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In the professional services thought-leadership world there is one name that stands out time and time again, and that’s Grist. So, that’s why I jumped at the chance to attend their online presentation of their Value of B2B thought-leadership survey. This was conducted in October 2020 via online survey of 525 senior decision-makers aged 25+, at global organisations across multiple sectors. 10% of these respondents were in the legal sector.

 

Now, those of us that work in the legal sector know that thought-leadership is something all law firms and chambers have high on their wish list for marketing and communications. In essence it’s a way of demonstrating that you’ve got the best ‘thoughts’ – when you’re someone being paid for their opinions and expertise. In short, if you can produce content that means something, gets people listening and demonstrates that you really know what you’re talking about then it stands to reason that people will want to give you more opportunities to share your thoughts (i.e they’ll give you more work). I guess you could say that Grist was practising what it preaches with their latest survey.

 

If you want to read it in full you can click here: https://www.gristonline.com/insight/research-and-guides/Value-of-B2B-Thought-Leadership-Survey-2020/

 

Here are some of the things we found particularly interesting:

  • Only 51% of respondents felt that thought-leadership was important but not critical in their decision making. Only 40% said that it was critical. That’s right, when making a decision on who to buy from only 40% of respondents said that they would definitely look at a demonstration of expertise to make that decision.
  • When the survey looked at consumption of thought-leadership content over the COVID-19 lockdown periods 45% of respondents said they were consuming either a ‘little more’ or ‘a lot more’ thought-leadership content than previously. And it looks like this pattern is sticking, even after people ‘go back to offices’. We have to ask whether the statistics in the first bullet will have swung further towards thought-leadership’s critical, strategic role in another 12 months.
  • 55% of respondents wanted thought-leadership tailored to their region.
  • 60% wanted it tailored to their company size.
  • Interestingly only 63% wanted it tailored to their job role and 71% to their sector. It’s surprising that between 29% and 37% respectively didn’t seem bothered whether it was relevant to the work they were doing, day-to-day.
  • The survey then dug down to look at the different sectors. In the legal sector:
    • 69% of respondents consumed thought-leadership to enable better decision-making. 
    • 56% used it to evaluate the expertise/insight of potential advisors. 
    • 65% used it to understand best practice.
    • Yet only 38% used it to gain a competitive edge…
    • And a worrying 44% used it to keep informed of emerging trends.
  • So, we have a sector based around thought and opinion that isn’t 100% sold on the value of thought-leadership.
  • You can see how the other sectors surveyed (who one could argue the legal sector is selling to) on the full report.
  • Let’s look a little deeper at what the legal sector values in its thought-leadership:
    • 31% were interested in forward thinking and future trends
    • Only 29% in helping to make more informed decisions
    • 40% in exploring new and different perspectives
    • Only 29% in putting existing expertise into practice
    • Only 21% in genuine insight and informed opinion
  • Let’s think about that last couple of points… in the legal sector the vast majority aren’t interested in demonstrating expertise in a practical form or informed opinion.
  • What’s more concerning is that this trend could be seen across all of the other sectors, with the possible exception of Retail and Telecommunications.
  • So, what are they interested in? Well, the legal sector is interested in the views of industry experts (54%) and customers (50%). 
  • They’re looking for information about the next three to 12 months (58%) – although interestingly 12% of energy companies are interested in insights focusing on 2 years and beyond. Retail (36%), Banking (38%) and Automotive (37%) are interested in the next 3 months.
  • And best of all, when thought-leadership hits the mark 38% of legal organisations will review the organisation’s service offerings and 31% will contact the authors. 
  • The survey also presented information about preferred formats and more, but we’ll leave you to read about that in the full report.

 

So, why, if we’re talking to the legal sector have we written an article here about what law firm partners, surveyed, think about thought-leadership? We understand that law firms want to ‘sell’ to organisations outside of the legal sector… but we also know, from experience, that they tend to take their own views as gospel, when it comes to assessing value. This report is interesting because it demonstrates that while the legal sector itself might not value thought-leadership for its own purposes, many of the sectors it is talking to do. For example:

  • 42% of those in the energy sector want existing experience put into practice (that’s demonstrating expertise through case studies)
  • 43% of those in manufacturing want exploration of new/different perspectives
  • 43% of those in the insurance industry want analysis of important future issues
  • 73% of those in the telecommunications industry use thought leadership to enable better decision making and a staggering 77% of those in banking do the same
  • 66% of those in manufacturing, 69% of those in energy and 65% of those in automotive industries use it to evaluate expertise/insight of potential advisors
  • And so it goes on…

 

In taking this approach we wanted to demonstrate that the legal sector needs to stop looking at itself in terms of what works and start consulting clients. One of our most insightful pieces of work comes through our Marketing & Business Development Audits, where we survey clients to ask them what they find more valuable in terms of communications and then we compare this the answers given internally to what lawyers think clients most value. 

 

This survey report is really worth a read. In short, it’s an excellent piece of thought leadership and establishes Grist as one of the best!