Becoming an industry thought leader is a critical legitimization tool for your business. Industry thought leaders build trust and loyalty. People are much more likely to listen to and eventually do business with people they look to as knowledgeable, especially when purchasing higher-ticker items or consultancy services.
Think about it- when was the last time you made a really important or expensive purchase? What drove your decision to go with product X or service Y? I'd be willing to bet that it was influenced by an interaction (doesn't have to be in the flesh) you had with a person who had earned your confidence on some level. It's human nature, after all. Nobody likes to look stupid, especially when making decisions that matter the most.
Here are 15 tips to help you gain similar influence as a thought leader in your industry.
- Define your Limits - Don't be a Jack of all trades and a master of none. Trying to master all aspects of your industry can be daunting, and is not really practical. Stay focused on a few areas that interest you.¹
- Find the Opportunity - Are there areas in your industry that are under-covered by other experts? Think about differentiating yourself by providing fresh and original content that addresses these areas of interest for consumers. Make sure you care about what you are covering: your passion, or lack thereof, will come out in your content.²
- Don't be Intimidated - Even if the greatest thought leader in history is dominating your field of interest, providing your own unique spin will attract an audience. Michael Jordan was a rookie once. Start small, dream big.
- Maintain an Active Business Blog - The best way to become a thought leader is to produce a steady stream of quality content relevant to your target audience. If structured properly, your business blog can offer the additional benefits of building up your SEO and generating leads for your brand.³
- Publish Longer Content Pieces - Creating denser content pieces such as ebooks and whitepapers will anchor your reputation as a serious thought-leader rather than a one-trick pony. Recall Winston Churchill. A statesman and historian who wrote extensively, even those who hated him listened.³
- Contribute Guest Blog Posts - Once you gain traction with your business blog, you should seek out other industry thought leaders and offer to contribute articles to their blogs. Doing so will broaden your audience and further legitimize you as an industry thought leader.³
- Don't Confine Yourself to Print- In today's multi-media age, people are consuming information in many different ways. Consider launching a regularly-scheduled Podcast or YouTube Video series. Personalize your relationship and build stronger connections though audio-visual means.
- Be a Teacher and a Learner - The best teachers are learners. Establish yourself as a serious industry thought leader by constantly adding to your own knowledge base.
- Avoid Self-Promotion - This is the best way to instantly de-legitimize yourself as a thought leader. Don't forget that you are trying to establish yourself as a trusted resource that people turn to for information and guidance. Nobody trusts a self-important blowhard.
- Go Offline - Hit the pavement to spread your message. Speak at events and conference, and participate in networking groups. It's hard to keep your ear to the ground sitting on a swivel chair.
- Interact on Social Media - Don't forget to network online through social media. People are increasingly turning to social media forums to get answers. Join groups and monitor forums that are relevant to your industry. Answer any questions you feel qualified to respond to. Focus on quality over quantity. Don't just talk to talk. Only comment when you can add value.³
- Just Do It - There's no substitute for action. Remember Edison's quote about genius being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration; don't fall victim to paralysis by analysis; just do it; you get the point....
- KISS - Keep it simple, stupid. When producing content, avoid jargon and wordiness. Think Gandhi- the ultimate thought leader who was very expeditious with his use of words. Try not to sound smarter than you are (no offense).¹
- Create Decent Content - If there is no substitute for action, there REALLY is no substitute for great content. Build it and they will come.
- Stay True to Yourself - Most important of all, don't be fake. People are pretty savvy on the main- they can spot a fast-talking huckster a mile away. Don't be one. Be yourself.
By following these tips, you can establish yourself as an industry thought leader that your mother would be proud of.
What techniques for building thought leadership have you found to be effective?
¹ Econsultancy, "What I've Learned from Writing 2000 Blog Posts"