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Chapter 14: Establishing Thought Leadership
“So that’s how you lead people to your website, and thus to your company.”
“Okay,” Chuck said. “I see how that works.”
“Want to learn about something even cooler?”
“Why yes, Ryan. Yes, I do.”
“There’s another process that gets people to look for your company on their own. They’ll come to your website without any prompting at all.”
“And this is where you tell me I can have it for three payments of $19.95.”
“Naw. I’ll tell you about thought leadership for free.”
“Thought leadership isn’t new.”
“No, but just like the buyer’s journey, how you get there sure is.”
Some things never change. Even before mass communication, a highly visible and wealthy dilettante was taken more seriously than a reclusive expert. During the 20th century, well-meaning amateurs and dedicated charlatans could tour TV talk shows and radio programs to make a mint selling their dubious advice, while true experts without media savvy wallowed in obscurity.
New technologies haven’t changed this basic fact of human nature, but they have changed what you can do about it.
Back then, you had to rely on others’ broadcast platforms to become a well-known leader in your area of expertise. Now, it’s up to you to do it via your blogs, social media platforms, and online discussion communities. It’s never been more important to create a powerful online presence:
The degree to which you establish thought leadership in your area of expertise is the degree to which your inbound marketing is likely to succeed.
A Tale of Two “Experts”
To illustrate the importance of online thought leadership, take the example of two hypothetical people working in banking compliance services.
Bob has a master’s degree in economics and 15 years of experience in banking, five of those as the chief compliance officer for a bank. He speaks at banking conferences and gives two lectures each year for FBI training in their bank fraud division. He’s not active on social media, and his blog is about his hobbies: model trains and science fiction movies.
Jen has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. Just out of college, she got a job writing the blog for a banking compliance consulting company. Her contract stipulated that she engage on social media around her posts and that she get the byline on the blog. She really wants to write the Great American Novel. Meanwhile, blogging for the consulting firm pays her bills.
As far as the internet is concerned, Jen is a far more authoritative expert on banking compliance than Bob, because Jen has established an online presence as an expert and is a thought leader in the banking compliance community.
It ain’t fair, and it ain’t right. But “fair” and “right” aren’t the same as “true.”
The degree to which you establish thought leadership in your area of expertise is the degree to which your inbound marketing is likely to succeed, and thought leadership has little to do with how qualified you are to lead.
The good news is that experts like you can start establishing themselves as thought leaders right now. Today. Using tools you likely already have up and running.
The bad news is that the playing field is mighty crowded:
Every B2B topic, even niche topics, already has at least one “go-to” named expert for its specialty. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t establish yourself as a thought leader for what you do. It just means you’ll have to work hard, and smart, to get yourself there. You’re a successful businessperson already, so you know all about working hard.
Here is our recommended path for working smart:
- Focus your content using keyword research to identify not just the most popular search terms related to your business, but the terms which will give you the most impact for your effort.
- Optimize your page for both keyword search performance and the viewer experience.
- Build calls to action with a core objective into your content, so visitors are led inexorably toward becoming interested and qualified leads (or, at least, impressed advocates for your page).
- Monitor news and social media for high-profile topics that you can turn into frequently shared, relevant and evergreen content.
- Systematize your content generation to make your online content and inbound marketing a prioritized initiative in your business, not the afterthought that more than 30% of your competition thinks it is.
- Double-dip on all of your content by turning blog posts into sections of an ebook, expanding social media conversations into webinars, and otherwise leveraging what you build in as many ways as possible.
- Have quality of quantity blogs with strategic intent. Divide your time equally between actually writing your content and sharing that content in relevant social media spaces like Google+ and LinkedIn.
- Blog with intent. Don’t spend any time writing a blog post that isn’t a defined part of your overall marketing strategy. Do the research to identify the best keywords, social media strategies and images to go with it.
It’s Worth Every Hour You Put into It
In the 21st-century marketing battleground, your thought leadership position is one of the most powerful tools available for dominating your market. The time you spend on this pays off in ways that few other investments of your resources can.
Take a look at some of the numbers behind this statement:
Of course, it’s not just about getting your words out and attracting attention. You need systems in place for what to do when that attention arrives in the form of interested leads.
Read on to learn the exciting things the 21st century has in store for you about that.