Want to attract new clients? Build stronger relations with existing ones? Partner with great resources? Then, position your company as a thought leader in your industry. The reason is simple: customers want to do business with companies who know what they are doing; companies who are recognized as key sources of knowledge in their industry; companies with people who smell a change in the wind while others still have their noses on the ground.
Nothing makes this marketing pro feel better than a new client who comes to us toting a ton of experience and an urge to reach out to new customers. They’re bringing the raw material and we’ve got the techniques to let their prospects know how smart they are. In other words, we show the world that the client is a thought leader. Who wouldn’t want to do business with someone like that?
I like to think of it as Maven Building. Maven Building (my definition since I made up the term) is the art of making a smart company’s knowledge visible enough that customers can’t help but flock to their bottom line.
In his great article 9 Ways To Become a Thought Leader Geoffrey James suggests individuals who want to become thought leaders: “Create a lot of content. Thought leaders are constantly writing books, blogs, articles and emails. They seldom pass up opportunities to speak in public or be interviewed in the media. The last thing they’ll do is try to rest on their laurels.”
Here’s how companies can make use of this concept to improve their bottom lines:
- Use the media you own. Today, you have your own media empire right at your fingertips. When used right you can mobilize the power of the web to position you as a thought leader. You’ve got three tools at your disposal with the power to do this: your website; your blog (if you don’t have one, add one to your site NOW) and your social media. This owned media gives you the ability to be your own publisher. Think of your website as your hub; the destination you want to drive consumers to.
A thought leader company’s website is customer-centric. In other words, it doesn’t focus on what the company wants to say (i.e. “We’re the greatest furniture maker in the world”). It tells their prospects what they want to hear (i.e. “Looking for furniture that stands up to anything your child can throw at it?”).
A thought-leader company has a blog that drives people to their website with posts that are “news you can use.” Like the website, the thought-leader’s blog’s is not about the company. It’s about being the source of information consumers crave. These blog posts add valuable information to those who read them, thereby showing off that those in the company know their stuff. Blogs not only showcase your knowledge, they provide fresh content that search engines gobble up. Thought leaders bolster readership of their posts and beef up their company’s online footprint, by promoting them with social media. For example, suppose our furniture maker does a blog post about the most durable woods for furniture. They could push that on twitter with this post: What wood stands up best to wear?” Find out at [link to your blog post].
- Make the most of Twitter. Twitter is one of our favorite tools for positioning our clients (and our firm) as thought leaders. In addition to pushing blog posts, we also retweet relevant articles from others in the industry. Why would pushing someone else’s work make you look smart? Because it says you’re constantly scanning for information to stay on top of the trends. You’re probably reading those articles every day through the blogs and on-line newsletter that jam your inbox. So why not retweet useful articles with a comment and a link that says to the world “Here’s an information gift from me to you, just because I strive to stay up on the latest in my corner of the world”?
- Deliver speeches. Nothing says “I know this stuff” better than being a presenter or panelist at a meeting, conference or symposium. Folks think you must be smart if you’re the one at the front of the room. First, make a list of the ten most influential groups in your market segment. Check their websites and past conference information to determine content they offer at their conferences. Then send them a list of topics on which you can present. Road test your speech in front of your local Rotary or Chamber of Commerce before presenting it to a big conference. Then graduate to those target associations, conferences, and in-house gigs for major corporations. Promote your presentations through your owned media before and after they happen. Focus on the contents of your speech; not that you’re giving it. So instead of a Facebook post that goes like this: “I’m giving a speech at the Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday” tweet “Learn five ways to handle a crisis at tomorrow’s Bloomfield Chamber [insert link to event].” You can also use Facebook and Twitter to send out useful information from that speech after the fact. And don’t forget traditional media. If your speech is open to the public, send a press release to the local business media that brings people to the speech. Even if they don’t come, once the release is published you’ve got another piece of content out there that says you know what you’re doing.
- Use the credibility of traditional media to your advantage. Don’t overlook the power of traditional media. Today, it’s easy to think on-line exposure is all you need. It’s one big crowded on-line world out there and a presence in traditional media is still a great way to stand out. Take that blog post (the one that’s filled with great information courtesy of your company). Why not re-purpose it as a press release? Business and trade press love “7 Tips…” as much as the internet. We regularly cultivate press exposure the bolsters our firm’s credibility and I can tell you people mention our columns to us all the time. That’s especially true now that publications are online and we’re able to push the links to our columns on our social media. In addition, when you can give commentary on breaking news, let TV and radio news directors and local reporters know you’re available for interviews. We regularly scan the news for clients that relate to the industries in which our clients do business. When we find a hot story that falls into their area of expertise, we send appropriate media a one-page eblast that lets them know why our clients are THE resource for commentary on it. Everybody wins. The media get great information and our client’s command of this knowledge positions them as a thought leader.
- Win Some Awards. There are hundreds of awards out there and grabbing a couple for credibility’s sake is good for your reputation. Identify the awards that matter in your industry, monitor the deadlines, and get yourself in the running. Don’t be shy. Nominate your company or ask a client to do it for you. These awards won’t change your life but they are one more way to positon yourself as a thought leader. One caution here: Filling out the applications for these awards is time-consuming. Be selective about the ones you go after and don’t over-commit resources to this effort. Awards are a “nice to have” not a “got to have”, unless you’re a Hollywood or Broadway producer. For the rest of us, they look good in our conference rooms and give us an excuse to send out a press release heralding the award.
Positioning yourself as a thought leader is a productive way to cultivate prospects, close new business and retain existing clients. If you devote the resources to it, it will show up on your bottom line.