The importance of thought leadership in creating exceptional CX

  • Posted on November 5, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

This article was originally written by Avanade alumn Ken Ramoutar.

Many companies aspire to deliver an exceptional experience for their clients and customers. A key element of doing so is by delivering thought leadership and expertise at the right places in the client’s journey. Avanade’s own voice of the client (VOC) program feedback provides validation that clients place considerable value and trust with those who can demonstrate relevant thought leadership.

However, the term “thought leadership” is vastly overused, especially in B2B professional services environments. It’s easy to believe your company is providing novel ideas by the volume of materials created, but what do clients and customers have to say? In a recent study, Edelman cited that only 18% of thought leadership content gets high marks from readers. In other words, over 80% of what is produced and fed to your customers is not viewed as differentiating or valuable – and therefore not really contributing to exceptional CX. Also, the study points out that the amount of content consumed by decision-makers is on the rise, putting even more emphasis on doing thought leadership well.

At Avanade, we have been unpacking this issue and interviewing our clients specifically on this topic to gain a better perspective. Here is what we are learning.

Up the relevancy
It’s easy to think that because your company and its people have interesting ideas, they will be relevant to your customers. In fact, that is the heart of the issue. Each customer is in a particular place in their journey and looking for relevant ideas and direction for the things on their agenda. Keep in mind, you are competing for mindshare. From the customer’s perspective, there are many choices of what they will consume in their limited time.

Our clients have told us that these three things drive relevance:

  1. Industry-specific: Make your ideas specific to each clients’ industry. If your customer is in retail, they want to hear about retail-specific ideas and examples. If your customer is in the non-profit sector, they want to hear about ideas and examples specific to non-profit. Certainly cross-industry ideas have value but demonstrating industry knowledge in the client’s industry is a pre-requisite.
  2. Problem-specific: Address a specific customer problem like how to solve (fill in the blank). This may not seem like thought leadership, but it is if you are helping a client get unstuck.
  3. Role-specific: In the B2B world, clients want to hear ideas specifically relating to their job. For example, if you are a CMO, you want to know about issues other CMOs are facing.

Aggregate and share your experiences
The expectation from customers is that, as a provider of products or services, you have a vast array of knowledge about the space you are in, and that your company is deciphering what works and what doesn’t by your sheer volume of experiences. What we have heard at Avanade, is this: Bring me that aggregate knowledge and best practice. Show me what others are doing to solve these issues.

Blue sky as well as today
One constant challenge is to determine the time horizon of the thinking you want to share. Many companies create “blue sky,” very futuristic thought leadership. This typically falls into the category of describing what the world could be like. Our clients have told us they value some of this futuristic thinking but spend quite a bit of time seeking fresh ideas on the problems they’re facing today. The net is, if you want to drive exceptional experiences, you have to balance your thought leadership time horizons and not ignore current problems.

Thought leadership plays a critical role in client experience, especially in the B2B world. It’s important to understand what makes for good thought leadership in the eyes of the client. Consider relevancy, aggregating and sharing experiences and mixing your ideas’ time horizons.

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