New smartphones, cars, fashion etc. excite and inspire us. Similarly, new thoughts, ideas and management concepts excite and inspire us and we consume them through books, journals, magazines, white papers, research reports, conferences etc. We prefer to buy smartphones, cars and fashion from the brands we trust and pay higher prices for highly reputed brands such as iPhone, BMW and Gucci etc. Similarly, we prefer to read content from trusted and respected leaders, organizations and publications in their respective fields and prefer to pay premium prices for their customized advices and services for our businesses.
Before talking about 10Cs that drive demand for thought leadership marketing, I would like to set some background.The content that provides unique and valuable insights on issues such as how to solve complex business, technology and social problems, how to beat competition, how to capitalize on technology trends etc. is considered as thought leadership.
Today, customer and service provider relationship has become more of a doctor (service provider) and patient (customer) relationship. Customers expect service providers to have capabilities to understand current and anticipate future challenges of customers better than customers themselves do.Customers look at thought leaders much differently and treat them with respect. Good thought leadership raises people’s opinion about a brand, which could be an organization or an individual.
From brands’ perspective, thought leadership marketing is one of the forms of content marketing that helps brands to share their knowledge, attract customers through unique point of views, position brand as an expert in its field, build reputation, differentiate, and build relationships through education.
Thought leadership marketing as a marketing concept is more popular and useful in B2B space such as Consulting, Legal, High technology, etc. With so many law firms, consulting firms, high technology companies, product providers being present in market, customers don’t decide which one to choose based on promotions as both risks and investments are on higher side as compared to B2C. Customers prefer to choose an organization based on its reputation, knowledge, past experience, capabilities, references etc.
From organization example perspective, McKinsey is one of the most prestigious management consulting companies in the world. A few of the initiatives that have helped McKinsey in establishing itself as a thought leader in management consulting arethe firm publishes its own business magazine -The McKinsey Quarterly, many of its consultants are contributors to reputed publications such as Harvard Business Review and have published popular business books such as In Search of Excellence. The McKinsey Global Institute focuses on larger business and economic issues. McKinsey has a textbook on valuation, corporate finance, and investment management.
From an individual example perspective, Dr. Michael Porter, a professor at Harvard Business School,is one of most popular thought leaders in the field of Management Strategy. Along with many other credentials, a few of the initiatives that have helped Dr. Porter in establishing himself as a leading thought leader are he is the author of 19 books as well as over 125 articles, he is 7 time winner of the McKinsey Award for the best Harvard Business Review article of the year.He is also one of the highest-paid business speakers from academia.
In today’s world businesses are looking for unique perspectives to keep themselves relevant for their customers and stay ahead of competitors. In my view, there are 10 Cs that drive the importance of thought leadership:
Change: Change is inevitable. Trends change, markets change, competitors change, business models change, customers’ expectations change and so on. Business leaders have to keep themselves updated and adaptable to changes.
Customer: The primary reason of existence of any business is customer. Today’s customers have become more demanding and businesses have to keep on coming up with new ways to meet their customers’ expectations.
Competition: In every industry from cars to banks to computers, multiple competitors are serving similar requirements. Moreover, competition is so aggressive that today’s remarkability and differentiation are becoming tomorrow’s commodities. Moreover, mistakes of one player become opportunities for others. It has become mandatory for companies to not only adapt to market changes quickly but also to remain ahead of competitors.
Choice: Today’s world is crowded with choices such as choices of market segments due to huge population, choices of marketing channels, choices of similar offerings from multiple brands etc. It is important for businesses to make the right choices out of multiple available options.
Complexity: Different industries have different dynamics, different geographies have different regulations, different organizations have different ways of doing businesses, and different people have different ways of thinking.When customers buy complex, expensive and efficient offerings, they also worry about future support and services.As per the nature of the product, from low cost and low risk FMCG product to high cost and high risk technology, customers’ complexities increase.
Challenge: Today’s businesses are facing multiple challenges from managing their employees’ expectations to customers’ expectations to vendor relationships to tight budgets. Figuring how to grow business with dependencies on multiple stakeholders is a challenge.
Consumerization: In the past, access to high end technology was limited to a few corporate users and their expectations were defined by technology providers. But today, we have access to high end technology in our personal lives through Uber, Amazon, Google etc. User friendly technology experiences in personal lives have raised expectations of business users from technology in their professional environments.
Customization: We have shifted from the world of mass demands to custom demands. Today’s customers want to feel different and special and to meet this expectation companies have to keep on offering diverse products and services.
Content: From Facebook to Twitter to YouTube to WhatsApp to television to billboards to newspapers, people are interacting with content in various forms and shapes. In an era of excess content, it is important for businesses to come up with highly selective and credible content for their audience.
Confusion: Excess of change, choices, content etc. is creating confusion for both business owners and customers.In such environment, customers prefer doing business with companies and people they trust and respect.
Even if two companies have identical offerings and similar prices, they have different credibility in market. This credibility comes through references from existing customers, industry analysts and influencers, and through credible content inform of thought leadership articles, white papers, case studies, videos etc. If thought leadership content is credible, people prefer to recommend a company in today’s highly competitive and crowded market.
(Views expressed are author's personal and don't necessarily represent any company's opinions.)