When we build marketing strategies for our clients, one approach we often recommend is building thought leadership.
In other words, we tell many of our clients that the pathway to business growth and success is to position you and your company as an industry expert.
And, because we work with many B2B and service-based businesses, showcasing expertise is especially important.
Think about it — whether you are hiring a plumber, accounting firm or technology provider — you want to know that you’re in good hands and that you’re working with the best.
Thought leaders are known for their work. They are the go-to source for reporters and have a line out the door for their services.
Not to mention, those who are considered to be the top in their field can charge more for their services. That’s something you want, right?
How to Position Yourself as a Thought Leader
Now that you’re on board with the idea of building thought leadership, how do you do it?
It’s easier said than done. And, it takes some time.
But, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work, it can be hugely beneficial for your company.
1. Nail down a specific area of expertise.
The more focused you are on a particular area of work, the greater likelihood you’ll have of developing a name for yourself in that area.
For instance, you could become the go-to accounting firm for healthcare technology start-ups. Or, you could be a landscape architect who focuses on historic homes.
You get the idea.
Determine a specific area that you want to become known for and begin building and communicating your expertise around that.
2. Create a strong message.
Once you know where you want to plant your flag, what is your message going to be? In other words, what do you stand for as a company?
Thought leadership often occurs when someone is willing to stand up and say something that no one else will.
For instance, that often means you need to be willing to:
- Offer opinions and commentary on your industry;
- Share industry data and research;
- Understand trends — or even better, set the trends; and
- Offer original ideas and solutions to problems.
Building strong and consistent messaging around your specific area of expertise will make it easier for people to recognize and remember you.
3. Become a publisher.
In today’s digital landscape, you have the incredible ability to share your thoughts and ideas online — with relatively little cost.
You don’t need to become a media outlet or write a book (though that certainly doesn’t hurt) to become a publisher. You can start with a blog and use that as your way to communicate your message, share your unique ideas and begin to build your audience.
Or, if you don’t want to blog, you can start a podcast or a YouTube channel to share your ideas. Just make sure you have a web presence that you own to share this content.
And don’t forget to publish content regularly — at least weekly. Consistency shows commitment. People will take you more seriously that way and it will also make it easier to build an audience.
4. Build your audience.
Now that you are creating content on a regular basis, you should focus on building your audience. You can do this a number of ways, but social media and email marketing are two great options for this.
Start by focusing on growing your email list using the content you are creating. You can even repurpose your blog content into an eBook or white paper to serve as a great freebie offer to encourage sign-ups.
You can also grow your audience through your social media efforts. Find out where your audience hangs out online. Then, begin sharing your content and engaging with your audience there.
Focus on being helpful — both with email and social media — and you’ll start to see people follow behind you.
5. Get on the speaking circuit.
People naturally equate speakers with experts. And rightfully so.
When you get in front of an audience to speak to people, you’d better know what you’re talking about.
Speaking not only gives you instant credibility, it helps extend your reach and gets you in front of a new audience of people. And, the more you speak, the more opportunities you will get for more (and better) speaking engagements.
6. Focus on media relations.
Once you’ve followed the first five steps, this part should start to come naturally and easily. If you’re doing everything right, reporters will start coming your way on their own — either through their research or because they will start hearing about you.
But, if that’s not happening, a focused media relations effort will help tremendously.
How do you do that?
- Start by finding reporters and publications in your niche.
- Then, connect with reporters online through social media channels.
- Share their content online and comment on their articles.
Once you’ve done that, you will be on the reporter’s radar and he or she will be much more likely to respond to a pitch from you.
And, by this point, you should already have a ton of social proof — your blog, your social media presence and your speaking engagements — to show that you are, in fact, an expert on this given topic.
Ready to become a thought leader?
As you can see, this process takes considerable work and risk. But, the pay out can be hugely beneficial.
What do you need to do to start building your thought leadership?