What is thought leadership? CEO and content marketing expert, Michael Brenner, defines it as: “[When] you tap into the talent, experience, and passion inside your business, to consistently answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.”
Brenner believes that thought leaders don’t need an advanced degree, just a deep understanding, and knowledge of their industry.
When used effectively, thought leadership can benefit both the business owner and their company thanks to an increased awareness of the brand. This can lead to more sales or leads, more traffic, and greater recognition industry-wide.
If you’re ready to share your business know-how with the world, use the following tips to get started. Before you know it, you’ll be an established thought leader with a thriving business.
Establish Your Personal Brand (in Conjunction With Your Expertise)
While your personal brand can correspond to your company’s overall brand and purpose, it should take into account your individual point of view as well. As you develop this personal brand, think about going deep, instead of wide. Hone in on your area of expertise and the many facets of that topic that you can bring into the conversation.
For example, if you own a digital marketing agency, but feel passionate about animal rights, including that cause in your personal brand voice might come off as irrelevant. Unless you can somehow relate it to your overall message as a thought leader on digital marketing—which is unlikely. If your business also donates a portion of proceeds to animal rights organizations, however, that’s a clear part of your personal brand, but again. In this way, you may share thought leadership pieces on:
- The importance of social good for business
- The many ways businesses can contribute to animal rights
- How to build a culture around doing good
As you plan your brand in this way, remember this advice from Bernard May, CEO: “If you’re building a personal brand, you need to be able to dive deep into a topic and really understand the nuances of it. You can’t be an expert on everything. The second you try to walk in the wrong lane, you are more likely to get hit by the truck of diminishing public trust.”
Following with the same example, you may not be an expert on animal rights, but you are an expert on doing social good as a business. Following May’s suggestions, your topics of focus would then be about the latter, not the former.
Develop Your Network
To broaden your audience, start with your existing professional network. Research industry leaders and other successful thought leadership influencers, and then leverage your role as a business owner to connect via LinkedIn or connect over coffee.
You might even benefit by asking one of these thought leaders to mentor you. Matt Rogers, CEO of Insights Without Borders, tells Business News Daily: “Social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Twitter become the foundations for your thought leadership strategy and key channels for your social networking.”
Remember to attend networking events put on by local groups, business associations and chambers of commerce. These organizations are always looking for speakers, which is a valuable way to share your message and step into the role of thought leader.
Create and Share Value-Driven Content
Make a list of the wins you’ve had in the past five years. What projects have you knocked out of the park? What are your proudest accomplishments? Brainstorm how you can turn those experiences into shareable content that will provide helpful insights to other business-owners and entrepreneurs within your industry.
A great example is this piece: I’ve Written More Than 700 Guest Posts: Here’s What I Learned. This piece not only explains the expertise, but also shares tips for other writers looking to contribute to publications.
Remember that the quality of your content has a real effect on your business. Recent studies from Edelman have shown that 49 percent of B2B buyers said their opinion of a company had decreased after reading poor quality content, and a third had removed a company from consideration based on its thought leadership output. Use your thought leadership content to avoid this problem, and instead, impress potential customers and clients.
Write and Promote an e-Book
Once you’re comfortable with writing and have started to establish yourself as a thought leader, consider leveling up your content creation with an eBook. Becoming a published author will boost your credibility in your industry as well as increase your reach. You can even repurpose the content you’ve been writing to create an eBook. You can learn more about how to do that with this repurposing Skillshare course.
If this is your first eBook, choosing a topic may be the hardest part. In their guide, 8 Steps to Creating and Selling eBooks, Selz gives a tip for making this easier: “Gauge what your audience responds to, look at which of your blog posts and social media updates currently get the most comments or shares.” You can do this by heading to Google Analytics to find your most popular blog posts or connect with your social media team to find out which topics are most engaging for your social media. These audiences represent the group of people who will download or buy your eBook, making it a great place to start.
Once you complete your eBook, Selz suggests writing multiple guest posts on external sites to garner buzz and funnel interest to the site where your eBook is available. Don’t forget to promote with all the usual channels, including email marketing, social media marketing, and even paid ads. The more people see the book—even if they don’t buy or download it—the more you’re able to build that thought leadership brand.
Leverage Your Industry Expertise into Thought Leadership
Becoming a thought leader requires consistent effort and quality work. Once you establish yourself, don’t forget to provide insightful content to your engaged audience. Use this content to cement yourself as an expert in your field and help your business grow and thrive with you at the helm.
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a content marketing consultant and freelance writer. She’s been part of a growing startup for two years now, where she learned a lot about running business and being resourceful. She now owns her own business and has been featured on Forbes. She’s also written for StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor and more.