Thought leadership is more than a marketing exercise. It can be a key way to build your professional brand and develop trust with existing and potential clients. Here are four steps to becoming a thought leader.
- Know your audience
While thought leaders are generally experts in their industry, there are two distinct audiences you should consider and factor in your method and tone of address: other brokers and clientele. The biggest difference is the level of knowledge you can assume the audience has and, therefore, the level of jargon or technical terminology they may be willing to tolerate.
If you’ve decided to use thought leadership as part of your marketing, it may be tempting to believe your default audience is current and prospective clients. However, being the broker that other brokers turn to for insights and advice can be greatly beneficial to your overall reputation.
Identifying your audience will enable you to decide on the most suitable communication channels to use – including social media platforms – in order to optimise your reach. For example, Twitter and LinkedIn have become popular in attracting professional attention, because users can curate the people they follow and group them by topic or industry.
- Provide insight, not just info
Information is common; insight is rare. Thought leaders generally have deep knowledge and experience in their field, and true value comes from their ability to observe trends and find connections where others can’t. Define your unique selling proposition as a thought leader by identifying your niche. What can you see that others miss?
Also be aware that all unique insights will have some detractors and non-believers, and that’s okay. As long as you have evidence and experience to fend off the negativity, you’re better off being a little controversial and individual than safe and bland.
- Build your brand
Thought leaders can become brands in their own right. Once you reach this stage of your career you should cultivate and manage your professional self as you would any brand: know what values you represent and who you’re speaking to and for.
When crafting your brand, do your research and look for inspiration from other industry experts. Who do you admire as a thought leader? What kind of brand do they have? What can you learn from how they conduct themselves?
Increase exposure by cross-promoting and networking with other thought leaders and influencers from both your industry and from complementary fields. You don’t have to agree on everything, but your values should align for these partnerships to resonate.
- Engage with your followers
Whether your followers are broking professionals or potential clients, be sure to listen to them. Find out what issues they have and pinpoint how your thought leadership can address those issues. It’s also a good idea to gather feedback about why people read or listen to you so you can hone your expertise.
Social media platforms make it really easy to engage with people, so invest some time into monitoring how people respond to your insights. Followers also love a responsive thought leader. Your followers can become powerful word-of-mouth advocates when you actively apply your knowledge and experience to answer their questions or alleviate their issues.
Thought leadership is not just a form of marketing, but also a way to engage with the industry and build trust with the stakeholders in it. As a demonstration of expertise it is unparalleled as a communications tool. It also provides an opportunity for you to think more deeply and act more mindfully in your business.
Contact PLAN Australia for more information on how we can help you build your professional brand and influence in the industry.