Landing new business and attracting qualified clients is easier when you’ve established yourself as a thought leader in your market. When prospects, referral sources, and influencers are aware of your background and experience, they are much more comfortable doing business with you, sending business your way, and encouraging others to hire you.
There is power in being a thought leader, which is why so many business professionals aspire to be one. Thought leaders are frequently viewed as experts, which can justify a higher cost for their goods and services. They often become the go-to person in their industry.
Being a thought leader is worth money. So how do you become one? Here’s a look at five powerful steps, which can raise you to thought-leader status in 90 days or less:
1. Stalk HARO
Respond to every relevant HARO (a.k.a., Help a Reporter Out) query for which you’re a fit and would support your messaging and desired position as an industry influencer. HARO is a free service that connects journalists and reporters working on news stories, articles, blog posts, and TV programs, with potential sources––meaning people like you––to interview.
As a registered subscriber, you’ll receive three emails daily listing all the media outlets working on stories. While many people skim the list of queries and respond only to those that are business-related, savvy entrepreneurs review those emails with a fine-tooth comb for opportunities that are positive and that they would qualify for, personally or as a business owner.
You want to ultimately be ubiquitous – being quoted in any newspapers, magazines, blog posts, TV or radio shows, and podcasts your target audience pays attention to.
Years ago, I responded to a query about “the home that got away,” meaning a home that I tried to buy but lost to another buyer. Although home buying has nothing to do with my business, I offered my thoughts. Turns out, the story was for the New York Times. And, yes, I was quoted –– boosting my credibility.
2. Pursue guest contributor opportunities
Reach out to magazines, trade journals, and blog editors, and podcast hosts, who serve your target audience, to inquire about:
- contributing to an upcoming story,
- submitting a bylined article (or guest post),
- or being a guest on their show.
It’s likely you already know which outlets and programs have a strong following, so review their guest post guidelines, if they’re readily available online, or send a quick email to let them know you’d like to be considered as a guest or submit content.
Many media outlets accept guest articles penned by industry experts like you, so review their guidelines and if they accept email inquiries, take a few minutes to send a quick email to pitch your bylined article. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get an opportunity.
3. Speak to your tribe in person
There are few better ways to establish yourself as an expert than through public speaking––sharing what you know at a public or private venue. To find speaking gigs, research local and national trade organizations that meet regularly, to see if they would like to have you speak to their audience.
Consider the types of organizations that your target audience (i.e., ideal customers) belongs to, which might be a civic organization like Rotary or Kiwanis, a business group like the local Chamber of Commerce, or a trade association like the Retail Industry Leaders.
I’ve spoken at Entrepreneur magazine’s convention outside NYC, at writers conferences, a YPO publishing event, as well as local Rotary and NAWBO meetings, all by simply asking for the opportunity.
4. Write a book
Few entrepreneurs can crank out a quality book in 90 days on their own, but with the help of a professional ghostwriter, you can become an author in a matter of weeks.
Ghostwriters gather information by interviewing you, taking any background information you’ve gathered, supplementing it with other research and interviews as needed, and then pulling it together as a well-written book that sounds like you wrote it.
If you know what you want to share and have gathered some thoughts and material together in advance, it’s possible to have your book drafted in a matter of weeks. You can then sell it on Amazon or use it as a marketing tool by mailing it to all your prospects and clients. Few professionals can refer to themselves as authors, so this step is one way to differentiate yourself and your business.
5. Create an online community
To be a leader, you need people to lead (i.e., fans or followers). One of the quickest and easiest ways to build a community is to set up a Facebook group, where you can share useful content with your fans and invite them to come to hang out and network with each other.
Creating a Facebook group is free and easy. The key to success is to encourage conversation and engagement and invite new members. By serving as a group leader and offering tips and advice related to your area of expertise, you become a connector.
You have power as the group’s moderator or administrator, and members will rely on you to ensure the group is useful and provides a positive experience. For example, Tiffany Aliche, a.k.a. The Budgetnista, shares what she knows about personal finance through her free Dream Catchers group, which now has more than 430,000 members.
Becoming a thought leader can provide a steady stream of new business opportunities, and these five steps can help you get there.
Marcia Layton Turner writes for and about small businesses for outlets ranging from Forbes.comto LegalZoom, Businessweek, CNN Money, and Chief Content Officer, to name a few. A bestselling business book ghostwriter, Turner works primarily with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners.
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