Building “thought leadership” has become one of the most critical activities in inbound marketing. To get your customers to come looking for your products and services, you’ll need to create a brand for yourself that reflects your expertise in your industry. It’s not always easy for an entrepreneur to generate other opportunities to showcase yourself, but if you build thought leadership with content marketing, you can boost your profile in a cost-effective way.
The Concept of Thought Leadership
Who does your industry regularly turn to when a comment is needed for the press, when the local TV station wants an interview, or when it’s necessary to take a stand on pressing issues? A thought leader, that’s who. So what is a thought leader, exactly, and how do you develop the kind of reputation you want on the subject matter of your choice? Here’s how:
A thought leader is defined as “someone with a reputation for having the answers to the common questions asked by his (or her) target market.” According to Forbes magazine, it’s okay to profit from knowing the answers, which gels nicely with the operation of most businesses. When someone like Seth Godin speaks, for example, the digital world listens carefully, because he’s viewed as a thought leader in the web marketing industry. Even people who aren’t part of the industry have heard his name and are aware of his importance.
Benefits of Being a Thought Leader
Recognition as a thought leader offers a range of benefits for your company, such as:
- You get to enjoy a public reputation as an authority on your topic of choice.
- Being well-known in your industry gives you access to a range of opportunities, such as being in demand to give interviews and make comments for the media.
- By having the right knowledge and being able to share it with others, you’ll get invited to events where you’re able to meet and network with others in your line of work, which can bring your business tremendous opportunities.
- When customers believe that you know what you’re talking about, they learn to trust your opinion. This motivates them to buy your products or services.
- The better you are known the more business you’re able to attract, which benefits your company’s turnover.
So, how do you establish your level of thought leadership using the technology available these days?
#1: Build an Online Presence
The first thing prospective clients do when they meet you or hear your name is Google you. If you don’t have a strong online presence, they’re likely to move on to your competitor. Start by creating a website that makes use of best practices for search engine optimization (SEO), which enables you to build the image and the personal brand that you want to project. Add a blog or an article hub to your site, where you can add fresh content regularly to boost your profile. Then set up a separate personal blog where you can speak directly to readers, and create an individual brand that focuses on your business.
#2: Publish Regularly
The reason content marketing works so well is because it helps to get the website indexed in search. If your site comes up when potential clients search for your product or services, people are more likely to become familiar with and remember your name. Each time you update your site or blog Google takes another look at it, and showcases you one more time for users searching on relevant keywords, so it’s vital that you follow a regular publishing schedule.
#3: Get Your Name Out There
Publishing your content under the name “Admin” or even your company’s brand doesn’t establish you as an authority. All it does is give you a persona to hide behind! What happens if you leave and go to a different company, or you rename your business? To really develop a strong thought leader profile, you need to publish under your own name. This might be obvious on a personal blog, but companies often don’t want to risk having individuals comment on their behalf.
As an entrepreneur, this isn’t a practice you want to emulate. So regardless how much you’d prefer to write in the name of your company, “Southern Accounting Services” is less likely to be invited to participate in radio interviews than Peter Smith of Southern is. Get to grips with the idea that you need to put your own name out there to gain credibility.
#4: Develop a Body of Work
It’s not enough to just publish blog posts in your name, either. To be recognized as a thought leader, you need to develop a range of content that you’ve authored, including:
- Video clips or podcasts of yourself discussing issues of importance or being interviewed for comment.
- Infographics that highlight statistics relevant to your subject matter and carry your brand’s logo
- eBooks covering your topic of expertise
- Guest posts on other sites where you’re recognized as an authority. Here’s a list of 700+ quality guest posting sites you can include in your strategy.
This body of work will turn up under your name whenever a user searches for you, highlighting your level of involvement in all facets of your industry.
#5: Perform Public Service Engagements
There’s no better way to get your content out there than to give it away for free, but you can make that a viable business practice, too. Volunteer to speak at local schools and colleges about your industry. Present workshops and seminars at your Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Centre, and make sure you publicize the fact that you’re doing so. Take part in online discussion platforms, such as LinkedIn groups and industry forums. Give advice and respond to questions in a non-marketing fashion, to promote your image as a leader in your field.
#6: Buy Cheap Ad Space
Buy a few advertising spots on your local radio station in exchange for an occasional slot talking about your industry. Even if the station has ten regular listeners, you can ask for a recording of the piece and post it as a podcast on your website and social media to boost your reputation and your content.
#7: Become a Source
Sign up for HelpAReporter.com, which is a website used by journalists working on particular topics when they need sources for comment. You can select your areas of expertise and queries will be sent to you via email for comment and input. It’s great free publicity for both your business and your personal brands.
Developing thought leadership is critical for your business to flourish in the online environment, but it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. Content marketing gives you a cost-effective way of building up your profile and gaining the credibility you need to be considered an authority on your subject of choice.
*This post was originally published on Feb 10, 2014 on InBiz.me, which has now been deactivated.