Bulletproof Thought Leadership: Using Research to Protect Clients

Your big data. Your proprietary technology. Your operating model. They’re all under threat. A competitor will sneak up from behind and steal your business. And what a pain to always be looking over your shoulder.

So, when we think about our clients – management in the businesses we serve – in order to help them succeed, we need to have their back. Are there threats they don’t know about which might come along and bite them? Or opportunities that they haven’t spotted?

In marketing, we’re prone to using jargon: ‘thought leadership piece’ sounds almost as bad as ‘blue-sky thinking’. What we mean is research that goes into a report that gets shared via events and media.

That sounds simple but also very salesy – an excuse to push your services. In fact, it should be all about protecting your clients by giving them insights that will genuinely help them compete. To do that, we should look at our client’s business and ask these four questions:

1. What’s unique about their offering? Sometimes even those getting good results lack the self-awareness to know why it is their clients keep coming back. You need to work out what the difference is and why it motivates buying.

2. Is this a sustainable advantage? If it’s predicated on heavy discounting that doesn’t cover costs or depends on an individual who won’t be around forever, then clearly it’s not. More of a threat though is change in the external environment – an unforeseen substitute product or service that renders theirs obsolete.

3. How does this compare with competitors? How do the firm’s strengths and weaknesses tally against others? For example, has another firm got hold of technology your client hasn’t even heard about? Some don’t know their blockchain from a blocked-drain.

4. What could prevent them from delivering? A change in the law specific to their industry or a broader change in the economy may be on the horizon. These changes could be highly disruptive, effecting buyer needs and expectations.

You have to consider big issues around strategy, competition and core competencies. To get the answers requires getting out there, talking to people, gathering evidence. Follow that with a lot of thinking. It takes time but it’s worthwhile. Looking at the situation objectively, you start to see the wood for the trees – refining down to main drivers and filtering out the day-to-day noise. When you uncover dangers then you can begin to advise on the best ways to avert disaster.

At worst, clients will see that you have their best interests at heart, and at best, you’ll help them avoid being taken out by a competitor.

About the author: Graham Archbold

With Nisus since 2007, Graham has been involved in more than 50 client research projects for 22 different professional services firms.

Pioneering the use of RATER in professional services, most recently he has led client insight studies in legal, accountancy and property. See Bio…