Who are your favorite influencers? As a collective, we have a list of role models whom opinions we trust as if they were our trusty lifelong friends. We all know the usual suspects: If Elon Musk does something, it’s automatically cool. Anything Pixar comes up with for Disney turns into gold. If Oprah says a book is good, it’ll become a New York Times bestseller within minutes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you or your business could become that kind of authority within your own industry?
Most of today’s most recognized thought leaders were not born with a silver spoon in their mouths. They’ve worked their way up from the bottom rung of the ladder; and most of them have common denominators:
- Have a niche: The phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” exists for a reason. It’s rare to find a company that can be everything for everyone. People like to associate with those they can relate to. There are Apple people and PC people. There are Trekkies and there are Star Wars fans. There are vegans and there are people who could attend a daily meat fest. The more you focus on a specific set of people, the more you can work on improving your product or services for their specific needs.
- Brand yourself: What do you think about when you hear about Bob Vila? Steve Irwin? JK Rowling? Jerry Springer? All of these names bring a specific thing to mind, and it’s because they’ve succeeded in creating a personal brand. Everything you post online leaves a digital footprint. Make sure it’s geared towards building up your desired persona.
- Write a weekly blog: Whether it’s via a magazine or website, thought leaders publish new content regularly. It forces you to stay updated in industry developments and it helps you remain at the forefront of people’s mind. Those who follow your company on social media or subscribe to your newsletter will receive constant reminders that you know what you’re talking about. Pick a day of the week and publish content every single week on that day.
- Pitch yourself to other publications: Once you build up a blog and/or newsletter following, pitch your ideas to industry publications. For example, Wendi Weiner (who’s branded herself as the Writing Guru), has been published on The Huffington Post, Forbes, and several additional leading magazines in her industry. Who do you think C-Suite executives are going to contact when they need help with their résumé? The Joe Blows of CV writing, or someone who has been published on multiple credible platforms?
- Marketing yourself is important, but to become an effective thought leader, you have to have other people let their leads know about you and about how great you are. If a person is the one who has to say they are the best at something, they’re probably not the best at it. Get to know other people within your industry just for the sake of building up your network. Let conversations happen organically and don’t treat each interaction as a business transaction.
Becoming a thought leader takes time and a lot of careful strategizing, but in a world that is increasingly competitive, you can’t afford not to stand out. Get with the program and show your target market why they should choose you.