Applying Quality Principles to Thought Leadership

BooksWe all know what happened in the 1980s when the Japanese began exporting cars to the U.S. with fewer defects than those made in Detroit. Toyota, Honda, Nissan (called Datsun then) and the rest began stealing market share from Ford, GM and Chrysler.  For 30 years now, the U.S.-based automakers have been forced to boost quality.  The same story has played out in industry after industry.

Consulting and other professional firms are not immune to this immutable law of business, especially when it comes to the ideas they market.  When an executive can easily type “Internet strategy” into Google and get links to dozens of white papers on the topic in a matter of seconds, it makes for a crowded marketplace of ideas.

But I said this in my last blog – that Internet tools like search engines and now social media like blogs are raising the bar of quality for the “thoughts” that professional firms market.  Yet what I forgot to mention was that this trend was in place long before the World Wide Web became a global medium.  One signpost is the number of book titles published annually in the U.S.  In short, it has exploded since the early 1990s, according to the firm that tracks this information (R.R. Bowker Co.).  

And given that the number of business books printed “on-demand” (which includes self-published books) surpassed those printed the old-fashioned way by book publishers in 2008, we should all expect the number of business books to soar even more.  In turn, that will ratchet up the bar for the quality of ideas that professional firms release onto the world.  That's what I told a group of 30 marketers last week at an Association of Management Consulting Firms seminar, "Thought Leadership Rewired."  Click here to see that presentation.

By the way, many professional firms are asking why they should use a book publisher when they can self-publish an electronic book, thus skipping the publisher and the distributors – especially those with substantial marketing resources (e.g., McKinsey, Booz, etc.).  Gallup has already done this, creating its own imprint Gallup Presswhich has a couple of bestsellers under its belt. 

Is your firm thinking that way too? And, more broadly, are you seeing many more competitors writing about the topics you write about?


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