Thought Leader or Sales Pusher?

thought-leaderBusinesses are seeing a value in being a thought leader. When done correctly, becoming a thought leader, an individual who drives innovation and new ideas in a given industry, is a valuable path for any professional. But there is a difference between expressing an opinion and always trying to push a sale. Thought leaders are popular, well respected and connected enough to drive real value to their respective businesses.

Consistency is key in establishing yourself as a “thought leader.” Identify the specific area(s) in which your company truly has the expertise required to become a thought leader. What expertise does your company have that none (or at least few) of your competitors have? That becomes your value proposition and should be what you key into. You may be good at various things, but you’re probably best known for only one or two.

Stay abreast of trends in the marketplace. These trends will be different depending on the type of business you’re in. What is the common denominator between your areas of expertise and these trends? Understanding the connection will help you join the conversation in a meaningful way.

Know who your target audience is, where their pain points and concerns are, and how you can solve their problems will bring value to the table. You can’t go to school to become a “thought leader,” nor can you complete a one-off program and earn some kind of certificate or formal recognition as such. Instead, you must implement a series of ongoing strategies, refine your skill sets and expand your professional connections consistently. In order to do that, you must hang out in the right places to be sure you’re networking with your target audience.

Understand your platform by defining the appropriate channels. Do you have a blog on your company website? Do you have a social media presence and/or an electronic newsletter? If you are a B2B company, LinkedIn posts by your thought leadership spokespeople might be a good way to reach your target group and ultimately new customers. But remember – personality and passion are key to your success. If the content is too dry, salesy or technical it is unlikely to attract an audience. Be a problem solver, not a sales pusher.

Consistency is key. Define a schedule and stick to it. Don’t jump into many platforms just to say you have an account and not be active. Pick 1 or 2 and do them right. Whether you decide to go for a blog, a vlog, a podcast series, or a series of LinkedIn posts, you need to commit to developing and releasing new content consistently. Becoming a thought leader doesn’t happen overnight, but rather builds as new content is released. Stay focused and keep building the relationship with your readers/viewers/listeners. Audience engagement isn’t one-sided. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for feedback and respond quickly to ensure that you keep the conversation going!

About the author: Autumn Edmiston is the CEO and owner of the Edmiston Group. The Edmiston Group is a multifaceted Pittsburgh based marketing consulting firm providing senior level marketing management services to businesses and non-profit organizations on a short or long-term basis. Core areas of service are business development, marketing, strategic planning and public relations. The Edmiston Group has consistently delivered and implemented real-world, proven business marketing ideas and strategies for business.

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