As more companies realize the benefits of building an online presence beyond their own website, one thing we increasingly hear is, “We want to be thought leaders.” Or more cringe-worthy, someone in the organization wants to be seen as a thought leader.
Saying you want to be a thought leader is sort of like saying you want to be called by a cool nickname…that you made up. It doesn’t really work that way.
To be viewed as a thought leader you actually have to do something that makes people want to listen to you. You have to do something to actually lead.
The challenge for both companies and individuals is that to really be seen as a thought leader, you have to put in time – something leaders don’t always have.
The good news is, from a company approach, there are things you can do to help build the “thought leadership” of the company and individuals within.
Identify Your Area of Expertise
One of the biggest challenges we see is companies trying to be experts in too many things. Yes, you sell a product that does a lot of things but that doesn’t make you an expert on all of those things.
To determine where your true expertise lies, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are some of your organizations’ competitive advantages?
- What are some of your organizations’ key differentiators?
- What are some of the key issues and topics you hear from the prospective buyers and customers?
Understanding where your true advantages are can help determine an area of focus.
Additionally, take a look at what’s already resonating with your audience from a content perspective.
If you have a company blog, take a look at what’s being shared, what’s being link to, and most importantly, what’s driving leads.
The same thing applies to competitors. Analyze their content to see what the audience is interested in. Remember, we don’t want to copy them but it can help show you what matters to the market.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few blog posts we’ve written in the past:
- Creating Killer Content with Data: Pubcon Austin 2016
- How to Create Irresistibly Shareable Content
- 20 Online Marketing Tools That Boost Campaign Results
Create a Plan
To ensure you are making the most of your available time, you need to create an actionable plan. So often we see companies writing or putting out pieces that don’t seem to be in line with the overall business objectives.
That’s fine if you are just looking for visibility but if you truly want to be seen as a thought leader in your industry, you need to talk about your industry.
Start with your blog. You already have access, control, and can post as frequently or infrequently as you like (for what it’s worth, I’d go with frequently).
It also allows you to help build up the voices for individuals within a company. I’ll repeat that…individuals within a company.
Why? Because people connect with people, not businesses and a logo is not a person. More specifically, the “admin” author you often see on blog posts, is not a person.
When creating your plan, be sure to include the following:
- List of Key Topics
- Authors by Key Topic
- Prioritization of Key Topics
Once you have these, you can begin scoping out next steps, including your editorial calendar, potential PR opportunities, and of course, the identification of resources.
As an aside, last year at SMX West, I spoke about how you can create content your audience will actually want to share and how to plan.
Go Big or Go Home
Want to know one of the quickest ways to be seen a thought leader in the industry? Do something no one has ever done before! Invent something! Discover a new planet! Solve an unsolvable problem!
Wait…isn’t this a marketing blog? Oh, right, sorry.
What I’m trying to get at is there are multiple pieces involved in building brand awareness and while my above suggestions talk a lot about blogging and content, there’s more to it. Because let’s be real…unless you are writing something so profound and new, it’s going to take time and marketing (and money) to get a substantial number of eyeballs to said content.
Unless you make that content bigger and better.
A couple years ago here at KoMarketing we put out the first edition of our B2B Web Usability report. The goal was to help us understand the B2B landscape better but also to create something that was useful to others in our industry, to clients, and to potential clients.
The report took months of time and planning but after launch it was picked up by some really great outlets, drove shares, site traffic, generated business, and continues to be referenced today.
The report helped showcase KoMarketing as a company on top of what’s happening in the B2B landscape and get in front of some people who hadn’t previously heard of us.
As mentioned above however, these types of efforts aren’t easy. They take months of planning, resources, and available budget. But if you can find something that’s relevant for your business, it can pay off.
Pitch. Network. Keep Moving
When you’ve created your plan, you’ve started executing, and you’re ready to take it to next level, you have to put on your PR hat.
When you write that blog post, make sure your social team is ready to share it (also make sure the executive who “wrote” it is sharing it with their network).
When you launch that report, make sure you have a list of editors ready to email and a targeted promotion plan in place.
When you see success with that awesome piece you spent so much time building, don’t quit. Think about what else you can do with it and how you can replicate that success.
At the end of the day, the best thought leaders are those that have been consistently bringing ideas to the table for years. They didn’t suddenly just become someone we looked to overnight.
And that’s the key to all of this…
If you really want to be seen a thought leader, take the time to become one. Take the time to not just understand your industry and audience, but to think about that industry and audience in a new way. Then communicate those ideas.
Last but not least, talk to other thought leaders in your space (to them, not at them). Listen to what they have to say – it’ll make you smarter, it’ll help you think more clearly about your ideas, and it can help build that overall awareness.