Simple tips to developing thought leadership

If you’re an experienced advisor, you’d have developed a thorough technical understanding of your area of expertise and have practised in many circumstances, with a variety of different clients. You are able to share learnings, identify concerns, establish scenarios and estimate trajectories in the course of your work. In short, you are an authority. In fact, many may think of you as a leader; one which is able to make comment, with consideration and insight.

With this kind of reputation building, you have the potential to position yourself as a thought leader to a broader market. But how, exactly, is this done?

Realising this goal means introducing a few more skills to your stable. You’ll need to translate your capability into relatable content that resonates with your market. You’ll also need to communicate it frequently in order to get results.

Take for example a taxation expert we were working with. They had a fantastic technical brain that could recite tax legislation and identify the ins-and-outs of this tax and that. Fellow accountants revered them but, from a client’s point-of-view, it was all jargon. There was always a ‘man in the middle’ to translate the jargon into a relatable format that a client could understand and act upon.

What a wonderful resource to position this firm as a leader in their field, but an unfortunate waste that this brilliant technician was relegated to the back office.

There are ways to translate this expertise into thought leadership. Here’s a few things to think about:

  1. Identify your target market. First and foremost, identify who your market is – specifically. From a marketing point of view, this means defining your market in detail so that you know their demographics, their interests, what is important to them. From a personal point of view, however, think about growing your business by doing the work you love with the people you like. Look at your current client base and group together the clients you like working with. Analyse the business you do together and the similarities between them. It is likely that you are already working with some of your desired target market. This will help you enormously in producing relevant and valuable thought leadership.
  2. Understand their issues. In the case that you’re already working with your target market, this will be easier. Listen to your clients intently and don’t be afraid to ask them. If not, you’ll have to do your research. What you are trying to achieve is an understanding of their key issues, pain points, the questions they want answered, their agenda in the coming year and the hot topics they are talking about.
  3. Provide tips and insights. Now that you know what’s on the minds of your target market, you’ll be able to identify the topics for the thought leadership you’ll be writing, speaking about and commenting on to raise your profile. When approaching each topic, remember that you are providing a unique point of view, a perspective that they may not have thought about, and a way to approach a situation. In short, you are supporting them to become more aware of the issues and increase their own understanding. At the same time, you are positioning yourself as the expert – the thought leader. Make sure that your content is relatable, educational and actionable. Provide tips and insights. Tell stories and provide examples.
  4. Don’t write for writing sake. Often we see experts that send out countless publications and newsletters that aren’t targeted, don’t solve a pain point and definitely aren’t thought leadership. They are wasting their time and that of their target market. If it’s not interesting, doesn’t solve a problem or provide an opinion with some value, then it’s just another piece of information. Your goal is to cut through the junk, not create it.
  5. Be thoughtful. Being thoughtful means a number of things. It means putting thought into what you do, eliminating carelessness, ensuring that you provide valuable advice. It also means being mindful and considerate. Although there is strategy behind thought leadership, in essence, you are giving something for nothing. You are providing value by sharing your insights and opinions, without an expectation of payment in return. In a way, it’s being generous. If your target market thinks of you in this way, then that’s a bonus that will enhance your reputation.

Creating thought leadership is not rocket science. It’s about taking an educated and sensible approach to profiling your expertise and experience in a way that resonates with your market.

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