If you want to stand out in a crowded entrepreneurial field as a Small Business Owner and be seen as the most highly valued individual to do business with over your competition, then you want to be recognized as the leader in your niche. If you want to rapidly grow your business today, people need to see you as an engaging action leader. This all starts with “Thought Leadership”.
As a thought leader, your job is to communicate your unique point of view and make the big ideas of your industry simpler and more understandable for the people who need to understand them most, i.e. prospective users of your products and services. Making this happen is not as difficult as it sounds.
To be a thought leader, you need to keep learning and convey what you learn to people in the simplest way possible. Service is at the heart of thought leadership. You serve by providing valuable information and insight. You become the person people seek out when they need to find the real deal. Your unique point of view doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering idea. It’s definitely not at all the same as winning some sort of popularity contest. It’s about attracting the people you are best-suited serve. That’s where the power of thought leadership comes in.
Forbes defines “Thought Leadership” as follows: “Thought leadership is a way for a brand to position itself as a leader in a certain field or sector by demonstrating its values or expertise.” Guess what! You already are a “Thought Leader!”
Why? It’s all because you:
- are already doing expert stuff every single day your doors are open.
- have already solved more problems for more people (your customers and prospects) than you can count.
- know the answers to your prospects’ burning questions.
- are authentic in trying to help people solve their problems, even if they don’t buy from you.
- have learned enough about your specialty to become an expert.
- have a unique point of view.
Now all you’ve got to do is to communicate that expertise in a way that you leave your prospects convinced that you are the go-to person, instead of your competitor.
So How Does Thought Leadership Apply to Your Business in Real Life?
At a practical level, thought leadership is accomplished by continuously educating your audience and communicating your unique point of view through various forms of content. (E.g. blog posts, articles, case studies, speaking engagements, newsletters, stories on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, videos, press releases, etc.) It is about what you put into that content that makes you a thought leader.
The key here is that you’re not just educating your audience on the features and benefits of your specific products or services, but on important topics and best practices in your industry overall. You are identifying your target audience’s biggest questions and using educational content to provide the answers. Through this content, you will build the sense of confidence your customers and prospects have in you, boost your brand recognition, and give your audience the information they are seeking.
Here are the top seven reasons to adopt a thought leadership strategy for your business:
1. You don’t need a huge budget.
Many businesses operate on a limited budget – especially small businesses – and don’t have extra money to spend on expensive marketing tactics and campaigns. And while implementing a successful thought leadership system will require your time and energy, it won’t require a huge budget. Thought leadership is more about working smartly and efficiently so you earn your customers instead of buying them.
2. You can differentiate yourself from the competition, including your larger competitors.
The reality is that not many small business owners are doing thought leadership at all, and many larger businesses are not doing it very well. This means if you install the right thought leadership framework into your business, over time, your brand may appear more credible, trustworthy, and authoritative than companies twice your size. Even better, thought leadership is a great way to position your company, products, and services as unique in the minds of your target audience, which makes you more interesting and memorable.
3. You reduce the need to sell.
This is a big one. With the right thought leadership strategy in place, you set up a process where you educate your customers to move them into building a relationship with your business even before they buy. This significantly reduces the need for traditional sales.
4. You will create awareness for your products and services.
The goal of most traditional marketing (like advertising) is to create awareness for your products and services. Thought leadership will do this, too, and in a way that is more effective because it’s more educational and less salesy. Consumers are tired of this old, worn-out marketing approach, which is why thought leadership brings new life into your marketing efforts.
5. You will create a strong personal brand in your market.
Thought leadership gives you the opportunity to create a personality for your brand and business – you become memorable, unique, and interesting to your target audience. This is especially true for solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and business owners who ARE their business. Once you are well-known and trusted, you can easily create a word-of-mouth marketing machine, generating leads and referrals like never before.
6. Gives you access to key strategic partners.
Being a thought leader gives you access to people and partners who can make things happen for you. It gives you the status and authority needed to move things in a new direction. People want to affiliate with those who are well known and in-the-know. Becoming a thought leader automatically gets you a ticket to events where most of your target customers hang out. You will be more likely to receive invitations to join corporate boards and participate in industry-wide committees, increasing your visibility and raising your profile locally, regionally and even internationally.
7. Your initial investment will continue to work for you over time.
With a lot of traditional marketing, you launch a campaign, you execute, tally your results, and then it’s over. Then you have to pay and launch again. One of the primary benefits of thought leadership is that it’s an incremental strategy, where the educational content you share continues to work for you over time – unlike paid tactics that go away quickly. For example, if you create one blog post that answers a key customer question, it becomes a page on your website. You may launch an initial campaign and share that page via social media, email, and even through paid advertising. But your campaign doesn’t end there. That one page, answering that one important customer question, starts to rank in Google. So when your target audience is searching for a solution to their problem, your blog post comes up. Not just today, but next month and next year.
So imagine you create two blog posts a month. At the end of the year, you will have 24 web pages answering 24 important customer questions all ranking separately on Google and working for you. And it doesn’t end there. You can re-share and re-purpose all of these blog posts over time, which is just one example of how thought leadership as a marketing strategy is an investment, not a one-off tactic.
At a very practical level, thought leadership can:
- Increase traffic to your website.
- Enable more people to find your business.
- Achieve more sales from better customers in less time.
- Encourage returning customers.
- Put your business in the forefront of people’s minds.
- Help you to stop competing on price alone. When customers buy into your unique approach to solving their problems, the price isn’t the primary selling point.
- Attract better talent – people who are drawn to your approach and leadership.
- Generate strong leads for your sales force, which will decrease the time it takes to close leads.
- Lead to product and service innovation.
- Bring meaning to your work; when you claim a unique position as a thought leader, it helps you to understand and clarify why you are doing what you do.
- Improve your SEO rankings, which will facilitate all of the above!
What Types of Businesses Need Thought Leadership?
- Large businesses, small businesses, and solopreneurs.
- Businesses that target other businesses or consumers.
- Businesses that sell products or provide services.
Yes, you got it – nearly all businesses from every industry can benefit from true thought leadership. If you have competitors and are trying to earn the respect and loyalty of a target audience – which covers most people in business – thought leadership almost certainly will set you apart!