Thought leadership may seem like another buzzword to sell books or training programs. But in fact, it represents a method of becoming a trusted authority in your industry.
What Is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership involves responding to and engaging with your target market to be viewed as an expert in your industry. They recognize trends, offer insights, communicate ideas, and inspire and influence others. Thought leaders are perceived as trusted resources for information, not just among their clients and customers, but from their colleagues and peers as well.1
Unlike other forms of leadership that involve how you manage and lead an organization, thought leadership is about how you inspire and influence your market and industry.
The method thought leaders use to build their credibility, authority, influence, and reach is through the content they share.
What Are the Benefits to Thought Leadership?
For the solo home business owner, the topic of leadership may seem irrelevant as they’re not leading anyone. Thought leadership isn’t about leading employees, but instead, it’s about leading in your industry. Thought leaders are viewed as an authority in their industry because they lead the conversation and contribute ideas.
The benefits of being a go-to person in your industry include:
Engaging more directly with your market, which means you always know what it needs and can respond quickly.
Allowing the market to get to know you. People like to work with businesses they know and trust.
Building credibility, which leads to trust and increased following.
Increasing and better PR opportunities, and more references to you by others as a thought leader in your industry.
Being viewed as helpful and supportive, and someone who delivers value.
People are more likely to buy from the most knowledgeable and authoritative business Increasing influence.
The more you grow as a thought leader, the more people who’ll follow you and share your message.
How Can Business Owners Use Thought Leadership?
Of all the forms of leadership, thought leadership is something home businesses can use to set themselves apart and compete with larger businesses. Anyone, even an unknown business owner can become a thought leader. Gary Vaynerchuk became a social media thought leader after he started making YouTube videos for his family’s wine store.5 Although Gary Vee’s content was on wine, it was through his success and sharing his ideas and insights about marketing as a YouTuber and in social media that made him a thought leader.
Today, he has YouTube videos, books, and is a sought out speaker.
Becoming a thought leader comes not just in the content you share about your industry, but also from the value of that content. You don’t necessarily need a unique take or idea, but you do need to stand out by being the best at helping the market. There are many social media experts in the world, but Gary Vee stands out partly because of his unique voice, but also because his content resonates with his market. He delivers the information they crave in the way they want to receive it. To become a thought leader, you need to do the same.
Tips for Being an Effective Thought Leader
Here are some tips to help you rise about the noise of all the others in your business and be the voice of the industry:
1.What do customers and clients want to know about your business? Make a list of all the possible questions your target market is asking related to your product or services. You can make this list from common questions you’re asked or by doing a survey of your market. Your analytics will let you know the most popular content you’re already delivering. You can also research online through Quora and online groups to learn your market’s most pressing questions.
2. Develop answers to each of the questions. Start with the most common or pressing questions first, and develop answers. To be a thought leader, you can't give the worn out answers as everyone else. You want to infuse them with your personal anecdotes, knowledge, and insights. This is especially true if your experience and successes run counter to current thinking. The key here is to be authentic. Anyone can regurgitate an answer to a question, but thought leaders offer their personal experience and knowledge in their own unique voice.
3. Deliver your answers across a variety of platforms. It’s unrealistic to be everywhere all the time, and yet, you need to deliver content regularly in a variety of places.2 Yes, there are YouTube stars and Instagram influencers, but if you study top thought leaders, you’ll see they deliver tons of valuable content across many channels.
Here are a few things to consider when developing content:
Above all, deliver value. Give the market what it’s asking for in a way they can benefit from it.Gear your content to the market. You’re not just answering the market’s question, but also, delivering it the way it can ingest it.Know where your market hangs out. Where does the market go to learn about what you’re sharing? Does it watch YouTube? Read specific blogs?
Repurpose content, when possible, to help save time. Instead of delivering different content across all platforms, find a way to repurpose it. For example, you can turn a blog post into a YouTube video or take quotes from your article and turn into Twitter and/or Instagram posts. Just make sure that each piece of content offers top value in your authentic voice that your followers will engage with and share.