This post originally appeared on Foxtail Marketing's blog, The Fox Den.
Thought leadership is the new big thing on the Internet. As everyone gains a microphone and the ability to broadcast their thoughts and ideas, it becomes increasingly difficult to sort through the useless information and find true, actionable direction from someone who knows their industry. Because of this, people are beginning to flock to thought leaders. Like never before in our history, the Internet allows us to follow these luminaries and pick up tidbits of knowledge and inspiration along the way.
A byproduct of thought leadership is the ease of doing business. When people look to you for your expertise, they trust you. And when they trust you, they are more willing to do business with you. In fact, many times they’ll seek you out in order to use your services or products. It’s no surprise that many thought leaders are also leaders of industry or successful businesspeople.
So, how can you, as a CEO, take advantage of thought leadership? Well, it’s not an overnight process and it does take quite a bit of effort. However, the payoffs are immense. Not only that, they’re also long-lasting. Once you establish yourself as an individual of merit and knowledge in your industry, that reputation will follow you and it’s imparted to everything you touch – thereby making your companies, products, and services more trustworthy and more valuable.
Here are some techniques for thought leadership:
This is the easiest and lowest level of generating thought leadership. However, it’s also a step that CANNOT be skipped. If you want people to view you as an expert, you have to share your expertise. And there are only so many opportunities to share expertise on other sites and in other publications. So, you have to keep an updated blog on your personal or business website, preferably both. Even thought leaders who are constantly being interviewed by national media and major publications still maintain several blogs. You’d think that they wouldn’t have anything else to say, but the exact opposite occurs. As you share more information, you’ll be exposed to more opportunities. These opportunities will force you to take stances on new subjects and new topics. Then you’ll be dying to get those new ideas out there. Your blog will be the perfect medium.
These are great for building your personal and professional brand. But they have to be handled correctly. You don’t want to write an ebook for the sake of writing one. The ebook should be well thought-out and should provide actionable solutions for common problems in your industry. You also don’t want to regurgitate simple solutions that have already been covered ad nauseum by others. Instead, give innovative solutions and really dig deep into your bag of tricks. Don’t fret that you’re giving away your secrets. Ideas are cheap. It’s in the execution of the ideas where the real value lies. So, give freely and your customers will return to you time and again for more knowledge or to have you perform your services for a fee.
Most people don’t believe they’re suited for interviews. However, if you’re a business owner and you’ve achieved a level of success, odds are you are an expert in a particular subject. Now, the trick is to get that expertise out to the general public. The first few tips, blogging and ebooks, will help establish you as an expert and will make interviewing easier. But the interviews are the vehicle that will propel you into another level of thought leadership.
To accomplish this, you have to hustle. You need to follow stories, email journalists, write tips and tricks and send them proactively, and do a host of other things. But if you’re dedicated and you stick to it, you’ll find that interviewing opportunities will begin to appear. And they have a snowball effect. Once you’ve been interviewed on a subject, odds are others will look to interview you on that same subject or one similar.
And so we reach the ultimate in thought leadership. What better way for people to view you as an expert than for them to hear your expertise coming from your own mouth? All of the other techniques are stepping stones in order to reach the level of speaking engagements. These are one of the most effective marketing activities you can take part in. The audiences you speak to will see and hear your thought leadership firsthand and will be compelled to seek you out. In addition, speaking engagements are similar to interviews, in that they are self-perpetuating. Take part in one speaking engagement, and if you’re diligent, another will become available.
But how do you start speaking? Start small. If you graduated from college, then call up the school and offer to come back as an entrepreneurial lecturer. Often they’ll accept. Or, you can look to your local chamber, local startup community, or any other gathering of business leaders and ask to speak. Don’t be intimidated by your audience. Even if the room is filled with business luminaries, you have to be confident that you have knowledge that they need and you’re the right person to deliver it.
So start today on building your thought leadership. There’s very little barrier to entry.