In my last post, I cited five factors that determine how proficient a company will be at thought leadership marketing – whether it becomes the recognized expert on some issue or not (and then enjoys the accolodes, leads and revenue).
Let’s look at the first factor: a big appetite for the type of differentation that a market-recognized thought leader possesses.
Of course, there are a number of ways for a company to differentiate its products and services: most innovative, most cost effective (i.e., cheapest) and most “customer intimate” is the way strategy guru Michael Treacy thinks about it. The Indian firms that have grown rapidly by offshoring IT and customer call center work differ from Western companies that have been in the business far longer on the basis of price. The Indian firms sold this work at much lower price points because they had a huge labor cost advantage. It’s been a fantastic formula for growth and success. Perhaps Chinese offshoring firms will soon one-up them on price.
The differentiation that successful thought leadership marketing confers is, well, much different. A great book, Harvard Business Review article, seminar series or other marketing tool paints a firm as a leading expert on a certain issue. The market perceives that firm as knowing more than any other about a certain business problem and how to solve it. It appears to possess unique expertise.
For customers who want the firm that is THE leading expert on their issue, it takes their focus off price and even experience. Being the leading expert doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve applied their expertise longer than other firms.
So here’s the rub: consulting, IT services, software and other B2B firms that want to be successful at thought leadership marketing must really, really want to be perceived as having very different insights on and solutions to the business problems they solve. They must feel that being cheaper or more experienced is no longer good enough to grow at the rate they want to grow.
Because if they don’t truly see the need for a different and far more effective solution, they won’t fund their thought leadership R&D and marketing programs at the levels necessary for market success. They need a big appetite for having the best current expertise for solving an issue.