Thought Leadership: The Consummate Marketing Advantage

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We are witnessing the power of Thought Leadership right before our eyes on a daily basis in the presidential sweepstakes.  Most people don’t realize that politics, especially running for president, is the ultimate marketing campaign and dog and pony show.

Let’s put your personal politics aside and try to learn from what is happening and try to apply it to the marketing challenges facing your firm.

There’s lots of value to being a Thought Leader:

  • Adds value to your existing relationships: People complement themselves on how smart they are for associating with you (consciously or not)
  • Separates you from the competition: Not that many leaders in anything out in the real world, let alone public accounting
  • Allows you to leapfrog the competition: You can go from zero marketing impact to sixty in a real hurry and take market share
  • Makes others look stupid and stale by comparison: Your competitors can’t match your intellectual capital as they haven’t invested time and effort into the subject (or paid attention to their own client issues)
  • Makes people afraid not to hire you: Fear of hiring the wrong person is a huge determining factor in why people and firms are brought in. Being a Thought Leader puts you in their corner simply to cover their behinds
  • Makes you an exclusive: People natively think they are special and unique and hiring you reinforces that, as there is only one of you and they now have it
  • Fees issues go away: You are selling something distinctive
  • Do it by a) answering a big problem; b) creating something new; c) doing research; d) writing about it; e) speaking about it

As a consultant, I have personal proof this works as a marketing strategy.  Back in the eighties I partnered up with two other fellows back in Chicago to form a consulting group designed to specifically market sales and personal marketing training to CPA (and professional) firms.

I was a CPA and they had founded the marketing function at a Big Eight firm.

Although then as now there was a huge need in the profession with having people armed with the ability and willingness to bring in business, there was only one problem: we had no clients.

Over a two month period of time, we embarked on a research project to develop a new model for practice development that had never been published or mentioned before.  It was holistic and based on best practices of those professionals we knew, had worked with and interviewed.

One direct mail piece sent to managing partners and marketing directors at 1,000 professional firms produced three marquee clients that everyone knew and admired.

We had penetrated – from scratch – a marketplace dozens of other consultants had approached and failed.  From there my career as a trainer, consultant, writer and speaker took off as I was offered opportunities on a regular basis to share my knowledge in books, articles and keynotes.  Over 20 years I trained over 200,000 professional people all over the world and worked with over 500 professional firms before the daily grind of travel (five cities in five days was not unusual) caused me to cut back. 

All of this is not to brag – just to show that our foray into Thought Leadership paid off and so can yours.

Today we can see how this works in the political arena.  Four months ago pundits were wondering what the heck Newt Gingrich was doing in the presidential sweepstakes.  He is not the most likeable guy around, not the most photogenic, has political and personal “baggage” and was way down in the polls.

What happened? Newt got to strut his stuff on national television.  He went from near-last to first in the polls at this writing. 

People watch these debates waiting for him to talk.  He has researched and lived the subject of international and US politics more than anyone I have witnessed in 40 years of paying attention to politics.

Recently, he was asked to comment on his solution for the health care crisis we face as a nation.  He mentioned casually that he had written a book on the subject in 2002, and then went on to discuss a topic related to solving the health care crisis NOBODY had ever mentioned before: investing research in the diseases of the brain.  Evidently, over 60% of our health related issues (e.g. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and psychosomatic-related illnesses) are related to the brain.

What do I know?  I’m a practicing CPA. However, when Dick Morris, one of America’s best-known political consultants (Bill Clinton’s guy) said he was knocked off his chair because in 40 years of studying the health care crisis as it related to politics he had never heard this before, I knew Newt had pulled ahead.

Mr. Gingrich has used Thought Leadership to propel himself to the top and so can you.

Allan S. Boress, CPA, FCPA is the author of 12 published books on marketing, selling and managing the business development process for CPAs.  He has consulted with over 500 professional firm and trained over 200,000 professionals since 1980.  His "I-Hate-Selling" methodology is available at

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