Thought Leadership Resources

#22 How to answer your client’s question: “Will your solutions work in my world?”

It’s always good to put yourself in your clients’ position – particularly the position of someone who’s considering whether to green-light you for their next project. So, the question going through their mind might be, “Sure, you’ve got some good ideas – but how do I know that those ideas will work in my situation?


Answer this by showing that you understand their world better than they do, or at least part of their world. You can do this through articles, blog posts, speeches and other content on what I call “trendspotting.”

This type of content involves finding a trend or development that meets these three criteria:
It’s a trend that will affect your clients industry, profession, or geographic area, either in a good way or a bad way
It’s something you’re qualified to discuss, due to your experience or professional/academic qualifications
• Because it’s a slow-moving development rather than hard news, they may have missed it – it’s not generating headlines or hashtags

In short: It’s something they probably don’t know about because of Point Three above, but will be interested because of Point One, and will be eager to hear what you have to say, because of Point Two. Remember that your job is partly to inform, but it’s more around persuading your prospect that you’re the right person to help them (see Post #17 for more on this).

Show your deep understanding of your clients’ world, by trendspotting

If you can generate content (blog post, article, speech, etc…) that talks about the trend you’ve spotted, gives your predictions on what’s going to happen, and shows how they can avoid problems or get benefits, you’ll earn their gratitude. As well, you’ve got past that critical issue – “Will your solutions work in my world?” You’ve shown them that your solutions do indeed work for them.

It’s something like “newsjacking” discussed in Post #6, “How you can focus your content so it meets your clients’ most pressing needs”, but it’s slow-motion news. In newspaper terms, it’s a feature, not hard news. Trendspotting is a great way to prove to the people you want to reach that you can help them.

Trendspotting content is particularly powerful for showing your deep grasp of your client’s world, because it takes solid understanding to spot a trend, explain its back story, make an informed analysis of how it will develop, and then provide recommendations.

Here’s one example.

What to do about tightening emissions regulations

Many manufacturers face tightening restrictions on the volume of emissions that they are permitted to release to atmosphere. These restrictions may be focused on some pollutants of particular concern. While the trend on allowable emissions reductions is gradual, there may come a time when a particular facility simply cannot meet the standards anymore. This may mean either a shut-down, or substantial investment in equipment and new procedures.

I’ve worked with many clients who want to advise companies what they can do about this slowly tightening trend. These articles have talked about where the emissions standards have come from, what’s driving the trend, which elements or compounds are of most concern (perhaps mercury or hydrogen sulfide), where the regulations are going, and some recommendations on how to avoid a problem or gain a benefit.

Since most of these consultants’ clients are focused on operational issues, they may miss out on seeing this threat to those operational issues, until it is too late to comply. Trendspotting content on these matters can help protect prospective clients from expensive mistakes – earning their gratitude.

Designing trendspotting content that shows your expertise

To be effective, trendspotting content must follow these points:

1. Pick a trend that will have serious repercussions for your market. If the problem or opportunity isn’t of sufficient magnitude, they’ll just yawn and hit “Next”. So, in your content, explain the repercussions (fines, jail time, stop-work orders) or benefits (you can go on producing easily, while competitors are tangled up in compliance issues).

2. Explain the trend in terms that will matter to them – and you can show your grasp of the issues by explaining where the trend is coming from, and why.

3. Give evidence of the trend, as it may be too slow moving or gradual to produce headlines that will resonate with Google. Statistics help: “Ten years ago, this road saw an average of 50 vehicles per hour; now it has 500”). It’s also a good idea to express those statistics in chart form – bar charts that show the gradual growth of vehicles per hour over time. Before-and-after pictures also help.

4. Project what will happen in future, giving evidence – maybe citing credible government sources, academic authorities, or just extrapolating the trend line on the chart.

5. Give your recommendations on how to either avoid a problem or gain a benefit. Of course, you don’t want to be seen offering advice without having studied the prospective client’s situation individually, and you also don't want to give away the wisdom you normally sell.

Getting past “Doesn’t everyone know this?”

Many of my clients are concerned that the content I’m urging them to produce will be too basic. One reason I can add value to the getting-published process is that I often have a more clear idea of the actual level of knowledge of their clients. I’m a generalist, with knowledge a kilometer wide and a millimeter deep. Most of my clients are specialists, with deep knowledge that makes them valuable in meeting client needs. Almost always, I believe, those clients know less than the consultant thinks they do.

For more ideas on how to design content that meets the right level of complexity, click here for Post #14, “Goldilocks”.

So if you’re tempted to respond, “Doesn’t everyone know this?”, think again. It might help if you ask some of your clients if they’d be interested in content on the topic you’re considering. Remember that their minds are focused elsewhere. Generally, that means operational issues such as cost-cutting, staffing, sourcing raw materials and components, quality control and sales. They don’t know much about your world – such as emissions regulations – and depend on you to watch out for their interests.

So, sit back with a notepad and a coffee some time, and think of the trends you’re knowledgeable about, want to help your clients with, and will make a good story. Then, use those ideas in developing your public speaking program, blog, book or other content.

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Carl Friesen

Carl is the Founder of the Thought Leadership Resources and helps business professionals gain the skills they need to build their profile as subject-matter experts and thought leaders.

You can connect with Carl on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter

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