A whopping 91 per cent of professional services marketers say thought leadership is now the key battleground for their firms. But the majority of ‘thought leadership’ content remains ‘unoriginal’., according to a new study by
Man Bites Dog
Three quarters (75 per cent) of professional services marketers see thought leadership as the greatest source of differentiation for their firm, whilst 87 per cent believe thought leaders are also more likely to become market leaders.
As a result, professional services firms are investing heavily in thought leadership, on average 23 per cent of total marketing budgets in the current budget cycle. This is set to grow, with 87 per cent of firms increasing their budgets next year and 29 per cent revising this up significantly.
Clients and new business development are driving this investment. Four fifths (82 per cent) of service economy marketing leaders say clients expect firms to produce insightful content as a matter of course, whilst 76 per cent believe thought-leading content is the key to profitable conversations and establishing deeper long-term relationships.
However, despite the critical role of thought leadership in helping firms to stand out, the study reveals an epidemic of thought followership in the professional services sector.
Three quarters (74 per cent) of marketing leaders admit their firm tends to ‘jump on the bandwagon’ rather than set the agenda, estimating that two thirds (65 per cent) of their so-called ‘thought leadership’ content is in fact ‘thought followership’.
Claire Mason, managing director at Man Bites Dog, says: “In an increasingly competitive environment, ideas are the only source of differentiation. Put simply, thought leadership is the most effective form of marketing for professional services firms. Yet we are seeing an epidemic of thought followership from the thinking professions.
“The thing that makes professional services firms stand out from their competitors is the quality of their people and their expertise. But if everyone is saying the same thing, how can clients tell the difference between them?
“Talking about the same things as competitors may give firms the comfort factor, but it will do little to drive the profitable conversations fee earners so desperately want.
“It’s time for professional services firms to step off the content treadmill and consider what needs to change at leadership and cultural level to empower marketers to develop ideas that lead.”