A POV. You know you need one. But how do you know if you actually have one?
Over the years we’ve written extensively about the need for firms to develop a clear, compelling point-of-view that governs their work. Your firm’s POV is the heart and soul of your firm’s thought leadership strategy.
While your positioning describes where you compete (the problems you solve, the organizations you solve them for, and the expertise you bring to them), your POV describes a better way to solve them. At its core, a POV describes how you see the world.
If you have a small firm, your POV will be the centerpiece of your firm’s entire messaging strategy. A large, diversified firm will likely have separate POVs for individual markets, practices, and thought leadership programs. Sometimes a POV emerges from the collective experience and wisdom of a few senior leaders. But, more often, it derives from a systematic process of research, analysis and insight gathering. Ultimately, sometimes it’s actually the culmination of years of work seeking better ways to solve for big complex problems.
Regardless, in our experience, an effective POV has 7 characteristics.
#1 – Attacks Conventional Wisdom.
Most consulting firms operate in highly mature industries. Over time, there is a way “things get done.” Whole industries and functions converge on a similar way of operating; “best practices” solutions emerge to all those conventional problems. But some of those “best practices” solutions create new problems or are problems in themselves. An effective POV identifies those nuggets of conventional wisdom that stand in the way of progress, innovation and growth. A perfect example of this is the emergence of the Net Promoter Score. Measuring customer satisfaction prior to NPS was a clunky, ineffective process requiring 100s of questions and 80-page slide decks to explain the results. NPS emerged as a more effective way to do it, and in so doing attacked conventional wisdom on how customer satisfaction measurement should be done in the first place.
#2 – Attacks Concepts. Not People.
This goes without saying, but it’s generally NOT smart marketing to launch direct attacks at competitors. After all, you’re marketing a professional services firm, not a cola. But, someone else’s thinking? Attack away. Again, we’ll come back to Fred Reichheld, Bain consultant, and the lead “architect” on the Net Promoter Score that was first published in a Harvard Business Review article in 2003. In that seminal article he introduced his POV to the world by articulating a better way to measure customer satisfaction rendering many of the methods used before obsolete. But, of course, the article was not a systematic tear-down on all the consultants that came before him. It was a tear-down on prevailing concept that defined customer satisfaction.
#3 – Attracts and Rejects.
Not everyone is going to agree with your POV. And that’s okay. Even though it’s exploded into a multi-billion dollar market used by 2/3 of the Fortune 1000, there were thousands of detractors at first that neither believed in the wisdom nor the efficacy of the Net Promoter Score model. But that doesn’t mean the model should have been discarded or never published in the first place. Developing a compelling POV takes courage. Marketing your firm is not a popularity contest. Your goal isn’t to appeal to every executive on the planet. It’s to appeal to a reasonable portion of the clients you really want to do business with. If you get it right, you’ll attract a loyal following of employees and marketplace fans to your cause. And, of course, if you really hit it out of the park you’ll be rewarded with substantial revenue growth.
#4 – Taps an Emotional Chord.
One of my favorite lines in Simon Sinek’s now “beyond viral” Ted Talk is where he talks about the power of language in MLK’s legendary speech. He reminds us that it’s the “I have a Dream” speech; not the “I have a plan” speech. Ultimately, a great POV inspires your clients to change. The best thought leadership isn’t just prescriptive, it’s provocative and inspiring. Good to Great inspired leaders everywhere to strive for the golden ring not just to slowly reach for and cling to the next rung on the ladder.
#5 – Solves for Real Burning Problems.
This also goes without saying, but if you want your POV to make a difference in your firm, your clients, and the world, you have to identify novel ways to solve big, complex problems. Problems that cost large organizations $10s or $100s of millions of dollars. Avoid 2% solutions.
#6 – Leads to a Tangible Solution
All too often, firm POVs live up too much to their name. A point-of-view is all they are. They’re a different way of thinking or looking at the world. But for a POV to take hold and create value for the firm and its clients, it has to lead to a clear, understandable solution that can be bought and implemented. The Challenger Sale put forth a different way to think about how to hire, promote, and reward sales teams. The solution on how to implement that thinking is clearly articulated and easily understandable through a collection of 3 straightforward services designed to improve the performance of enterprise sellers.
#7 – Proven Evidence the Solution Works.
Ultimately, a POV is only as good as the “digital paper” it’s written on these days unless you can back it up with specific examples, data, or both that the prescribed solution actually works. On the whole, we at Rattleback know research-based content is more effective at driving leads and revenue from thought leadership programs than opinion-based content. I’m 100% confident in saying that because I have statistically significant research to back it up.
How to Develop Your Firm’s POV
Read this companion article for more insight on how to kick-start the process of developing your firm’s or practice’s POV.