How to become a thought leader

A thought leader can be either an individual or a business that’s considered the ‘go-to’ authority on certain areas of specialisation or expertise. They’re informed opinion leaders and trusted sources who can inspire your business to turn its ideas into reality.

Grow your business as a thought leader

All successful businesses have knowledge on certain topics and their own unique intellectual property (IP). Being able to communicate what your business does well to your target market is one of the keys to being viewed as a thought leader.

Become a thought leader to:

  • Develop knowledge greater than your competitors on a certain subject or topic
  • Gain a reputation in your market as a business that has unique and innovative ideas about your industry
  • Improve your business’ sales effectiveness
  • Differentiate your brand
  • Give customers the engagement and insights they’re seeking
  • Help your business fulfil its objectives such as lead generation and growing your market share

How to become a thought leader

For your growing business to become a thought leader, you’ll need to start with a unique point of view which will lead to approaching and solving challenges in a novel or different way. It will take time for your reputation to grow and for the word to spread about how you’re doing things uniquely.

Thought leadership involves more than just content, it’s:

  • Your business’ opinion
  • Leadership
  • Innovation in your area of expertise

Showcasing your business’ expertise and positioning it ahead of competitors is an essential strategy for any brand.

The best thought leaders are constantly building their business’ brand through events, stories and advertising. For example, Apple assumes the mantle of a thought leader in the handheld gadget industry through its range of constantly evolving i-devices. It’s clear that competitors such as Samsung have been following Apple’s lead for some time.

Find an exclusive area of expertise

Think about what your business does best, or some critical knowledge that it understands better than your competitors. What do you want your business to be well known for?

For example, Richard Branson’s Virgin brand is well known for innovation and continual evolvement into new business industries, beginning with the music industry to the point where tourist space travel is almost available.

Your business might have certain know-how over a range of different topics, so it’s important to develop thought leadership with the most appropriate area.

Dominate the topic

You’ll need to go further than your competitors and become the dominant voice in your area of expertise. Take Coca-Cola as an example – their ongoing message in recent times has been how consumers will get greater enjoyment in life when they open bottles of Coca-Cola. In other words, their soft drink will bring about more happiness in consumers lives than other brands.

Try to create a story or some storylines around your unique knowledge. Break your story into a sequence revealing one ‘part’ at a time. Channel your business’ knowledge through:

  • Blogs or enewsletters – produced weekly or fortnightly to show you have a wealth of wisdom on your specialist topic. For example, if you own and run a travel agent, start up a blog for you and your staff to contribute their travel stories to help excite potential customers
  • Social media – by interacting with your customer base and offering advice to help them solve issues and create ongoing sales
  • A book – with pull quotes, data and unique information. As an example, if you began to consider yourself an authority on building eco-houses, is there an opportunity for you to write a book on your specialist topic?
  • Workshops – demonstrate your knowledge and skills by running a series of your own workshops
  • Aim to get elected to a board – for example, a reputable butcher who’s been in the meat industry most of their working life might aim to get on the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) to show their customers how dedicated and knowledgeable they are about the industry

Continue to research ideas and opinions

Standing still isn’t an option as a thought leader, so continue to research your specialist topic. When speaking at conferences, to customers on your website, or with networking groups, you’ll want to be able to be an authoritative voice on what you think will happen in your industry in the future.

Put together a plan on how you’re going to build up a reputation as a thought leader.

Make your message sustainable

To reinforce your business’ position as a thought leader on an important subject in your industry, you’ll need constant effort. You’ll want your message to be sustainable and evolving so it lasts the distance over the long term.

Find your direction towards becoming a thought leader and seek continual improvement.

Next steps

  • Have a look at our article highlighting tech tools to help you unlock innovative ideas.
  • Talk to your local ANZ Small Business Specialist for their advice on your financial needs as your business grows.

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