Who is a thought leader? Thought leaders are the go-to people in their fields of expertise for information and knowledge. As a small business owner, it can be a huge advantage for you to become a thought leader within your industry, leading to many doors opening and opportunities coming your way. While dedication and hard work, coupled with experience are the key to becoming an expert in any field, that’s not enough to get your expertise out there. Here are some tips to follow:
Find Your Niche
You can’t please everyone, and the sooner you realize that the better. Small business owners have the tendency to try and please every possible customer base, and all that accomplishes is diluting your brand and your message. Rather than that, focus on understanding your target market and the best way to engage with them, and address their pain points and wants. To define your niche, ask yourself the following questions:
- What problems does your business/service/product solve, and who benefits from these solutions?
- What does your ideal customer look like? What is their demographic?
- Who are your current customers? What is their demographic?
When you take the time to really learn about your customers and discover what they want, you will be able to talk directly to them, making your way to thought leadership easier.
When all you’re trying to do is sell someone something, without caring about whether they need it or not, your customer can usually tell that you don’t have their best interests at heart. Authenticity is the most important part of every relationship, and it’s no different in business, just because your relationship with your customer is a professional one. What does that have to do with becoming a thought leader? As an expert, you will be relaying information to your customers and your industry in general. Authenticity has to be a part of everything you do, and every format you use, including your tweets, LinkedIn posts, webinars, blogs, and of course, in person. Trust is the ultimate human currency.
Use Social Media Wisely
Following on from the previous point, merely blogging and tweeting won’t establish you as a thought leader, if no one sees your content. You need to make sure that you promote your content on the relevant social media channels that your audience frequents. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be on every social media platform, only the ones your target audience frequents. Furthermore, social media is a great way to engage with your customers. Communication is not a one way street, so make sure you respond to comments and start conversations with your followers. When you’re engaged in communicating, you appear genuine, and ultimately that will set you apart from your competition, as a thought leader.
Any relevant data you can incorporate into your story in a cohesive manner will make the most impact, and is the best way to showcase and validate your expertise. Data points can be found online, from white papers, industry trends, from seminars and conferences you’ve attended, and even from your own day to day business activities. Backing up your content with hard data points will go a long way towards establishing you as the expert to watch.
Networking is often overlooked, and even more often not done correctly. However, when you’re trying to establish yourself as a thought leader, having a network is essential. Your network is people you are communicating your content too, as well as other thought leaders to learn from. If you don’t have a solid network to start, then begin with engaging with known industry experts on social media, by sharing their posts, commenting on their content and getting connected on LinkedIn. The more you connect with other thought leaders and experts, the more you will be thought of in the same vein, by association. Networking is not only done online. It is impossible to overstate the importance of face to face networking. Go to local networking events, attend conferences, take on public speaking assignments, offer to hold a question and answer session related to your industry, whatever it takes to get yourself out there and in front of the right people.
Approximately 80% of customers go to a trusted advisor before making a purchasing decision. People prefer to get their information from a person they know and trust, rather than an unknown salesperson. This is not just true in the larger consumer marketplace, but also in the small business arena where an owner/operator like you can become the trusted, go to source in your industry, and be seen as an influential thought leader.