I’ve spoken alongside some fantastic people over the last few months; Dennis Yu, Alex Langshur and Susan Hallam spring to mind. Three of the most influential Digital Agency Experts and all thought-leaders.
Thought-Leadership seems to the topic of the moment. Seems to make sense to become the go-to expert, the one that everyone refers to. So, what does it mean to be a thought-leader and how do you become one? Is it just about standing on stage and doing a few so-called keynotes? And how would that help your agency?
What is a Thought-Leader?
“A thought-leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.” That’s what Wikipedia says.
Isn’t that Content Marketing?
Nope. While content marketing is about curating and pumping stuff out, thought-leadership is far more about being the expert out there, out the front, challenging, influencing and being seen to be doing so. If no-one sees or hears about your great concepts, then it isn’t thought-leadership. You need to be recognised (by others) and be seen to be the expert
So, what does a thought-leader do? It applies my expert model!
A thought-leader focuses – they have a focus on specific people (target clients) who have specific problems and issues (dilemma/pain/hurt).
A thought-leader writes – ‘how to’ guides, white papers, research, surveys, articles, columns, books, ”10 things to know about …’, ‘Impact of new legislation…’. These focus on the needs of the target clients.
A thought-leader possesses – a website, a blog, the knowledge, a Filofax (if you are old enough to remember what one of those is/was) to die for… the (appropriate) tools an expert would be expected to have.
A thought-leader knows – the movers and shakers, influencers, key people in their world or at least they have access to them. They know the people that need to be known, especially in their field of expertise. They are the trainer’s trainer, the expert’s expert, the consultant’s consultant.
A thought-leader speaks – at workshops, seminars, business clubs, masterclasses, mastermind groups and so on. And the talks, like the articles, focus on the needs of the target clients.
As well as the five attributes above there are two additional, yet underpinning, concepts:
A thought-leader has an ‘ology’, a way of doing things. Not necessarily unique, but a particular, systematic approach, a way of doing things.
A thought-leader uses the power of testimonials and endorsements, which tell how other people with the same/similar dilemma/hurt/pains had their dilemma/hurt/pain cured/removed/sorted!
The model consists of a series of inter-connected activities; each is related to all the others as it repeats the same message and maintains the same focus, and you benefit from the cumulative effect of the consistency and uniqueness of your offering. More importantly, in the eyes of your potential client you are seen as the ‘subject matter expert’, the person that they would like to engage to work on their particular needs.
By systematically applying each part suddenly everything pulls together. The total is far greater than the sum of the parts.
When you are clear about your focus then you can clearly articulate:
The overt business benefit that you offer
The real reason that people should believe you can deliver and…
The dramatic difference that separates you from the crowd.
Suddenly you can answer the questions:
“Why should I bother to buy from you?” and…
“What makes you different from the rest?”
The impact is that when you meet, or write, or talk, or write advertising copy, or tweet, or message, or text, or present, or sell, you are delivering a 100% consistent message. Like DNA, the message should run through all you do. The message runs:
We work with these types of people… Who have these problems/issues… What we do is this… So that they get this… Which means that they also get this…
It is all about explaining the benefits (what’s left after you’ve ‘delivered’) and demonstrating that you really can deliver. It is not so much about selling as educating. It is not so much about advertising and pushing as about inviting people to join you. It is about becoming a customer magnet, attracting them towards you rather than endlessly interrupting and pushing yourself onto them. It is subtler. It is more effective. It is altogether more pleasant for everyone involved. And it works. Big time.
And this impact is compounded by the inexpensive yet far-reaching social media tools you have at your disposal. The message will always be more important than the medium, so sort the message, deliver on your promises and your journey will have begun.