Thought Leadership Marketing a Powerful Tool for IT Services Providers

Once the Preserve of Large Consultancy Organisations, TLM Is Rapidly Becoming an Established Field within Marketing

February 1, 2010

Once the Preserve of Large Consultancy Organisations, TLM Is Rapidly Becoming an Established Field within Marketing

Thought leadership marketing (TLM) can be a powerful tool for improved marketing success in IT services, according to Gartner, Inc. While thought leadership has been used by consulting firms for a long time — often accounting for as much as 20 per cent of marketing expenditure — an organised discipline of TLM is only now emerging, allowing marketers to use this as a manageable tool to drive business.

Gartner defines TLM as the giving — for free or at a nominal charge — of information or advice that a client will value so as to create awareness of the outcome that a company’s product or service can deliver, in order to position and differentiate that offering and stimulate demand for it.

“The principle of TLM is simple enough: You give away a little valuable intellectual property to establish your potential usefulness to the client, in the expectation that the client will use your expertise and services,” said Rolf Jester, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Its essence is to show, rather than tell what a company can do, and to do so in a way that positions and differentiates that company’s offering for the chosen target audience.”

Mr Jester cited some examples of leading IT services organisations that use TLM:
•    Under the heading “Capgemini Point of View — the way we see it,” Capgemini publishes future-oriented “TechnoVision” documents for vertical industries.
•    Deloitte’s many activities in this category include a series of debates published on its website and publicised via email, drawing out opposing views on current key business issues and highlighting considerations that executives need to take into account.
•    IBM, among its many other activities, maintains a substantial “Institute of Business Value” to publish business research.

Gartner’s review of the TLM activities of IT services providers has shown three types of programme. These are not mutually exclusive but will often be combined:

•    Opportunistic. This type of programme tends to be short-term and promotional-campaign focused. It boosts interest in and therefore sales of a specific offering.
•    Door-opening. This type of programme can help establish or expand permission to play and is ongoing, although it evolves as acceptance grows to build visibility and credibility in the market.
•    Brand support. This is the most sustained type of TLM programme and is used to reinforce the brand promise and image.

Regardless of the programmes employed, Gartner analysts said that the company’s brand and positioning must form the basis for the development of TLM strategy, and that strategy must be kept in alignment with the evolving direction and capability of the service firm.

“A clear business plan, driven by the brand and positioning strategy, and accepted widely by multiple levels of leadership, is the essential starting point,” said Christine Adams, managing vice president at Gartner. “External intelligence on competitive activity is critical, as is a good understanding of what is already being done in your company and why.”