Rethinking Thought Leadership: 7 Tips for Gaining New Clients
If you follow this blog regularly, one of the things you know is that we have a strong commitment to researching high growth professional services firms. Perhaps one of the most startling findings was when we discovered that average growth firms were actually more likely to pursue a thought leadership strategy than were their high growth peers.
At first I was perplexed. But as we dug deeper, I gained a better appreciation of what people meant when they said they were pursuing a thought leadership strategy. The result was a new view of the entire topic:
- Thought leadership should not be aimed at impressing your peers. While it may feel good to be the most clever tax attorney or the sharpest programmer, it will likely do little to generate new business for your firm. Sad but true.
- It’s much more productive to impress potential clients. Potential clients are just that, potential clients. They are the appropriate targets for a thought leadership strategy.
- Potential clients are impressed by the ability to explain a complicated topic simply. Making an already complicated topic more complicated doesn’t help. Even though you are impressed by your understanding of a topic's subtleties and nuances, many readers will get that glassy-eyed look and stop reading.
- Writing everything you know on a subject is not thought leadership. Long-winded explanations seldom win the day. Of course, you know a lot about your area of professional expertise. No need to prove it by sharing it all.
- Scaring people seldom motivates them to choose your firm. This seems to be a particular problem with attorneys, accountants, risk managers and security experts. Perhaps it’s an occupational hazard. List all of the bad things that can happen is more likely to get people to stop reading than motivate them to action.
- The real payoff comes from helping someone understand something they didn’t understand before. Think insight rather than more information. Help people see the relevance of your knowledge, not its depth. Remember, they already assume you know your stuff.
- Share it where your clients will see it, not your peers. If your goal is to get a new job, impress your peers. If your goal is to get a new client, impress your prospects with your usefulness. This may seem obvious, but I’m amazed at how often folks fail to target the audiences who are most likely to become clients. Similarly, don't use jargon that only a peer would appreciate.
How do you turn a thought leadership strategy into new business? Write something really useful and share it with potential clients. Make the complex easy to grasp and you will be rewarded with the new business that you desire.