How to Become a Thought Leader

Published by Linda Rolf on 4/28/2021

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It only takes a mouse click or finger tap for your clients to buy a product or service to solve their problem.

But how do they know it's the right product or service? As our clients' trusted partners, they rely on us to provide more than just our core services.

Clients want to feel confident, informed, and in control of their decisions. We contribute to their sense of decision ownership when we freely share our knowledge with them. I recently shared the curse of knowledge bias with you.

No sooner had I created that post than serendipity knocked. The opportunity to be a pre-launch book reviewer of the latest Content Inc. landed in my inbox. I have been a fan of Joe Pulizzi for several years through his books and his inspiring Content Marketing Institute birth-to-$30 million exit journey.

The notion of sharing knowledge is both intriguing and baffling. Becoming a widely recognized thought leader in your field positions your company as a valuable go-to industry resource.

But where and how do you start?

Here are simple ways to expand your company's thought leader reputation.

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  • Often we hesitate to start creating content because we are afraid we'll run out of things to talk about.

    This is an easy way to generate a lot of content ideas quickly. Write down every question your clients ask you and answer them in your blog.

    Interesting fact -- A recent analysis by Neil Patel found that in 2020 14.52% of all search queries were question-based. "How" led the list with 8.61% followed by "what" at 3.5%. Clearly, a lot of us are searching for answers to everyday questions.

  • Solve problems that no one else in your niche is solving. Your goal is to stand out from the clutter.

  • Create a simple schedule to help organize your ideas, audience, and channels.

    It doesn't have to be fancy. A simple spreadsheet is all you need to get started. It's important to publish consistently so commit to a schedule that is manageable for you. Your audience will quickly forget about you if they don't see you regularly.

  • If you have one big topic idea, break it into smaller subtopics.

    Your content becomes a series of smaller digestible pieces that your audience will appreciate, and your content library expands.

  • What content do you currently have that can become shareable?

    It might take a little time to do a content inventory, but you will be surprised at what can be repurposed quickly. Checklists, how to docs, and quick tip lists that help your clients with an everyday activity are a great place to start.

  • Offer to share useful content with a business partner or client.

    This not only expands your potential audience reach, but your partner's value to his clients increases as well.  For example, we contribute practical technology information in one of our client's monthly newsletter.

  • The goal of posting on social media is to drive your audience back to your website, blog, landing page, newsletter – your owned property.

    Social media is rented land, and you are a tenant without a lease.  Followers are a feel-good metric, but you don't own them.

  • Post snippets of your content on social media with links back to your website for the rest of the story.

  • Focus on only one or possibility two channels until you have an established audience.

    There are many case studies of successful companies, such as ESPN, that grew in one channel for several years before moving into others. Resist the urge to be everywhere.

  • Pick the communication tools and channels that feel right for you. Everyone doesn't have to be a YouTube star or a master wordsmith. When you are sharing information comfortably in your unique voice, your current and future clients will respond to you.

  • Contrary to what we often hear, email marketing has not gone the way of the VCR.

    It's still the most effective way to engage with your target audience, and you control who, what, and when. Make it easy for your audience to subscribe to your email list with a signup form on your website. As much as we all dislike those intrusive pop-up forms, they are effective. You decide if that's the approach your company wants to take.

  • When someone subscribes to your list, immediately send a thank you email with an opportunity for them to engage with you. Most of the popular email automation platforms include customizable autoresponders. Let them do the work for you with your company's thoughtful messaging.

    You're building a relationship so resist the urge to promote your products and services. Our welcome email asks new subscribers why they joined and what information is valuable to them.

  • Adopt a content-first, not product-first strategy.

    This simple Content Inc. statement had me shouting a very loud "Yes!". When you commit to communicating and sharing -- not selling -- your audiences' needs become the focus. Your products and services sales will then expand.

  • What is your target content niche? It should be clear, specific, and highly focused.

    For example, "We provide financial services to SMBs" is too broad. "We provide cash management strategies for first-time founders of technology start-ups." narrows your focus and content.

  • Create a purpose for your content.

    This can feel like a monumental task or just annoying. It's worth your investment to ensure your content creation is worthwhile for your audience. Fill in the blanks:

    {Our company name} is where {our audience} finds {specific information} for {the benefits you deliver to them}.

  • Think of your company as not just content creators but idea generators.

    This is where thought leadership expertise is built. Inspiring new ideas will generate conversation and content sharing.

  • Help your audience see that their aspirations are possible. It's about them, not you. Deliver practical, actionable information that moves them toward their goals.

  • Expanding your expert knowledge reputation takes time. It's easy to become discouraged when all you hear are crickets. Keep going. Successful companies that have achieved their leadership positions committed years of consistent effort.

  • Tags: Business Strategy

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    Linda Rolf is a lifelong curious learner. She is fueled by discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner. They actively contribute to each client's success through mutual collaboration, thoughtful business analysis, enterprise software development, technology integration, database design and management, opportunity discovery, business growth strategy, and marketing initiatives.

    They believe that lasting value and trust are created through continuously listening, sharing knowledge freely and delivering more than their clients even know they need. As the CIO of their first startup client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop."

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