I" to "we" and this happens by creating a culture of thought leadership in your firm.
Find a champion – Like any new initiative, especially one that asks people to go above and beyond their primary role, it takes a strong leader to champion the effort, from first spark and ongoing.
Be inclusive – The more people you involve from the get-go, the more people you will have behind the program.
Look for natural connections – Those things that come naturally are typically easier to embrace. So, to find the right people and encourage participation, look for natural connections. For example, do they like to write or perhaps even speak? Are they especially knowledgeable and passionate about a key area of your business or your target industry(s)?
It's not for everyone – The fact is everyone won't jump up and down about participating. If it's just not something that feels natural, you're better off not forcing a square peg in a round hole.
Communicate benefits – Make sure to communicate potential benefits of the initiative to individual participants. Remind people that those who demonstrate an ability and willingness to contribute to enhancing the firm's perception also enhance their position in the firm and the business community.
Be flexible – Time is precious and everyone is already working long hours. Be open to change how you operate to encourage and reward participation and also stimulate productivity. For example, be flexible about when and where participants work.
Remember, your knowledge can be very powerful, if you know how to use it.
This article has been written by Hunter Business Development Founder, Larry Melnick. If you would like a copy of their "Client Cultivation and Thought Leadership" report, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more articles and resources, see www.functionfox.com/articles/