You’ve got the horse, you’ve got the water…

Edward Haigh of Source Global Research

We’re all used to the idea that you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink, but when it comes to their thought leadership, far too many firms aren’t even getting that far

A survey we conducted in 2018 found that 55% of clients rarely or never receive thought leadership recommendations from personal contacts within the firms they know. In terms of the old analogy, the horse (the relationship with the client) has been carefully nurtured and reared, and the trough (of intellectual capital, in the form of thought leadership) has been filled, and then everyone involved is sitting back and hoping nature takes it course.

Actually, that’s slightly unfair: What they’re actually doing is using marketing to cut holes in the trough so that the water flows out, in the hope that some of it might find its way to the horse, and even splashing around in the water in the hope of catching the horse’s attention. But what they are resolutely not doing is leading the horse to water.

Part of the problem here is probably volume: Among the 10 most prolific publishers of thought leadership in the consulting industry, the average firm is publishing 330 pieces per month. So it’s hardly surprising that your own teams are struggling to keep up with what you’re doing. But with so much money being invested in the creation and marketing of thought leadership, it’s hard not to see the lack of personal recommendations as a huge opportunity that’s going begging.

But it’s also about where energy is being directed. Rather than focusing efforts on shouting ever more loudly, what the publishers of thought leadership really need to do is find the people in their firm whose clients might be interested in what they’ve written and then work closely with them to make sure they know, and can talk confidently, about the content. There are many ways in which that could be done and we’d love to talk to you about them, but the key thing is to grasp the underlying point first: Just because you can’t make the horse drink, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Edward Haigh is a leading commentator on the consulting industry and a co-Founder of Source who provide specialist research on the management consulting market to consultants and their clients.

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