Firm leaders are struggling to balance the desire to grow and the squeeze we’re all feeling with the talent shortage. Becoming a thought leader is an answer by helping you focus your time to make a difference in areas where you are most passionate.
To become a thought leader, you first have to answer the question, “A thought leader of what?” And, to answer that question, identify the specialty knowledge, expertise, or solutions your ideal clients need to solve their problems and achieve their goals.
Once you’ve identified the area of specialty or expertise that you want to be known for, here are a few steps to build a following and become a “famous person” in that area:
- Show up in social media – social media is here to stay, in case you were wondering (hoping) it would go away, and it is becoming increasingly important in business marketing and thought leader promotion. First, you have to be on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the platform where businesspeople meet and network. Make sure your profile is complete and clearly articulates your specialty or area of expertise and that any keywords for that specialty are incorporated into the text. Define your ideal target connections type and actively seek to increase your connections. Then, start sharing content, your own or others’ is fine as long as you always give attribution. Interact with your connections’ posts and group chats.
Second, do something with the Twitter account you set up. Start by defining who you would like to have follow you and who you will follow back based on your specialty or area of expertise, the kinds of clients and referral sources you want to be around and one or two other special interests you may have.
- Get involved in livestreams or podcasts – the great thing about livestreaming on Facebook or LinkedIn or creating podcasts is that they are often short (20 minutes or less), and they are on a topic you know and could probably talk about for hours. So, the best ones are not usually scripted but feel conversational. Choose topical areas that your ideal target clients will be interested in or need to hear. You can then share your livestream or podcast in other social media streams, too, and post it on your web site, send it in promotional emails, or send it in private messages to those you think might benefit.
- Write articles, blogs or “did you know” posts – this is a tried-and-true strategy. If you’re not an experienced writer, provide the “specialty” information to someone on your team, or a contract writer who can place it in a blog or article format for you. Again, share this content on various social media platforms and targeted emails. You could also submit your blogs or articles for publication by your state society, industry organizations, local paper and business journals (that always welcome valuable content).
- Share testimonials – people like to hear about other’s experiences, both successes and lessons learned. You could share a testimonial about a client success (with their permission, of course). Or, you could invite a client to participate in a podcast or livestream with you, or facilitate a panel discussion with them and others via Zoom.
- Offer to speak at trade conferences or facilitate webinars – leverage the content you’re creating and turn it into a presentation. You can submit a session description to sell your session idea to conference planners. You can also promote a webinar on the topic and invite your clients, prospects, and referral sources (internal team members, too).
- The reviewers or coaches – leverage the presentations for internal training, too. And, if you’re not bold enough yet to put yourself forward for public speaking, practicing within your firm by offering to teach at learning events or provide updates about the trends impacting your target clients. Doing so will help your fellow team members understand more about your clients’ needs and a little bit about how to identify those needs in their own clients.
- Network internally with partners and managers – perhaps this should be the first idea. You do want to be known – or seen as a thought leader – in your own firm. Your colleagues should know to go to you with questions or interest in your area of expertise. One of the ways to ensure they know this is to meet with them, just like you would an external referral source. Share what you’re seeing in your area and ask them what they’re seeing and what they’re clients are experiencing. You can then exchange stories about how you help your clients, gaining insights for how you might collaborate in the future.
Your content is leverageable across mediums, too. For example, if you write an article, you could turn it into a podcast or webinar, or vice versa. Whatever you choose to do, share your content with clients, prospects, referral sources, and internal team members.
Becoming a thought leader builds both your personal brand and your firm’s brand. You become known as the “go to” person for your specialty or area of expertise. It also helps you focus your time, knowing what to say yes or no to, as you create a stable of ideal clients that you look forward to serving, hopefully for a long time.
What are you doing to build thought leadership and pursue a field that lights you up? We’d love to hear what you’ve tried and gain new ideas to try as well!