Can Thought Leadership Be Quantified and Measured? Oh YES!

Positioning yourself and your firm as a leading edge thinker and practitioner in your field involves numerous “thoughtleading” actions, e.g., publishing your ideas, speaking to targeted groups, guesting on podcasts and radio, and so forth.

While all that may sound fun (or exhausting!), choosing to implement such a unique strategy may seem rife with risk, as in, ah … does it really work? Why go to the lengthy and daunting challenge of writing and publishing a book, or a series of books, if, in the end, nothing will come of it? Same with speaking engagements, media appearances: Will any or all of these tactics ever show concrete results? In other words, can a thoughtleading strategy be realistically quantified, measured and translated into a reliable return-on-investment?

Happily, the answer is to this last query is … YES!

Studies have shown that a quantifiable ROI of Thoughtleading can in fact be discerned, although getting to the heart of the matter first requires understanding that traditional methods of measuring ROI may not always apply, due largely to the assumptions and procedures adopted by traditional ROI calculations. Instead, our current economy, with its growing emphasis on intellect-based services, as opposed to 3-dimensional manufactured goods, demands alternative methods of measurement. This new equation involves the now well-recognized value of intellectual capital (or IC).

Up to now, our go-to ROI metric standard has been based on “I can see it with my own eyes.” This still applies to material goods of course but IC’s decidedly non-Industrial Age elements can be harder to fathom. Mary Adams, co-author with Michael Oleksak of “Intangible Capital” (Praeger) and founder of Smarter-Companies, explains: “Can you imagine a merchant without an inventory report, having to sell product without knowing the quantity or price of goods he owns?”

Yet this is the position that many corporate leaders are in today, she says, that is, lacking basic consolidated data about their most significant resources. “Do we have the right people and knowledge to meet our goals? Are we positioned for sustained innovation?”

Such relatively “soft” questions leave the interpretation of info and resulting ROI conclusions in the hands of analysts to a greater degree than has been traditionally true for Industrial Age balance sheets. Yet studies that correlate increased revenue with publishing, speaking, media and similar thoughtleading actions report that ROI is measurably higher when thought leadership actions are integrated with a firm’s more traditional marketing and sales activities. The Bloom Group has conducted studies over the years that have backed up such findings.

As well, a survey by Levick Strategic Communications surveying 200 law firms discovered that the firms who got themselves mentioned repeatedly in the legal media also placed highest among a listing of top-revenue producers in the survey. The firms ranked below these top performers, however, reported close to little or zero presence in legal media.

Then there’s anecdotal evidence to supplement hard research, such as the financial consultant from my own client files who once told me he likes to load his briefcase “with all my published articles before going out on a sales call, then, at just the right moment, pull out an article that relates directly to the discussion at hand. This inevitably bumps up my credibility in a way even the glossiest brochure simply cannot. And often lands me the business!”

Jim Masciarelli, author of the book PowerSkills: Building Top-Level Relationships for Bottom-Line Results, recalls a time when his book clearly led directly to a piece of business that he now believes he would never have landed without it. “A partner in a major venture capital firm called me up after receiving an announcement of my book,” he recalls, “and told me that my new book alerted him to the alignment work I had begun doing with CEOs and executive teams. The VC then exclaimed, ‘We could really use your help!’” The mere announcement of Masciarelli’s book had instantly positioned him as a go-to expert in the VC’s mind, practically handing him the job. “And, best of all” he adds ... “no competition!”

What’s clear then from the wealth of research and anecdotal evidence that has been out there for many years now is that a method for measuring Thoughtleading’s ROI genuinely exists. And what’s more, the prognosis is positive. Thoughtleading places high on the “effective strategy scale.”

And since most of your competitors will ignore this strategy, typically ignorant of its measured potential, your mere entry into thought leadership could be enough to raise you and your firm dramatically above your competition, even wiping it out altogether.

So go have some fun … become a thoughtleader!

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