How consulting firms can master thought leadership with data insights

10 October 2022 7 min. read
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Content is king, especially for consulting firms that aim to differentiate themselves through top-notch thought leadership. But building a winning content strategy can be a challenge. Michal Radziuk and Satyajit Saha from Evalueserve explain how a data-driven approach can help consultancies gain a competitive edge.

It’s a recurring question for any marketer in the consulting industry and partners overseeing the thought leadership portfolio. What should we research and/or publish next? And: where lie the most commercial opportunities?

In this expert article, Michal Radziuk and Satyajit Saha outline how the use of technology and benchmarking can help consultancies explore trending content, organise insights, find white space for future publications, enhance customer engagement, and improve marketing return on investment.

Step 1: Benchmark your content

The first step in building a successful thought leadership strategy is benchmarking your current efforts against your competitors – study your share of voice in different topics, sectors, and geographies to determine the next steps you should take.

Some questions you might want to answer include:

  • What is my publication volume compared with my peers?
  • What is my market position in thought leadership across different topics / sectors / geographies?
  • What are some of my successful peers doing differently?

To make the benchmarking easy and powerful, at Evalueserve we use the Insightsfirst tool. This tool has a thought leadership library that covers the thought leadership publications of major consulting firms. Over 30,000 publications are currently listed in the library, with nearly 2,000+ added every month.

An example of how Insightsfirst uncovers multiple competitive insights is by looking at thought leadership publications (articles, blogs, podcasts, etc.) from the leading consulting firms published over a specific period of time. The volume of publications is not the only indication of the share of voice, but it can be a good start for further analysis.

The chart below shows the number of publications by leading consultancies between January - August 2022:

The number of publications by leading consultancies between January - August 2022

Some quick insights based on the data:

  • KPMG, Deloitte and PwC published the largest portion of thought leadership publications across all sectors.
  • Each sector will have a slightly different leader board. For example, McKinsey has the largest number of publications in industrials and retail, KPMG in banking and energy, while RSM leads in asset management.
  • Slightly over half of analyzed publications do not focus on any sector.

Step 2: Explore trending topics

Every marketer requires ideas for great content. Planning and releasing high-quality content before a competitor can be essential to creating engagement and discussion points with your target audience. Human intelligence or insights from audiences can help understand the market landscape and potential topics for creating great content.

Some essential questions to answer in this regard are:

  • What are some of the hottest topics for my target audience in a particular sector / geography?
  • Which trends can be the most interesting for my audience?
  • Which topics create the highest engagement in social media?

Insightsfirst classifies all thought leadership publications into relevant topics (such as digital transformation, ESG, or innovation), audience type (such as C-level, senior, or mid-level), publication format (such as article, blog, or podcast), and other parameters to enable detailed analyses of topics that are gaining market attention. In addition, the tool analyzes social media engagement scores to find out which posts created positive reactions.

The chart below shows the top trending topics by the number of publications during January - August 2022:

The top trending topics by the number of publications during January - August 2022

Some quick insights based on the data:

  • There is definitely a seasonality when it comes to the number of thought leadership publications. May and June were the busiest months for the content teams. The volumes of publications decreased significantly in the summer months (July and August).
  • ESG has been the most trending topic over the period assessed. Within ESG, a large portion of publications focus on regulatory requirements.
  • Digital transformation and customer experience rank consistently among the popular topics. The number of Covid-19-related publications have decreased by over 60% from January to August this year. The topic of diversity & inclusion has recorded a peak in March – likely because of International Women’s Day.
  • There has been a surge in the number of geopolitical publications, especially related to the Russia-Ukraine war. Supply chain topics have also seen a similar pattern – with highest number of publications in April.

Step 3: Find whitespace for publications

Each consulting firm is different, and capitalizing on these differences might be a better strategy than attempting to replicate your competitors’ thought leadership. Companies across sectors often struggle to find whitespaces for future publications to unveil niche topics and create a winning content strategy.

One of the most popular dashboards available on Insightsfirst is whitespace analysis enabling users to benchmark their content topics and come up with topics that could result in greater marketing traction.

Some essential questions that marketers should answer to identify whitespaces:

  • What uncovered areas (whitespaces) can be covered in the content strategy?
  • What should be the target audience for the next publication?

The chart below shows the whitespace analysis of 10 consultancies during January - August 2022:

The whitespace analysis of 10 consultancies during January - August 2022

Some quick insights based on the data:

  • KPMG has a strong emphasis on thought leadership related to ESG and industry outlook – over 25% of all KPMG’s publications focus on these two topics. This pattern is also visible for other Big Four firms.
  • McKinsey published relatively large volumes of publications on economic topics – industry outlook and Covid-19 impact. The firm is however less eminent in areas related to technology, such as blockchain or cybersecurity.
  • Deloitte published multiple papers on customer experience but had lesser focus on supply chain (lowest number of publications among the Big Four firms).

Looking ahead

Thought leadership has become one of the most important competitive factors for both established players and newcomers. Consulting firms build their content strategies for different regions, sectors and practices. This is frequently a complex task that requires comprehensive data and analysis.

Gathering and analyzing thought leadership data without the help of technology could be a tedious task as thousands of new publications get released every month. Fortunately, the technology can assist in many ways – from data collection, trend spotting and whitespace analysis. The process can be repeated regularly to provide marketers with fresh insights and help them refine content strategy.

About Evalueserve
Switzerland-based Evalueserve helps companies across sectors with enhancing and accelerating decision-making through product-led solutions. More than 30% of the Fortune 1000 use Evalueserve’s solutions, with a growing number of consulting firms onboarding the company’s products for insights.