Most of us, at most points in our careers, have a boss to turn to for advice.
Whether we’re faced with a tricky client, or a challenging colleague, or a seemingly unsurmountable task, we can generally ask the boss for help.
And whilst they might not necessarily take all our troubles away, a boss will often have seen a similar situation and have some ideas for you as to how you might tackle the situation at hand.
But who do senior execs turn to for advice when they finally attain the pinnacle of their professional ambition and reach the plushly-carpeted corridors of the fabled C Suite?
Pause for a moment to imagine the CTO musing on whether to take their company’s data off premise and into the cloud.
Or the CFO pondering taxation mitigation strategy for the coming financial year.
Or the CHRO having to anticipate the impact of hybrid working on employee contracts.
It’s hard to imagine any of them going to their CEO and saying: “Not sure what to do here, boss – what do you reckon?”
Because the CEO’s likely response is going to be: “That’s what I’m paying YOU to tell ME”.
So who do the C Suite turn to for advice?
They can’t really ask their own direct reports (“Hang on, boss, aren’t you supposed to be the expert here?”)
And even if they’ve got a mass of professional qualifications under their belt, not every MBA case study would have helped them plan for the impact of a global pandemic, for example.
So – possibly for the first time in their career – they will have to look outside their own business for business advice.
It’s at this point that a whole host of consultancies try and push their way into view. Management consultancies, strategic advisories and the like – all promising access to teams with unrivalled expertise, insight, experience.
But how does a potential client choose between them when so many have such similar propositions?
According to recent research by LinkedIn and Edelman (Thought Leadership Impact Study | LinkedIn & Edelman) the answer is thought leadership. Apparently 69% of decision makers agree that thought leadership “is one of the best ways to gauge a sense of the type and caliber of an organization’s thinking”.
A key insight is that it’s not so much the company, but the individual consultant that the potential client wants to assess.
BigCo Consulting may well have 1,000 partners in every continent, but what the C Suite really want to know about is who will be advising me?
What do they know about my challenge? What expertise can they bring to bear?
I’ve heard a senior partner at a major consulting house dismiss thought leadership content as “mere vanity publishing”. Something the marcomms team keep pestering them for. “Window dressing for the website”.
But for the savvy advisor, it’s actually the first step in establishing a personal client relationship that is based on provenance of individual expertise.
Surely if you’re a partner in an advisory firm and you’re working on a billable-hours basis, it’s you that you want prospective clients to ask to hire: not just one of your colleagues?
And how do you make sure those prospective clients know to ask for you by name?
Maybe writing thought leadership posts for your company website isn’t window-dressing after all…
If you want help conducting a business survey as source material for your thought leadership, please get in touch.
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