The benefits of thought leadership are clear - positioning your firm and your people as experts should be an aspiration of every professional service marketer and leader. But how do you know if your firm's content is effective?

There are the obvious ways of measuring thought leadership - clicks and pageviews being the most common of these. But these kinds of metrics offer only the most basic of indications of success. A senior partner looking at the impact on the business of a time-consuming activity like writing content is going to struggle to justify thought leadership off the back of that kind of data.

Understanding the impact of thought leadership on the business requires a more outcomes-based assessment. Applying the following three questions will help you understand whether your efforts are having a meaningful impact on the business and its position in the market.

  1. Do your clients interact and give you feedback on your content?
  2. Do your own experts contribute their insights?
  3. Does your wider firm receive and distribute your content?

At Passle we work alongside subject matter experts, global marketing teams and industry influencers. We are lucky enough to work with excellent thought leaders and their teams. Every day, we see quality content that is opening doors to new opportunities or deepening engagement with existing key accounts.

On the other side of that coin, there are companies with extensive thought leadership programs that fail to meet their objectives. Almost every time, these failings are not due to a lack of effort, but due to a lack of understanding of what genuine thought leadership should be to drive a business result. 

A lack of focus or a misapplication of focus renders a thought leadership initiative ineffective, a time and money drain - rather than the powerful growth engine that it should be.

The difference between success and failure in thought leadership seems to be that successful programs use their own knowledge, in a way that is timely and relevant for customers, they produce authentical, good content that resonates internally as well as externally.

Why these questions are important.

Do your clients interact and give you feedback on your content?

The best way to tell if your thought leadership is hitting the mark for customers is that they’ll tell you. Either with feedback through social channels, with their attention reading or ideally - they’ll tell you, in person.

If you aren’t seeing feedback from your clients - your thought leadership may be missing the mark.

Do your own experts contribute insights?

Is it your organisations' expertise, or the expertise of others that you are offering as thought leadership? Thought leadership programs not using their own thought leaders often have a disconnect between marketing and the wider firm, lack authenticity and market understanding.

Ultimately these programs are missing the point of thought leadership, which is not about eyes on pages - but about getting what is great about your firm in front of the people that matter.

Does your wider firm receive and distribute your content?

Successful programs hit the mark with customers, but they also appeal to internal staff - whose buy-in is needed to ensure the content is shared with their contacts and network.

Your staff add context to your thought leadership, making it relevant to clients and most importantly, they add a credible trusted source when sharing to their networks. If they aren't sharing with their networks, your thought leadership may not be working.

The term thought-leader is used a lot. It's a massive competitive advantage and those that get it right more often than not become the go-to firm in their category. To be considered genuine, thought leadership needs a wide internal and external appeal and must be a showcase of your own expertise.

For more on achieving successful thought leadership, I highly recommend this post by my colleague Adam - Five things that make content influential and how to get all five.