When people consider who to do business with, they often give the first opportunity to the company that’s top of mind. One way to be top of mind is to become a thought leader. A thought leader is someone well-known within an industry for expertise in a certain area. A thought leader is recognized among peers for innovative ideas; confidently promotes those ideas; and earns recognition for high business acumen.
Thought leaders are seen as trusted resources. Prospects gravitate toward thought leaders. Statements made by thought leaders have added weight and credibility. Here are seven steps that can turn you into a thought leader.
1. Pick your niche
Not even Tom Peters and Steve Jobs are thought leaders across all business topics. The narrower your thought leadership area, the easier it will be to rise to prominence.
It may be near impossible to become the thought leader for your entire industry, but you can be the thought leader for a small highly targeted niche—a specific product, customer need or application. For example, don’t try to be the thought leader on politics. Become the thought leader on 21st century town politics in New England.
2. Research and update
Even if you think you know 99% of what there is to know about your area of expertise, do research. Do lots of research. And create a system that will keep you up-to-date. As a thought leader, you must always be investing in acquiring new knowledge. Perhaps you devote 60 minutes a day to reading about your subject area. Have the mindset that you want to know everything possible about your subject. Rely on many sources to keep yourself current.
Here’s the meat of the process. You must share what you know and do so in the right way. Put the readers’ interests first, not your own. Give away some of your best information (you’ll stand out and draw people to you). Be different. If you write about what others do, you’ll come across not as an expert but as an equal.
Begin by writing a list of article ideas. Check your list to make sure each idea will help promote your business and your thought leadership. Rank you ideas and write about the most powerful, most innovative one first.
Find editors (online and off line) who run articles about topics like those on your list. Get published. Remember to submit your work to leading websites, ezines and blogs. Check the editorial guidelines before you submit so you make certain your article meets the publication requirements.
Congratulations, you’ve joined Shakespeare and Stephen King as a published author. Let everyone know about your article. Post it on the company website. E-mail a link to your business contact list. Hand out copies to employees, customers, colleagues, prospects and vendors.
Get the articles you publish in front of convention planners and others who select business event speakers. Tell them you’re available. Wherever you speak, make copies of your articles available. And mention that you’re open for other speaking engagements.
7. Repeat and Repeat
Neither one article nor one speech makes a thought leader. Keep writing. Keep speaking. Keep learning.
Exposure brings exposure. Promotion snowballs into more promotion. Speaking leads to more speaking. Get on a roll.
Craig Badings says
Chris, very sound advice. One of the key things to stress to aspiring thought leaders in your last point which can be boiled down to perserverance. Someone once said “It took 15 years to achieve overnight fame.”
From a company perspective a good thought leadership program’s aim is to engage with the target audience with something authentic and that matters to them – this ultimately builds trust in n the brand. From trust comes a sense of loyalty to the brand which makes the sales process that much easier.
There are some great examples out there of companies doing this well and it has helped position them well ahead of their competitors who are still stuck in the old-style product sales cycle.