The importance of content marketing and thought leadership for consulting firms is undeniable:
- 9 out of 10 service buyers will actively do their own research on a consultant. 8 out of 10 consultants automatically get rejected because their digital footprint does not point to a desired level of expertise.
- Over 80% of buyers of professional services (US and UK) said thought leadership had become even more important as a result of the pandemic, especially as a way to identify upcoming trends.
- 88% of business buyers in 2020 said online content plays a major to moderate role in vendor selection.
But once we recognize it matters, we need to plan and create that content. The next question that usually comes up is: What do clients look for in a piece of content?
Of course, context matters. The industry or field you serve. Your target audience profile. How they find and consume content. But after speaking with hundreds of consulting partners and buyers of professional services, we start to identify commonalities.
While this still needs to be validated by additional research, I identified four components that consulting clients look for in content.
Ideally, insights need to be:
- Relevant: No one invests time to consume content about a topic or issue that they're not interested in. Your insights should be related to your audience's specific problems or challenges, and cover something they don't already know.
- Simple to understand: 70% of professionals agree that educational content counts as thought leadership. The best way to teach your audience is to follow the marketing expression: clear over clever.
- Backed by research and/or reliable data: 61% of readers consider that publishing data to back up their position is essential for thought leaders. And 82% of people would rather read an article based on data than the author’s opinion.
- Actionable: Can your insights be easily implemented and acted upon by readers? If your clients can't see how they can actually put them into practice, your content has little to no business value.
It's not enough to pursue topics you and your team are interested in or follow a vague content creation strategy. If you want to be seen as a trusted source of value, you need to serve your clients the insight that they're looking for.