I was at a meeting of small emerging businesses. The speaker asked, “Does anyone here blog?” I was the only one who put up my hand. According to the speaker, it wasn’t unusual to have one, maybe two people raise their hands. We both agreed, the remaining business owners and sales professionals were missing an opportunity. Why? Their single-minded focus on short-term revenue blinded them to the potential of thought leadership.
Let me explain. I’m not opposed to revenue generation – in fact, successful blogging practices focus on turning readers into customers. Thought leadership also includes speaking and writing books and articles, but blogging is a common path to becoming a thought leader. Why would the speaker, and I, recommend focusing on thought leadership?
What is thought leadership?
There are two parts to the definition of thought leadership. This video from Forbes addresses the first part — wisdom.
Thought leaders are people, representing themselves or organizations, to whom we turn for wisdom on a specific set of topics and ideas. These people are experts in their field who consistently add to the body of knowledge in their industries.
There is a second part to the definition — wealth. I’m not talking solely about money, although that’s the most commonly recognized form of wealth. Wealth can also mean highly visible speaking invitations, recognition from industry-leading publications, breakthroughs in the way our peers understand our field of expertise or becoming a public icon representing the ideas you champion.
To be considered a thought leader, you must satisfy both parts of the definition.
The secret to developing thought leadership
Lucky for us, there are some principles, or secrets, we can follow to build our thought leadership. I’ll share some wisdom from one of my favorite thought leaders, Fast Company, with the addition of my commentary, of course.
1. Sell your ideas – not your products.
This first secret is about sharing wisdom. You must first establish yourself as an expert in a targeted topic or field.
2. Give it away.
There’s a reason “wisdom” comes before “wealth” in the definition of thought leadership. As an expert, your purpose is to enhance the knowledge in your field as much as to realize a reward down the line. To do this, you need to offer your expertise freely.
3. Take a position.
You are not simply summarizing; you are commenting, interpreting, and evaluating. Refer to the Forbes video for a roadmap to find a specific enough field to make an impact.
4. Focus on the persona and topic where you make the biggest difference.
When writing or speaking, have a specific person and problem in mind. Anticipate what they need to know and offer it to them in a way that shows your love of the field and your compassion to better their life.
5. Be visible.
You cannot be a thought leader to only yourself. When you write or speak, make sure your whole network, both in-person and virtual, know what you are saying, how, and when. Write, speak, and promote yourself consistently to tap into the results of the second part of the definition of thought leadership — wealth.
Why I blog for my small business
Establishing thought leadership is a big part of the reason I blog for my small business, Intentional Growth Strategies. Can you see how I use the secrets I described above?
- Learning design and training are important pieces for business success, and potential clients deserve to sample what I have to offer and receive insight into how I think, act, and deliver my services.
- Blogging about the topics that make up my training allows me to tell a story on social media. Through an extended narrative made up of my posts, videos and social media shares, I’m able to communicate the problems I solve, how, and for whom.
- Writing through my ideas helps me gather anecdotes, stories and processes for my training platforms. I’m able to work out details and concrete images in this shorter form before translating them for mLearning, online learning, or in-person seminars.
I’ve worked hard to consistently publish a post every Tuesday on my website and share my expertise through social media. As I do so, my network recognizes and shares the wisdom I offer.
Where’s the revenue?
When I network to drum up business for my company, this is what I hear.
“I saw that blog post you wrote on…”
“Didn’t you just present at the … meeting?”
“My boss shared the article you wrote about…”
The expertise I’ve invested in building turns cold leads into warm ones. I’m asked to speak in more places, write for more people, and develop more courses than I’ve ever imagined.
Do you have thought leadership secrets to share? Let’s learn together.
Also published on Medium.