Is Your Firm Ready to Become a Thought Leader?

Introduction to a 3-part series of articles exploring how your firm can develop and support thought leaders.

Many CPA firms who have service or industry specializations frequently hear or use the term “thought leadership”.  But what does it mean to be a thought leader?  And how do firms develop into thought leaders?  According to Wikipedia, a thought leader is “an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.”

Firms typically evolve from general practitioners to niche specialists to thought leaders through carefully planned, disciplined marketing programs.  To help you assess if your firm is ready to make the transition into thought leadership, we have created the following questions to get you pointed in the right direction.

Is your firm ready to develop an industry or service specialization?

dreamstime_xs_43981018Establishing a service or industry niche can be a great platform for helping your accounting firm differentiate itself in the marketplace.  In some cases, specialization happens organically – a professional has deep technical knowledge in a particular service, or a firm already has a grouping of clients in a particular industry.  For other firms, specialization is developed through experience and education.  For example, many practitioners only serve a certain type of client, while others attend industry conferences to learn more about trends and issues impacting their clients.  If you already have specializations, or if you think this is a path your firm would like to take, you’ll want to read our upcoming article, How to Convert Industry or Service Specialization into Thought Leadership.”

Do you have partners or staff that can develop into thought leaders?

Becoming a thought leader is an investment of time and money for the firm and individual contributors.  Some practitioners will step forward and identify themselves as thought leaders, while many service and industry niche leaders will develop into thought leaders over time. Firms that are just getting started may want to invest in developing younger staff members into tomorrow’s thought leaders.  Since it can be difficult to identify the right person to place in this role, we will help you identify the traits often found in accounting firm thought leaders in our upcoming article, Recognizing the Traits of Effective Thought Leaders.”

Are You Willing to Make the Investment into Content Development?

In order for thought leaders to be recognized and to make the most impact, their ideas must be shared.  Common methods for sharing thought leadership include commenting on third-party articles on LinkedIn, writing blog entries for your firm’s website, publishing articles in trade publications or speaking at trade events.  Supporting these methods often involves dedicated marketing and leadership support.  We’ll explore ideas for how to get your content read and heard in our upcoming article, Developing Thought Leadership Content: Best Practices and Overcoming Common Obstacles.

Developing and supporting thought leaders is a big step for many firms, but it is one that is often rewarded with shorter sales cycles, premium pricing and increased revenue.  By taking the time to explore how your firm can become a thought leader, you will be making a commitment to exploring better ways to grow your practice.

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