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Instant Payments and Value Added Services

Recently I have read lots of articles about instant payments and how Banks can make money from them - the answer is Value Added Services.  So what are these value added services?  

Creating Practical Differentiated Digital Banking

Financial Institutions around the world are spending big on “Digital”, but what return on investment are they really getting?  What real innovation are they offering?  To me, all the mainstream offerings look very similar and yet deliver little in terms of value add.  Many banks have a mobile APP with payments, statements and some simple alerts, but generally these APPs do less than their web sites, whilst still requiring additional log in credentials.  To compound the problem, the digital revolution is not only lowering the cost of entry, but actually enabling the new entrants to leap frog the legacy players at the same time. 

Perhaps I have a different view of what is thought of as “digital” to the established banks.   I look at it as the combination of Social & Mobile (new world channels) and Big Data, Analytics & Cloud (new world back office components) - so it is no surprise that budgets are increasing.  But, let’s look at some concepts that might actually deliver real innovation for the customer – yes, the customer. “Digital” strategy must be driven by customers needs not just by the business.  It must be innovative and not restricted by underlying legacy core systems.  

I am a fan of high quality mobile APPS.  However, I am still of the opinion that phone screens have been too small for the more complex applications.  Phones are fantastic for email, simple Internet searching and many other simple functions such as doing a quick payment or transfer, but they have not been suitable for more complex financial planning.  But, as screens continue to grow and more consumers move to “Phablets” this is changing, and changing fast, confirming that mobile is definitely the future.  So let’s have a look at what next generation APPS might look like as the screens continue to grow. 

Obviously next generation APPs must include all the current Bank APP functionality such as making payments to contacts, viewing transactions etc., but if they were extended to include a proper off line money management and modelling facility like those provided by the Mint or iBank APPS, many new options for innovation would emerge.  Fundamental therefore is that they need to work offline, but with a “secure sync” for data updates, like current email APPs. 

This next generation APP would automatically connect to the bank server securely when a network connection was available and download new transactions, or perhaps at a frequency set by the customer – hourly, daily, or weekly, enabling the information to be much more real time than with digital/paper monthly statements.  When a customer has new data available, they could get a notification on their device; in much the same way as content is delivered through the excellent McKinseys APP or indeed Facebook notifications. 

Notifications could then be used in many ways, but would provide a useful method of reminding users that data was available and hopefully start to get customers into a routine of checking their data regularly.  As the data would then be downloaded into the APP it would enable the user to review it anywhere/anytime, (on a plane or train for example).  This would then enable modelling and other functions to be completed locally but with the huge advantage that adding functionality to and rolling out new versions of the APP would not require any changes at the host banking system. This approach would surely assist financial institutions struggling with delivering a digital strategy with a lot of underlying legacy core systems.  

The possibilities for the bank to then to add value through this APP are endless.  For example, automated analysis of transactions highlighting any items, which appear unusual, (e.g. direct debits which are outside of x% of the last 6 month average) so that instead of just getting a list of transactions, the APP could perhaps present certain types of transactions highlighted in different colours. 

Being able to review and model the data offline may also increase the ease and acceptability of managing data on screen, which as highlighted by research published by London Economics (http://bit.ly/1DfpcXe) in February 2015, seems still to be a major challenge for many customers. 

Through the use of social tools and analytics/big data the bank could also use the APP to push personal relevant marketing content to individual customers, such as advice, saving ideas, best buys, tax changes etc.  Perhaps alerting customers who had not changed their power providers for x years with a link to comparison tables. Again the content would be available to the customer to read and digest off line when they have time, for example, during their daily commute.  

Above all, the APP also needs to make checking your bank account convenient, simple and worthwhile.  So if a customer wants to create a new payee or payment why not enable the use a strong biometric confirmation rather than a traditional password or card reader which you can either never remember or don’t have to hand when you need it.  Using strong biometrics to secure access to the APP and getting the APP to communicate directly with the host could also improve the end-to-end Cyber Security protection for both the customer and the bank.  

As new digital start-up banks being to emerge, I am sure that we will see more of this type of functionality become reality and the norm, but what will the mainstream banks launch?   Time will tell, but I am pretty sure that as each generation of new consumers select their first banking provider, they will be doing their research and selection based on the “digital” offerings available.

The Digital Bandwagon is truly rolling….

Over Christmas I tweeted that 2015 could be the year of the new digital bank. 

I really believe that the bandwagon has finally started rolling - it may not have arrived at its destination yet… BUT if you do want to catch it, you need to jump on quickly.  

Why is the industry so interested in this whole topic?  Well how often does massive disruption impact a market?  In the world of retail banking, we have had several mishaps and scandals over recent years, but never has a real alternative come along for consumers so, despite the ability to simply move your account from one bank to another, customer churn continues to be very slow.  Why?  Well there is really no point in moving from one legacy player to another legacy player - broadly what’s on offer appears to be pretty much all the same - particularly in the consumers’ eyes!

However, imagine the scenario - The launch of a completely new digital bank, with a totally different proposition for consumers with no negative history or baggage. Once the initial customers and early adopters settle on the new platform, then the heavy-duty marketing will kick in supported by an exponential social media frenzy of happy initial consumers (driven by their excitement at something new different and designed for the modern mobile consumer). In a matter of a few months we could see massive migrations of consumers from the legacy players to the new digital player.  

It will most probably be based on a new technology infrastructure, running on fully flexible, power-on-demand processors in the cloud.  Importantly the new bank will be unencumbered by legacy systems as there wouldn’t be any, the bank would be able to spend their IT budget on leading edge customer engagement and marketing.  New product development will be high on the agenda, and spending on compliance minimised through the use of standard packages. This bank will be focussed on being bankers to the modern consumer, rather than an old fashioned IT development shop trying to add multi channels onto a legacy core! 

I truly don’t know exactly what it will look like, or what all the differentiators will be; maybe logging in through Facebook, signing up through Facebook, paying higher interest rates on current accounts as their costs will be much lower than the traditional players, etc.  

What I do know is that the first arrival of a “new concept” digital bank could (and probably will) have a massive impact on each regional market.  I believe that all the markets right across Europe and probably right across the developed world are crying out for something radically different and exciting.  Once the bandwagon is rolling, social media will kick in and the momentum created may be unstoppable. 

We are now seeing the initial movers break cover.  mBank in Poland has launched on new technology having taken the very wise and brave approach to totally transform their technology, creating the right environment.  Consors Bank launched recently in Germany, and its sister bank in France - Hello Bank has already exceeded expectations.  There are plenty more in progress, such as Starling Bank in the UK announced here last year, which is a truly new initiative, unlike the BNP spin offs. 

I believe that 2015 will see more big digital announcements and perhaps the scenario above might come true.  Sadly for us marketeers, these types of opportunities don’t come a long very often, so when all the aspects align, it should prove to be very exciting!  Let those wagons roll!

A Murmuration of Bankers is gathering!

It was with great interest that I read the article last week about the plans to launch a new bank called Starling when Anne Boden, former AIB COO, announced her plans for the new digital bank.  Along with other new era start-ups like the high street bank Metro Bank, innovative digital players like Starling have a huge advantage over the traditional legacy brands.  I explore some thoughts below. 

Brands from launch to household names

Whilst start-ups have completely unknown brands at launch, if you get digital marketing right, the speed in which viral campaigns can communicate exciting new concepts and ideas means the product or service can very quickly become a household name.  There are so many examples of digital start-ups and APPS that have gone from zero to hero in a short space of time – LinkedIn, Twitter, WhatsApp, Hangouts etc.   New bank brands also have the huge advantage that they are not tarnished like the traditional high street Bank brands.

Infrastructure

New start-up banks can design their IT infrastructure on a blank sheet of paper. Basing the core on modern low cost package solutions with flexible account configurations, making use of low cost cloud services and an integrated omni-channel interface enables new players to create modern, agile and truly differentiated solutions. Existing Banks suffer from their legacy systems eating massive IT budgets just to keep them going and stifling any real innovation.

When to comply?

New start-ups like Starling can build their next generation platform without the need to continually meet the constant stream of new compliance requirements during the build stage.  Only once it is ready for launch does it need to deliver compliance and reporting.  Then if designed well, much of the compliance should be provided by the underlying package solutions.  Existing players claim to be spending up to 90% of their change budget on compliance.

No restrictions on "Target Market"

New digital banks can market their products & services to any segment of the market, anywhere.  Historically banks had to target individual segments of the market by location; such as possible future high net worth individuals by having the best local branch in University cities and towns or even by building a branch on the university campus.  Historically, consumers choosing their bank at University often remained with that bank for their entire life.  The digital branch perhaps sitting on the cloud can reach every town, city, consumer and business.

By creating targeted propositions, a digital bank can target any segment it chooses by creating the right product and then using the right mix of social and digital marketing.

History shows that the right solutions can work – whether digital or traditional.

A recent success story in the UK is Handelsbanken who have been quietly building their UK business.  It’s working well and has now expanded to about 180 branches across the UK.  This is very much a traditional branch banking business, but the success is based on a very focussed target market under pinned by the right propositions and processes, and a clear differentiation from the competition.

Another older success story is First Direct.  A start-up in 1989, still relatively new in banking terms, at the time it was very different, having no branches but offering a friendly telephone based service available 24/7.  It worked and it proved hugely successful, turning a profit in just its 5th year.  But what a different world it was then!  First Direct didn’t have any viral digital marketing and there was no easy account switching solution to enable the speedy on-boarding of new clients; just good TV advertising and physical adverts, imagine how different their expansion could have been with social media! 

These very different examples show that if you bring a new and exciting banking solution to market, and get it right, the business will follow. 

The timing is right

I believe that the timing is right for something new.  Now we just have to wait and see what gets launched and just how different it is.  I really like the concept of Starling. With the backing of WPP, the proposition and market offerings are likely to be both radically different and truly exciting (in banking terms!).  I believe that consumers really are ready for a change - up to now there hasn’t been anything worth changing to! 

Footnote: What also amazes me still is why none of the traditional banks have followed this strategy.  Why not create a new brand with a completely new IT infrastructure and actually build a bank fit for the 21st century?  The big four have been selling off parts of their business, cutting jobs and streamlining their business.  Isn’t it time for some new, growth, perhaps even some innovative thinking? 

 

Real Time Payments (RTP) impact on GDP

As the global news feeds announce whacky, new, mobile-inspired payment concepts faster than the regulators can dream up new regulations for the banking market, it is fantastic to see the news this week from the The Clearing House in the US.

At last we have real signs that the US Payment Authorities are serious about updating their legacy payment infrastructures, with the announcement from The Clearing House about the plans to build a new real time payment clearing system.  Without these new infrastructures in place, delivering any reliable, real-time payments schemes is nearly impossible.  However, once the new payment rails are in place for a country, then new payment schemes can be delivered and innovation accelerated - as shown in the UK with PayM.

Much has been written about the benefits of real-time infrastructures when implemented properly. In the UK the Faster Payment Service is still growing at about 16.5% per annum.  From a standing start it overtook cheques after 3½ years and is on track to exceed a billion payments this year (270 million in Q2 alone) - no real surprise when you start to look at the benefits which are well understood;  

  • 24/7 service
  • Bank processing charges (versus other immediate methods)
  • Convenience and speed for the banks’ customers 
  • Improved Security
  • Reconciliation
  • Paper handling costs
  • Visibility of cash positions
  • Speed of settlement, etc.

Perhaps the bigger question we now need to ask now is; Can RTP provide a positive impact on GDP?  

Looking at Europe, Sweden, Poland & the UK all have RTP infrastructures.  Much of the EU is either on the edge of or actually back in recession, however UK GDP is growing at 2.9%,  Poland is growing at 1.3% (despite the geopolitical issues on their doorstep) and Sweden is powering on at 2.1% this year - compared to the overall EU figure of only 0.8%.  Internationally a number of other developed countries with real-time payments are also performing well, such as Singapore. 

I believe that Faster Payments really do help businesses large and small not just the well documented case for consumers.  Small businesses have to be “lean” and that means very limited or in many cases no admin staff.  RTP enables customers to pay such things as deposits for projects, or goods and services at the point of delivery, in real time, enabling immediate transfer of funds, simple transaction reconciliation and elimination of dead time.  Businesses can now make RTPs in the UK of up £100k, improving visibility and control of cash.

Whilst so much of the modern world is strangled by red tape and restrictions, RTP is a fantastic example of how technology really makes “doing business” easier, quicker and more profitable for everyone.  Removing the down time for small businesses processing cheques, enabling customers to have immediate benefit at the time of payment really does promote business growth.

Many of the institutions involved in making this happen globally are worried about the cost of delivering new infrastructure for their country or region.  Well the good news here is that the UK total cost was estimated to be about £800m.  This equates to about 0.06% of GDP, or just over £2 per capita per annum.  It doesn’t take much time saving to recoup £2 per year!  Given that the technology to deliver these projects has now been developed, implemented and proven, costs to implement new projects in the US and elsewhere should be much lower, and timescales much quicker - please just don’t try to reinvent the wheel!

One quick word of caution.  An earlier initiative by NACHA to create an RTP project two years ago was scuppered by the Clearing House in the US.  Let’s hope that politics won’t play a part in this project.  It is essential that everyone involved keeps focussed on the end goal and the potential benefits, not just for the consumer and business but perhaps even more importantly, its positive impact on GDP.

Size does matter!

Interesting isn't it that two of the worlds' largest regions, the US and the Euro Zone, both end up trailing the leaders in payment technology by years.  In the US the roll out of EMV has finally kicked off nearly 15 years after the rest of the world started benefiting from EMV and chip technology.  Whilst this year in Europe SEPA has finally gone live after 14 years, whilst many other countries have already moved on to real-time payments. Over the last fifteen years, what has been the cost of these delays on business and GDP?

EMV is now a really well tested and proven solution, hopefully making the US roll out relatively simple.   The huge number and different types of terminals now available should make it easy for merchants to select and upgrade to suitable technology relatively inexpensively - certainly when compared to when EMV was rolled out across Europe when certified terminals were quite limited and expensive. In addition the core transaction and authorisation switches all needed significant development to handle the new messages, whilst at most Banks in the US (unless they running their own bespoke switch) should already be running EMV compliant software.

There is so much noise in the market now about smart phones and mobile solutions, is the rest of the world about to move on again from plastic cards?  Perhaps to a mobile solution?  If so, will this now mean the end of the chip card?  It is possible that EMV could remain, with new instruments continuing to use the current chip standards.  However, it is likely that the terminals will need to be upgraded or even changed, something merchants should consider when choosing new terminals. 

Over the last fifteen years, since EMV was rolled out across Europe, fraudsters have had to move on dramatically from simple card skimming to much more complex scams and away from traditional card fraud to complex on-line and card holder not present transactions and exploiting other weak links in the transaction chain, such as merchant systems.   

Whilst much more secure transaction processing exists today and could be rolled out across on-line and card holder not present purchases, the consumer demands “ease of use” and minimal key strokes when shopping, particularly when using mobile devices.  Now that mobile manufacturers are making mobile screens bigger and easier to read in different light, however, they are still just not designed for complex transaction processing, so ease of use has to remain key.     

I think that the next phase in the development of consumer transaction processing will almost certainly use some form of biometric.  Currently a password, token or pin is used together with a card to give two elements of unique data which when combined link the consumer with the transaction.  With the mobile device now being so sophisticated, the answer has to be using a biometric to replace the pin and the mobile to replace the card.  Maybe using a finger print or perhaps using the camera for facial recognition, making good use of the selfie function!    


 

Is RBS finally on the right track?

As a long time customer of RBS, I think the announcement last week by RBS to spend £1 billion on rebuilding their retail banking business is really great news and gives the bank a massive opportunity to reposition itself as the number one consumer bank in the UK. What the bank must do though is use this opportunity and the (not insignificant) budget very carefully.  To be successful it must be delivered through close collaboration between the business and IT.

While other banks are still spending most of their change budget on compliance this is a big gamble by the RBS board but one that can truly work if they plan and execute the programme effectively.

RBS must address the legacy issue if they are to be able to connect to their customers and provide a properly enhanced customer experience. Introducing new apps like tablet banking sounds great in a press release - but if the backend systems continue to have outages and rely on inflexible data structures then the bank will never be able to properly utilise any new front end - which would be a real wasted opportunity.

They must also tackle the big data issue.  In order to properly understand their customers they must get in control of the data, and then use it carefully.  Big data should enable the bank to understand their customers better and develop new more appropriate products and services to fit. Having the best front end in the market without the right products and services behind it will not fix their problem. This transformation cannot be done with a new front end alone - it will need to rely heavily on new core functionality and integrated back end applications. New core systems with flexible data structures and modern reporting facilities will have the massive added benefit of facilitating much lower compliance cost. 

By introducing new core systems RBS will also be able to develop and launch new products into the market quickly and hopefully enable their customers to select and build bespoke enhanced banking services based on their individual requirements. 

Whilst I really understand the need for quick wins and short term deliverables, without tackling the legacy issue and investing in new core systems the bank will never be able to deliver the value from this programme.  And without getting their compliance spending under control they also run the risk of this being another great announcement which ends up failing and eventually having its funding quietly withdrawn when the next crisis emerges. 

Executed well this could enable RBS to become the number one consumer bank in the UK and provide a great return for the tax payer.

Legacy Transformation

Making the move from a vicious circle into a virtuous circle….

For some time I have been pondering about the position in which most of the major banks around the world have found themselves - and it is not a happy place. Perhaps best summed up with one word “Legacy”.

One area of Legacy much discussed recently is around the core systems conundrum, Deloittes  excellent white paper (http://bit.ly/1qeqc8X) this week is a great example providing a lot of useful information on the topic.  My question is - how on earth can banks refresh all their core systems while they are spending such a high percentage of their change budget on regulatory requirements?  With the huge recent fines being handed out to any bank that steps outside the regulator’s guidelines, ignoring the regulator is just not an option and regulatory change must remain a key priority.

Anti-money laundering is a prime example where the risk is so great - with recent fines running at levels greater than some countries' GDP!

However, it is not just the Banks core systems which are legacy, but as brilliantly described by Andrew Tarver, CEO and Founder at Bold Rocket, at the EBA Day conference (http://bit.ly/1qeHB1j), their whole approach to the market, products and customers is now well off target.  Unless they radically change, and to do this means resolving the legacy IT issue, their market will be attacked by new entrants. There are numerous examples of this already happening, with new players taking the high value parts of certain transaction types - for example, Paypal on e-commerce payments.  Paypal now “owns the data” on a huge percentage of e-commerce transactions, all the banks see is the amount.  They’ve lost all the transaction detail, and therefore have no information on where or on what their customers are spending money.   Simply put - “no customer data means no customer knowledge".

Banks used to be the consumer’s most trusted brand - but following the banking crisis in 2008 and the continual drip feed of new scandals since have continued to erode their brand value, compounding the go to market problem. Alongside this, many major Banks have experienced serious outages - which truly disrupt and upset the consumer further. The problem for the consumer up to now is that there is little true differentiation between the players, and therefore nowhere to run. 

 So an unhappy place

·       the big banks have brand value at all-time low levels;

·       investment in innovation is almost impossible due to legacy system & regulatory changes eating up their IT budgets;

·       innovation is essential to reposition in the digital world;

·       the banks truly are stuck in a vicious circle with no easy route out.

So some radical thinking is required.  One idea I have is for the banks to set up a completely new bank brand, not just an internet bank but a full service bank with a shiny new brand.  Set up costs would not have to be as high as you imagine.  Deloittes' paper suggests that some of the core banking software providers could provide new core systems for about £10M with running costs of circa £5M per annum a fraction of what it costs to legacy today.  There is clearly space for some of the major IT services and outsourcing organisations to set up a bank in a box service, utilising standard software packages operating on secure cloud technology, automatically enabling scalability and resilience.  Flexible commercial models could be agreed with the service providers enabling the banks to buy the service on a click basis, meaning costs would rise in line with the business expansion.  In the UK with the new account switching service in place, simple on boarding of new customers and the easy migration of any existing customers on their legacy brand could be provided.

One example of this strategy starting to be deployed is through the challenger bank, Sainsburys, who will now have their data processed by FIS, rather than continuing to use a legacy bank service through a white label service. This approach is interesting as it moves some of the regulatory change costs onto the service provider. By using standard software packages FIS can dramatically reduce their spend on regulations and by sharing it across multiple clients they can concentrate their spending on the things that matter.  This is part of the story.

One bank has already set up a true spin off.  In October 1989, Midland Bank set up a new brand - First Direct, originally as a telephone bank.  With no social media or on-line marketing they built up 100,000 customers in 18 months (an average of over 180 new accounts per day assuming 7 days a week).  All these accounts were either new or migrated from other banks, and this was before the days of the new UK Account switching programme, something First Direct could only have dreamed of!

The benefits of this approach are immense - and the costs could equate to a small % of today’s IT budget, but just spent in a much more innovative way.  Once the new brand is up and running there are several strategies that could be deployed for the legacy brand whilst the new brand significantly enhances shareholder value and return on equity. 

While I have heavily referenced retail banking above - the approach is even more compelling for transaction banking - where the legacy problem is exacerbated in that almost all bank products also sit in silos so that any regulatory change or modernisation has to be multiplied across several systems.  This makes any true integration of products and the delivery of a modern customer experience across a single channel difficult and expensive or in most cases probably impossible.

As vendors have launched integrated platforms, maybe the time really is ripe to take a radical approach. The big IT service providers, software providers and outsourcing firms could jump into this space and help banks make this move from a vicious circle into a virtuous circle, where the movers will be the winners.  

 

EBA Day Helsinki – What will the bank of the future look like?


Having recently returned from sunny Helsinki (with a few light showers!) I thought I would share a quick blog on the 2014 EBA Day conference. 

 it was bigger and better attended than ever before with numbers up about 20% on last year’s previous record number of attendees. Interestingly this year also saw a big push by the organisers and their Nordic bank partners to invite a wider bank audience and more corporates.  I did see and meet a number of cash management leaders who were there for the first time. 

The conference kicked off with a great keynote session on the People’s Revolution by Andrew Tarver from Bold Rocket (@boldrocket).  The presentation looked at how to utilise the power of ordinary people to provide exponential thinking to deliver real change to the way banks are designed and will operate in the future.  Not sure how pleased the regulator will be with some of the ideas – but the pitch did provide some highlights.  Firstly, the concept of wearing bright red trousers for a presentation to Bankers worked well!  Secondly – it moved discussions from almost exclusively talking about Bank to Corporate issues to discussing Bank to Customer issues.  The Customer will be king in the future – and Andrew predicted that the real winners will be the organisations who best provide personalised products and services for each individual customer based on interpretation of his or her requirements based specifically on their digital profiles. 

It did raise some serious issues – how and what will a bank look like tomorrow?  With challenger banks and shadow banking on the rise, how should banks deal with their huge legacy architectures, which we all know are impossibly slow to change, expensive to maintain and consume the majority of their change budget?  This question of legacy systems, I believe, is the real issue for banks today - how can they replace the core legacy applications without jeopardising their on-going 24/7 service. 

One bank told us that they are simplifying their product range by removing a high number of specialised products. Maybe this is a necessary first step to reducing on-going legacy change thus freeing up bandwidth to enable investment in platform renewal.  Bold Rocket’s suggestion that the winners would be able to provide bespoke products uniquely to each customer is something that could only be achieved by a completely new approach to IT and a total refresh of core infrastructure. 

In the exhibition area there were some interesting new software ideas on show for the first time – check them out on the EBA Day Website.   

In short, EBA Day has become the biggest and most valuable European payments and cash event in the calendar.  What is really refreshing is that despite growing every year, I still find that delegates are really keen to network and seem open to discussing their issues and challenges.  Great event – see you next year in Amsterdam.

The Power of Thought Leadership

Over the years, I cant count the times I have heard people say - “We must be seen more as thought leaders”.  And the marketing plans I have read where the key objective is to - ‘Develop more thought leadership’.  But what do we mean by thought leadership, what is the importance of it and how is it best deployed and exploited?  What are the other benefits of quality thought leadership?

Thought leadership is the content created and published by a thought leader.  According to Wiki, a thought leader is "an individual or a company that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise and view is sought". The term was coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor in chief of Booz & Cos (now part of PwC) magazine and was used to designate interviewees who had business ideas which merited attention.  

To me, it needs to be thought provoking with a point of view and some new thinking - not just the same old story rolled out again!  Generally thought leadership points to solving business problems; for example reducing cost, increasing margins, providing a better level of service  something that drives real return on investment and better business outcomes.

Before the rise of the Internet, thought leadership used to be published as white papers or shorter thought pieces, often being written and published as advertorial content in the key trade magazines and journals.

However, since the explosion of on-line content, there is growing need for quality content by on-line journals, and industry websites.  Therefore, it is more important than ever to ensure that whatever you write is insightful, well written and up to date.  Then the opportunities for publication are almost endless, across both the virtual and physical world.  Once a paper or article has been published, well-run businesses will use PR and social media to promote their content online, driving up relevant target readership and as a result building communities of readers with similar interests and business needs.  These target readers a captivated audience.

The result of this process, when done well, is simple - it generates huge interest, and where a solution is provided to a business problem, it generates a pipeline of new clients and helps generate additional follow-on business.  In addition there is a high additional benefit for the author.  Their profile is raised and their value in the market increases.

What makes good content?  For me, it needs to be well written, short, simple and clear.  Diagrams and pictures add value and help to cement the content and outcomes in the readers mind.  When creating thought leadership, the content must be fresh, the key points clearly presented and above all it must demonstrate the value the solution brings to the target business or issue.  

Once created quality thought leadership can be used to generate a number of marketing assets.  I will cover this topic in a future blog.  What is absolutely key - is to make the most of your quality thought leadership and use it to help spread your messages across your target audience.  Use integrated PR to help drive readers and interested parties to your thought leadership across all the different multiple channels and multiple media types.

So the benefits are clear - thought leadership generates interest in your ideas and solutions, it can create a pipeline of new opportunities, capture on-line target audiences and remember it also promotes the profile of the author.  This explains why so many want to create it, and why it is so difficult to write!

© Tim Brew 2019