If I Can Be a Thought Leader, So Can You or Your Company
I was recently recognized by Michael Gass of the consulting firm Fuel Lines as an example of how to do thought leadership well. I am honored to be recognized by Michael, who first got me to see the value of thought leadership six years ago.
What Is a Thought Leader?
“A thought leader is a person or company that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.”
If I Can Be a Thought Leader, Why Aren’t You?
Your customers are looking for experts in your field or type of product. Why don’t you or your company become the expert?
Here are the six biggest reasons building material professionals don’t become thought leaders.
1. You Don’t See the Value
Your customers don’t want to buy your products – they want to solve problems, make better decisions and avoid making mistakes. They will prefer doing business with the individual or company they feel can best help them with these issues.
Your customers are also facing a lot of change, new product options and an uncertain future. They want to work with the people or companies that will help them navigate these new areas.
Being a thought leader can help you gain new business and keep current customers.
2. You Don’t See Yourself or Your Company as a Thought Leader
When I started, I didn’t see myself as a thought leader, either. I didn’t even have that as a goal. I started with the simple belief that I had knowledge that would be of value to people who are interested in building materials sales and marketing.
My goal was simply to make more people aware of who I am and my expertise. I hoped that some people would find my content, learn from it and contact me if they thought I could help them.
I also hoped to improve the results of my outbound marketing with people who already knew about me.
I now have over 500 published pieces of thought leadership content, but I was already seeing results in the first few months.
If you think you don’t have what it takes to be a thought leader, consider this. I have yet to meet anyone I couldn’t learn something from. That means there is a thought leader in all of us.
When I ask building materials people why they aren’t sharing content, many of them will tell me they aren’t experts so they don’t have anything to share.
I then ask them questions like these:
- What is the biggest mistake you see [type of customer] making when deciding on your type of product?
- What are the most frequent problems you see [type of customer] facing today in their business? What suggestions would you have for them?
- Who are some [type of customer] you think are doing a great job and that others could learn from?
- What advice would you have for [type of customer] when they are attending [name of a trade show]?
- What was a recent industry article you read and think is important to [type of customer] and why?
Every person I have ever asked questions like these has answers for them. And they are good answers because they are based on personal experiences. As far as I’m concerned, that makes them all thought leaders. They all have knowledge their customers would value.
3. You Don’t Know How
I know thought leaders who only use LinkedIn or other social media to spread their ideas. I also know thought-leading companies and individuals who write blog posts, record podcasts or make YouTube videos right on their cell phones.
There is no right or wrong way to share your knowledge. You don’t need fancy studio equipment or a customized blog. Start with whatever format works best for you.
4. You Don’t Have Time
You have time to call, email or meet with one person at a time. It takes just as much time to reach hundreds of people. All you need to do to start is devote one hour a week to sharing your knowledge.
A few of the people who read or listen to your content will reach out to you. And you will have more successful relationships with others when they learn about you and how knowledgeable you are before your first phone call, email or meeting.
5. No One Reads Anymore
Maybe fewer people are reading big doorstop novels, but the number of people consuming content continues to grow. Yes, some people prefer to read, some prefer to listen and others would rather watch. You can’t reach everyone, and that’s okay. Just use whatever method or methods work best for you and you’ll find an audience that responds to it.
6. What if You Make a Mistake?
A mistake is something like publishing a typo or getting a fact wrong. These are easy to fix. And if you share something you wish you hadn’t, all you have to do is delete it.
If you share something that people disagree with, that’s not a mistake. That’s just a difference of opinion. My posts are read by thousands of people and if I do not regularly have people who disagree with me, I am not doing a good job.
Still Not Convinced?
Download the 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study if you need more proof.
You Can Be a Thought Leader.
Whether you believe it or not, you have some expertise that can help your customers and position you or your company as a thought leader.
Being a thought leader sounds intimidating, but it really just means amplifying that expertise. Instead of communicating it one on one to each individual customer, you’re boosting the signal and sending it out to anyone who wants to follow you on social media, read your blog, listen to your podcast or watch your YouTube video.
With social media, everyone already has a platform. All you need to do to become a thought leader is start using it.