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How to Become a Thought Leader

5 years ago, when I decided I was going to move into the agency space, I started researching what it would take to land a sweet agency job. I came up with a strategy that would highlight my strengths and experience doing work similar to the positions I was applying for. I sat down and had coffee with my friends in the marketing world, and feverishly took notes on our conversations. And I also started to be more active in sharing things I knew about on LinkedIn, my blog, and other places. I talked about social media, from trends to tactics, from influencer marketing to creating brand advocacy. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I was doing was becoming a thought leader. I wasn’t creating myself as something I wasn’t, I was merely being more public in expressing my skills and experience. Becoming a thought leader was a key component of helping me get my first agency job, and the same strategy helps B2B marketers gain qualified leads everyday. So, how can you become a thought leader?

What topics are you most knowledgeable about?

This isn’t always easy to figure out, so start by answering a few questions: what’s your vision? What are your strengths? Who is your target audience? In what ways are you different to your competitors? Writing (or thinking) this out will help you identify where you can add value by sharing your what you know. The idea behind becoming a thought leader is to have your audience see you the way you see yourself. Know a lot about statistics? Then you want your audience to think, “This is my expert on statistics.” Expertise is your real goal, in everyday things that you happen to know well.

Create and Aggregate

The second step to becoming a thought leader is being more visible and active in the online communities where your audience is, and you can do that by becoming a better content creator. Do you know a thing or two about marketing? Then create a marketing blog, where you share your tips and tricks. Share stories of how you’ve helped clients become more successful, from the strategy to the execution. There are many types of content that you can create on a daily basis that will build your credibility a thought leader, including: webinars, blog posts, podcasts, social media, emails, and landing pages. Sharing content will strengthen your position as an expert on the things you know best. Often we take it for granted that everyone knows what we know, and we forget that there are countless people who can make use of the knowledge and experience we have and use everyday.

The next step is learning to be a master aggregator. Finding and sharing out content that provides value to your audience is another great way for to be known as a source of knowledge for your industry. There are many great tools out there for B2B marketers that can help with this, including apps like Feedly, Apple News, Flipboard, SmartNews, LinkedIn Pulse, and Nuzzel. Many of these apps are free and make it easy to find and bookmark relevant content for future sharing. From there you can use tools like Social Studio or Buffer to schedule out a regular cadence for you content. Creating content that’s shareable also extends the reach of your posts, which positions you in front of even wider audience.

Engage with everything

To cement yourself as a thought leader, you need to make sure you’re carving out time to engage with not just your audience, but in the greater conversation around your industry. In Financial Services? Use social listening to look for conversations around banking, financial planning, and other topics related to your industry and join when it’s appropriate. How and when you join is important, too, because you don’t want to come off as pushy, or as someone who’s merely trying to sell something. Jump into questions and offer real tips and advice that provides value, and don’t mention your brand. Don’t force yourself into conversations, but join when it seems natural, or gives you a chance to genuinely try to help. By adding value when and where you can, you are organically positioning yourself as a thought leader, and others in those conversations will view it the same way. Just like with your content marketing, you’re not there to sell specifically, you’re there to add value, and if it turns into a lead, it’s even better because it’s organic.

Becoming a thought leader will benefit you when customers are ready to move into or further down the funnel, and just because you’re not viewed as a thought leader or subject matter expert now doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t be. Identifying areas of expertise helps you create a strategy for how to demonstrate your knowledge and experience to others. By creating, aggregating, and sharing great content out on your channels, you position yourself as someone who knows your industry or segment well, and you also extend your reach through shareable content that can have a really long-life. Lastly, spending time investing in social listening and engaging in relevant conversations allows you the opportunity to connect with potential leads, to increase awareness for your brand.

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