February 1, 2010 - Thought leadership of consulting firms has often accounted for as much as 20 percent of marketing expenditure, but an organized discipline of thought leadership marketing is only now emerging, according to consulting and market research firm Gartner, Inc.

Manageable TLM can be a powerful tool in IT for improved marketing success to drive business.

"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," says Rolf Jester, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner in a statement. "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."

Gartner's review of IT services providers’ TLM activities shows three types of program, often combined. Opportunistic programs tend to be short-term and promotional-campaign focused to boosts interest in a specific offering. Door-opening programs are ongoing and evolving to build visibility and credibility. Brand support programs are the most sustained type of TLM program to reinforce the brand promise and image. Regardless of programs used, Gartner recommends that the company's brand and positioning support a TLM strategy, which must be kept in alignment with the direction of the service firm.

"Our research has also found many examples of TLM items that appear not to have been thought through clearly – expensive pieces of limited or dubious value to the company’s marketing effort," says Jester. Yet, he says, "TLM is uniquely suited to branding, positioning and lead generation for IT services because it is about demonstrating the value of the otherwise intangible service.  It’s an area in which the industry can still get a whole lot better and more effective."

Gartner’s report "Marketing Essentials: How to Use Thought Leadership Marketing for IT Services Providers" is available at the Gartner Web site.

For more on consulting services best practices, read William McKnight’s column in this month’s Information Management, “90 Days to Success in Consulting.”