Step 4: Portfolio Balancing
The process of topic collection, assessment and idea development provides a portfolio of ideas or points of view that can be brought to market in a variety of publications—some sooner, some later. Once topics are collected and assessed and further idea development is identified, the last step is to ensure that the portfolio is balanced. Ultimately, the balanced idea portfolio has sufficient ideas in various stages of development to create an engine to meet the demand-generation needs of various practices and the firm overall. As we mentioned earlier, it is critical at the outset of a year’s publication schedule for marketers to collect many more ideas than they have budget and editorial space to support. That will enable marketers to have multiple alternatives if some don’t come through (and many, perhaps even most, will not).
It is also critical for marketers not to put most of their eggs in the short-term basket (which can meet immediate market needs but fail to position the firm on critical emerging issues that offer significant potential growth) or solely in the medium- and long-term baskets (which can establish the firm’s competency in an up-and-coming market but compromise the pursuit of current opportunities). Short-term ideas must be marketed to keep the inquiry pipeline full while the bigger bets have time to develop.
Finally, it’s crucial for the idea portfolio to be tightly aligned with the firm’s targeted growth areas. In other words, don’t plan to develop ideas on topics that are of little strategic concern to the firm, and do ensure that the appropriate well-developed ideas are available when needed to capture business opportunities across a three- to 24-month horizon.
How does a venture capital firm decide which companies to invest in and which ones to pass by? Is it based on who asks for funding first? Is it based on who needs the biggest investment? Is it based on how loudly or how frequently they ask for investment? Is it only based on who comes to the firm to ask? Clearly this is not the case. And just as clearly, these should not be the basis on which professional service firms decide which topics merit attention in their publications.
It’s time for marketers to rethink their role in intellectual capital development: to assess and guide the development of strong ideas into well-developed points of view effectively marketed for results. Managing idea development through a portfolio approach helps ensure that marketing is continually helping to generate compelling content, the key ingredient to successful professional services marketing.
Marketing professionals can and must play a vital role in making sure the ideas they publish, in fact, show their firms possess superior expertise. Those who can do that will invariably contribute to the growth of the overall enterprise, as well as boost the impact and standing of marketing in their firms.