Knowledge is power.
This pithy saying, commonly attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, couldn't be more appropriate in our world where knowledge is everywhere. Consumers of knowledge have an incredible amount of information at their fingertips, giving them tremendous leverage.
According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, we now create as much content in 2 days as we have since the dawn of time up until the year 2003!
Will you be the expert who empowers business people with your industry knowledge? Will you be the guru who provides your prospects with the information they crave and need? Becoming a thought leader in your industry will allow you to do just that!
What is a B2B Thought Leader?
Want to know a secret? Being a thought leader in your industry doesn't mean that you are smarter than anyone else (though of course you may be). You just need to know a little more and demonstrate that. A lot of thought leadership is about perception. If people perceive you as a thought leader, you have arrived. Thought leaders generate revenue not only by what they contribute to their field, but also by their power to influence the thinking of others.
Sounds like a good place to land, doesn't it?
Ready to learn how to become a thought leader? Alright, here we go...
A Crash Course in Becoming a B2B Thought Leader
Becoming a thought leader may take years, or it may take as little as a few months. It's really up to the depth of gusto you put into applying these tips that determines the thought leader you will become.
The good news is that anyone can become a thought leader with the right amount of education and dedication.
1. Carve Out Your Niche as a B2B Thought Leader
Let's say that you are a management consultant. You may have a basic grasp of a number of management issues. However, a broad approach may not bring you the credibility you deserve since you will be all over the map. It's just not possible to touch on every possible area of management consulting and still sound like you know what you're talking about. The topic is just too broad.
However, if you narrow it down to consulting for operational efficiency, you can talk about specific ideas that will resonate with your audience and you'll differentiate yourself in your industry.
Ann Handley has done just that. Does she have an expert knowledge of marketing? Sure. However, she's carved out her niche in content marketing and writing, and has done so with great success!
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2. Start Blogging
One of the most effective (and inexpensive) ways to share your expertise is by writing your own blog posts. This not only boosts your SEO ranking, but gives you the fodder necessary to distribute your wisdom by means of social media.
You can either start a blog on your company website, or create an entirely new website devoted to your thought leadership. Michael Brenner years ago took on the mantle of content marketing in his insightful blog and has become a veritable wunderkind of content marketing.
Make sure to promote the heck out of your blog posts on social media, using an editorial calendar.
Speaking of social media...
3. Get Active on Social Media
Being active on social doesn't mean you have to join every platform out there. Even digital marketer, Brooke Ballard , admits that she is far from enamored with the outlet Snapchat.
The point is:
You don't have to use every social media platform out there. Just use the ones that work well for you.
However, when you're carving out your niche, keep in mind which outlets your audience uses most frequently and adapt your content to those channels. Offer your expertise to people posting relevant questions and be gracious in your responses. This will engender goodwill and you may create a fan for life!
A word of caution, though. You want to keep your social media conversations relevant. It may be tempting to reply to every thread, but you should only do so if you can provide a quick, concise, and knowledgeable reply.
4. Volunteer Your Industry Expertise in the Media
Programs like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) encourage experts to sign up to become a source for journalists. Reporters submit requests for sources and HARO sends out the requests to the appropriate sources. This is a great way to build credibility as a thought leader, in addition to forging camaraderie with journalists.
5. Let Your Voice be Heard as a B2B Thought Leader
Garnering a speaking engagement is perhaps one of the most valuable ways to increase your thought leadership. Need some ideas on how to land that gig? Famous in Your Field provides 21 Ways to Find Speaking Opportunities.
You can also check out how founder of the Social Media Examiner, Michael Stelzner and SME's Director of Events, Phil Mershon choose thought leaders to speak in their podcasts and conferences in this podcast.
6. Be Nice and Be Genuine
Marketing guru and 2015 Social Media Success Summit Speaker Alisa Meredith says, "Rule #1 of being a thought leader - Never call yourself a thought leader. Let someone else do it."
Your own perception of your expertise is not a good gauge of your success. Remember, it's what others think of you, the relationships you have built with them, that makes you a good thought leader.
Alisa goes on to say that Rule #2 is, "There are no completely new ideas, but the best minds improve and expand on what is out there, seeing the writing on the wall and arriving before anyone else."
Don't be a copycat, but don't be afraid to build your success on the bricks someone else has laid. Just be sure to remember you owe them their proper due.
7. Get Your Face Out There
Since so much of what happens in the business world occurs virtually, we end up distancing ourselves with those who, in the past, we might have considered as colleagues. It's hard to grab a cup of coffee with someone who lives three time zones away from you.
To close the separation gap, you need to get your face and voice out there. Don't be shy. You may not like the sound of your voice, or how your hair looks weird on camera, but hey, most of us are not born stars, we're just regular people. The kind that can relate well to others.
Consider starting your own podcast or offering instructional videos and even interviews on YouTube.
(Click here to learn how you can boost your small business PR with thought leadership.)
Get on Board with Becoming a Thought Leader
It's one thing to tell you how to become a thought leader. However, the proof is really in the results. Is becoming a thought leader really feasible for you? We think so! In fact, we know so!
Check out how we helped put one CEO and startup founder on the map!