Many professional services firms already have thought leadership content development and marketing groups. Often these include in-house and outsourced research and writing resources. Maximizing the return on these investments requires several things: a portfolio of topics that are relevant to the target market; judicious choice of which topics the company “owns” versus those on which it simply has an adequate point of view (“breakthrough” versus “informative”); and processes for the development and dissemination of intellectual capital that exploit the strengths and culture of the firm.
Very often these programs are not delivering to their full potential and we are asked to evaluate them and recommend improvements.
Though every engagement is different, typical steps in our assessment process are to:
- Determine on which topics our clients should have a leading-edge presence (based on their current and emerging services), especially hot topics in “white spaces.” Determine a portfolio of topics in the first category of niches that it should “own”
- Evaluate their coverage of those topics, and of the niches in which it should have a presence, both in terms of self-published content and content published in influential external channels, both online and offline.
- Evaluate the quality of the material, especially versus competitors
- Evaluate market interest in the material, including for instance, analysis of backlinks to material published online
This analysis provides a sound basis for recommending improvements to a company’s thought leadership content development and marketing programs. Those improvements generally cover:
- The processes for determining the topics to be addressed and determining the portfolio of topics to be covered; which topics a professional firm needs “breakthrough” ideas versus which topics merit less compelling points of view
- The processes for developing content. Also the processes for conducting research, including whether it will be done in-house, outsourced, or in partnership with others such as academics
- The appropriate level of investment in thought leadership, and the balance between content development and marketing investments
- The organization structure required to for effective thought leadership content development and marketing
We can facilitate the process of determining target markets and the topic portfolio. We work with a firm’s experts in work shop settings in a process that creates consensus about which topics a firm should target and how. You can read an example here. We also often facilitate a process to help a company determine its portfolio of topics -- both those on which it must bring leading-edge insights based on research of best practices outside its base of client experience, and those on which it should just articulate its existing client expertise.