Positioning yourself as a thought leader is a great way to enhance your company's reputation, and develop your personal brand at the same time. It's been said that good executives are nice to have, but thought leaders are indispensable. The fact is, when a prospect looks to you as the voice of authority in your field, you're already one step ahead of the competition in terms of closing a sale.
The big question is: How exactly can you build your reputation as a thought leader? It certainly doesn't happen overnight. However, there are actionable steps you can take - steps that are completely within your control - to start laying the foundation of your thought leadership credentials. Let's discuss six of them below.
1. Start Creating Content
The first and most important step you can take on the path to becoming a thought leader is, well, to simply get started! Start creating content that showcases your subject matter expertise. This could be something as simple as writing a short blog post or posting a 30-second video to your website. Whatever the case may be, the key is to get the car moving. It will pick up momentum with time and practice.
2. Write a Book
For many thought leaders, this is the logical outcome of step #1. Granted, it will take time and effort to write a full book in which you share your insights and experiences within the sales industry. However, writing (and ultimately publishing) a book with your name on it will work wonders for your reputation as a thought leader.
It should also be noted in passing that, even if writing is not your strong suit, there are plenty of resources available that can help you crystallize your thoughts and transform them into words on the page. For instance, you can research your options in terms of hiring a ghostwriter to facilitate the process.
Whatever the case may be, don't shy away from considering this form of thought leadership as a real possibility. It's been said that every person on earth has at least one good book in them. So why not get to work on yours?
3. Be Consistent in Messaging and Distribution
When you're building a reputation as a thought leader, consistency is vital on two major fronts: your messaging and your distribution cadence.
When it comes to messaging, you may have to do some soul-searching to discover what the core of your message actually is. You may need to answer questions such as:
In addition to consistency around your messaging, it's also important to be consistent in when and where you deliver content to your audience (aka, your "distribution cadence"). Stick to a posting schedule that's reasonable for you. Make sure that you are able to keep up with all of your major posting platforms. This includes your website, social media accounts, and any other sites where you regularly contribute.
Remember: consistency is very often synonymous with professionalism. And in order to be viewed as a thought leader, you must be viewed as a professional.
4. Be Detailed, but Accessible
Creating content that's full of generalities won't help anyone. However, offering specific insights will help your audience to apply what they've learned in real-world scenarios. That's what you want to become known for: your willingness to bring people "behind the scenes." Show them what works and what doesn't work. In fact, you can even relate your own experiences as supporting proof for your conclusions.
When it comes to details, though, there is a balancing act you must maintain. Your objective is to educate and benefit your audience. It's not to dazzle them with high-sounding language that they can't understand or apply. With that in mind, make sure you use simple, accessible language in your thought leadership content. In fact, consider developing easy-to-navigate, step-by-step guides for your readers/viewers.
The truth is, if you can explain a complicated concept simply and accurately, then people will recognize you as someone who's mastered their craft. Or in other words: a thought leader.
5. Look for the Thought Leadership Gaps in Your Industry
Put another way: answer the questions that no one else is answering. It's not just about spreading ideas and insights that you've already formulated. Instead, be willing to search through industry-specific content (even from your competitors). Find those gaps where customers are asking questions, but they're not receiving any answers. If you can position yourself as the person/company that provides a satisfying answer, then you've gone a long way toward solidifying your reputation as a thought leader.
6. Spread Your Message as Widely as Possible
Successful thought leadership isn't just about the knowledge you have on a certain subject, or how valuable your insights actually are. It's also about how widespread your message is, and how much exposure you receive. Think of it like a song on the radio. No matter how pretty the song is, it won't do anyone any good if they can't hear it.
So how can you "turn up the volume" on your message? For one thing, make sure you post content on as many platforms as possible. That means expanding out from your core platforms to new, even unfamiliar forums. (For example, posting on TikTok or joining a podcast.) Your consumers should be able to see you answering their questions via several channels, not just one or two.
In addition, keep looking for ways to expand your professional network. If you know the right people, and gain access to the right platforms, then you'll be able to spread your influence across a wide range of customer segments.
In summary, it may take some time to establish a firm reputation as a thought leader. But you absolutely can do so. It's within your control. The ball is in your court. Invest some time and effort into becoming a thought leader. As a result, you can expect your company, your team, and even yourself personally to experience the associated benefits.
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