If you are an entrepreneur, you know how important it is to stay on top of the competition. Great customer service, a smart marketing strategy and high quality products and services will all add to your success. However, establishing yourself as a thought leader will make you stand out in your field and put you in a position that is pretty much untouchable.
This article will explore why thought leadership is so important and what you can do to achieve it.
What is Thought Leadership?
The term ‘thought leadership’ has been coming up in business conversations more often in recent times, but it actually originated in the late 19th century when American Congregationalist and clergyman Henry Ward Beecher coined the term. Since then, there have been various connotations. Today the Oxford dictionary defines it as “intellectual influence and innovative or pioneering thinking.”
Wikipedia defines it as “an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.”
Editor in chief of Strategy & Business magazine, Joel Kurtzman says, “A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate. They have distinctly innovative ideas, unique points of view and new insights.”
In other words, a thought leader comes up with out of the box ideas that establishes him as a leader and go-to in his industry. Once he has achieved this status, it will be difficult to dethrone him in terms of his status in his business field and among his competitors.
What Does Thought Leadership Require?
Now that we know what thought leadership is, the question is, how do we achieve it?
Thought leadership can be achieved through clever marketing strategies, however, before even going there, you want to create a persona behind the strategy. A thought leader must be knowledgeable in his field and have the confidence to introduce new ideas and the dedication to make them work. If he doesn’t have these traits, consumers will immediately be able to smell a fake.
Not every person is born with these character traits, but they can be developed. With that in mind, here are some things that are required of a thought leader.
- Expertise in Your Field: A thought leader must have expertise in his industry. It’s great if you have experience that dates back to your youth, but the more experience the better.
- Updated Knowledge in Your Field: In order to establish yourself as a thought leader, it is imperative to stay on top of the latest trends in your field. Not only should you know what’s going on, you should be able to suggest ways to implement these developments in a useful manner.
- A Point of View That Stands Out: Thought leaders are not politicians. They are dedicated to making their opinions known and they are not afraid to let other people know what’s on their mind. Their point of view should come through in all the material they make available including videos, content and public speeches.
- Credibility: If you don’t have the knowledge and experience to back your opinions and content, no one is going to take you seriously. In addition to having knowledge and experience, you must also provide reputable products and services and you must align yourself with trustworthy partners and associates.
- A Following: You can’t be a leader without having a following. When people check out what you’re all about, having a strong social media following will be helpful in establishing your reputation. Supportive associates will also go a long way.
How to Get Started
Now that you know what it takes to become a thought leader, you have to focus on how to develop these traits. Here are some steps you will need to take.
Build a Brand: Thought leadership is built on creating a strong brand. Here are some steps you can take that will help you achieve that goal.
- Define yourself and what you stand for in the industry
- Clean up content that doesn’t fit your brand: Everything you make available to the public should have a strong brand image including brand color, brand message and more.
- Build an online presence to promote your brand and expertise: Work on building a social media following and provide useful content on your social media platform. All content on your web site should be inline with your message as well.
- Follow a strategy: Your marketing strategy should work to promote yourself and your band. Stay in the public eye by continuing to post content that expresses your values and opinions.
Build Credibility and Work on a Following
A strong brand will be the backbone of your thought leadership campaign. Once that is established, go from there to build credibility and gain a following.
Here is how you can go about accomplishing both of these goals.
Write strategic content and post it in the right places: Part of your marketing plan must include writing content that your following will take notice of. Plan out your blogging and posting topics and post regularly on your web site and social media accounts. If you can get a third party such as an influencer or business associate to run your content, even better. It will show that someone outside of your company is taking notice of your efforts.
Use Data to Keep Track of What’s Working: In order for a marketing plan to be truly effective, analytic tools must be put in place. You can use these to track engagement and determine what’s working and what isn’t. Once you figure out what’s effective concentrate on that while cutting back on what isn’t moving your brand forward.
Utilize Tools to Keep You on Schedule: CEO’s have a lot on their hands and it’s easy to forget to post content on a regular basis. However, posting content is part of what will keep you visible as a leader in your industry. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools you can use that will help you post in a timely manner. You can also write content in advance and schedule it to post at another time.
Make the Right Connections: Start out building your audience with people you know. Once you have a decent following, start reaching out to gatekeepers and influencers. Maintain connections with them through social media to build your reputation.
Thought Leadership Marketing
Developing and implementing a strong marketing strategy will help establish and maintain your position as a thought leader. Here are some things you should including in your efforts.
Outreach: Outreach is the practice of seeking out individuals and organizations that have a shared interest in your industry. Aligning yourself with these parties will help you build your reputation.
Once you have made valuable connections, keep them up through networking efforts.
Ongoing Content Creation and Engagement: Providing valuable content is a great way to stay in the public eye. Content can be made available through social media posts, blogs and videos. Schedule content so it is released regularly and include information that will engage your audiences. Make sure your brand image and message come across in everything you publish.
Link Building: Link building is the process of getting other sites to link back to your web site. This will drive referral traffic and increase your brand’s authority. It will also boost your SEO.
The best way to get people to link to your content is to publish valuable informative blogs and posts and get them out in the public eye. You can also ask friends and partners to link to your content in their publications.
Public Appearances: With everything being so internet oriented, it can be easy to forget how valuable public appearances can be. Industry events and conferences provide great forums for speaking engagements. You can also actively seek out interview opportunities through podcasts and other sources.
Different Types of Thought Leadership
Thought leadership can take on different meanings in different circumstances. Here are some examples of how you can make it work for you.
- Industry or Niche: Create content that explains what it takes to be successful in your field.
- Your Product as a Solution: Show how the product or service you offer provides a solution for an ongoing problem to get to the next level in your industry.
- Promote You Company or Yourself: Promote your company’s unique cultures and values to establish yourself and your business as a thought leader.
Thought leadership is a great way to put your brand in that untouchable position that guarantees success. It involves establishing yourself as an expert and following up with engaging content that backs it up. What will you be doing to get your business to the next level?