Thought Leadership Resources

#59 How you can show your clients “I’m on your side”

 As I pointed out in Post #55, you need to create content that engages and interests clients, not just you. Particularly, this involves creating content that has them and their interests at heart.


In this post, I’ll dig into three ways to focus your content so that it convinces clients and prospects that you’re at the fourth and highest level described in Post #55 – content that makes them look good to their boss.

This idea got highlighted in my mind during a conversation at an open house being held by a client, a global niche engineering firm.

The senior-level professional I was talking with told me about recent work he’d done on some railroad projects. The lines ran through a dense urban area, where there was local opposition to plans to increase rail traffic. His task was to carry out studies of the impacts on nearby communities – the noise impacts and the diesel-fuel exhaust impacts in particular, with an eye to what might happen if those rail lines were electrified so that diesel fuel would be used less.

In our conversation, I mentioned that an article on the firm’s findings might be of interest to a publication like “Progressive Railroading,” which is a monthly publication and an associated website, widely read in the rail sector worldwide. His response was, “But I don’t read Progressive Railroading.”

I was, quite frankly, startled and just a bit horrified at his answer. This was a senior executive who had contributed greatly to the global success of this firm, and I was surprised to see such an inward-oriented response. Evidently he was so focused on the technical aspects of what he was doing that he hadn’t considered that his clients might be different from him. Maybe, they rely on different sources for learning?

My response was that maybe he doesn’t read railroad-sector publications such as Progressive Railroading, but that his clients who are senior executives in Class One railroads (which are the major lines in North America, such as BNSF, Union Pacific, CP and CN) almost certainly do. He wasn’t convinced.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve run up against this mindset – people with high levels of technical skill (and leadership, in this man’s case) who would benefit from taking more time to delve into their clients’ world.

In this post, I’ll look into three ways you can use effective content strategy to show prospective clients that you understand their world, and that you’re on their side. This is important because your clients don’t just want technical excellence. They want to be assured that your solutions will work in their world (see my slide show on that topic).

Put your ideas where your clients go to learn

One of the central themes of this blog is that business professionals need to get their message into places where their clients and prospects go to learn. This includes THEIR conferences, association meetings, influential blogs, trade publications (in print and online) as well as social media like their Twitter and LinkedIn groups.

I still think that one of the most effective ways to reach many niche markets is through their trade publications, as I’ve shown in an infographic on the Thought Leadership Resources website.

Take, for example, the “Progressive Railroading” resource my engineering executive seemed to think didn’t matter. It matters to his clients in the railroad sector in North America. While its circulation is a midsize-to-small 25,000, it’s important to note who those 25,000 people are. Who do you think will be reading a magazine and online resource called “Progressive Railroading?” Potential clients, that’s who.

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This is a must-read publication for senior leaders not just Class One railroads, but regional lines, short lines and other sectors of the industry. Companies wanting to reach this sector pay the publication’s posted advertising rates of US$10,320 per page, and many of them buy double-page spreads on a repeat basis (sure, they get a discount, but not much) to get in front of this readership.

If you follow the steps I’ve set out in my two books, you can get your content in front of these readers at no cost at all, other than your time.

And it’s not just railroads. Most industries have publications, websites, associations and other targeted media. Getting yourself interviewed in podcasts (see Post #57) that they rely on is becoming one of the key factors in showing that you “get” them and their issues.

Focus your content on their issues, concerns and problems

If you delve into your clients’ world to see where they go to learn, you’ll just naturally have an opportunity to know their issues and concerns.

For example, railroads are trying to paint themselves green – more energy-efficient than trucks, and able to carry more freight per ton of diesel fuel consumed (and exhaust emitted to atmosphere). If you can help them demonstrate those green credentials, or help them burnish those credentials a bit brighter, you may have a new friend who’s working on the railroad.

I talked about the need to focus on significant, Red Alert problems in your content, in Post #49. Simply put, if the topic of your content doesn’t focus on helping solve a major issue being faced by your client, you should find a topic that does.

This helps solve a business issue for you as well – you need to be sure that the solutions you offer in your service meet real client needs.

Involve your clients in creating your content

Some business professionals have a transactional or even adversarial relationship with their service providers. Sometimes, this is around minimizing fees. Some organizations are getting into this territory with their law firms – it’s not so much an advisory relationship, but rather a transaction in which the firm provides a function (such as an incorporation) for a set rate.

In such as situation, if you’re able to work with your client to create some content that is useful to the client’s industry or profession, you’re able to stand apart from that race to the bottom regarding fees. I’ve gone into this type of content in Post #56, providing advice on how to work with a business professional such as you. If you create such content in consultation with your client, you’ll help to build that relationship as well as show prospective clients that you’re someone they might want to work with.

Case studies are another good way for you to involve your client in content creation – and particularly if you’re able to present these case studies in client-read publications or at client-attended events, you’ll build your profile as someone whose work is relevant to the needs of the people you want to serve.

To go to the next step for you:

• What are your next steps for making your content available through media that your clients use to learn?
• How can you become familiar with their worldview and the terminology they use, so you can present your ideas in terms and terminologies that your clients use
Which of your clients can you partner with, to create useful content (that also makes your client look good to their peers and colleagues, helping cement their relationship with you)? 

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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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