The term “Thought Leader” has become such a popular buzzword that it is almost cliché. But thought leadership is real and a proven tactic for marketing your business. The title is not given out formally but earned over time. This is not a way to quickly grow your business. Paid advertising will lift your company much faster. However, people and companies who are considered thought leaders will find consistent growth much easier to attain.

We generally consider thought leaders to be people who, based on their knowledge and experience in an industry, offer unique guidance, inspire innovation and influence others. When others look to you for your expertise and insight in your field, you have become a thought leader. You have a reputation for helping others with your knowledge and perspective. What are things you can do to become a thought leader?

Start by stepping back from business and decide on your area of expertise. Look at what you know best. Then stick to it. You cannot be an expert in everything. But you can own a niche.  Think about it from a holistic perspective, not from that of your business. You should have opinions, but if they are all self-serving you will be perceived as a shill. Thought leadership content is not a place for calls-to-action regarding your business. Instead, it is an opportunity to dispense advice and wisdom.

Know who you are writing for. No different than paid advertising, have a client avatar or ideal client in mind when developing your content. Then shape your messaging to resonate with them. Don’t be afraid to solicit feedback from your audience. Knowing how your audience reacts to your thoughts will guide you in future pieces.

You want your efforts to be genuine and authentic as that is what will make an impact and allow you to have a deeper connection with your audience. If your content is consistently sales focused, your audience will slowly lose interest and not connect with you or your firm. Instead, stay with topics that are current within your industry.  Do this from your point-of-view.  Find your voice. A unique way of delivering your message will help you stand out. Clients and prospects will come to the realization that you are the expert in the field and the one they should contact when they have issues.

In order to let people see your mastery of a topic delve into the details. Dissect issues and be granular. You are demonstrating expertise. Explain how the history of your business has led up to the day’s big issues. Examine current trends and what they mean for your industry. Take on the tough topics others won’t. Look at what the future might bring. Most audiences welcome well-thought commentary on how the current environment will shape their industry in the coming years.

A thought leader continues to learn. If you are not ahead of the curve in your industry you are back in the crowd. Every field evolves, you need to stay on top of yours. Being a thought leader requires forward thinking, and the discipline to learn all of the factors impacting your area of expertise. If you have done research, share it. This is another demonstration of your commitment to the field.

As with most marketing initiatives, consistency is key. You do not have to produce daily. Or, even weekly. But you must be consistent. Train your audience to expect information from you on a regular basis. Look for other opportunities to express your opinion. Guest blogging and appearances on podcasts and webinars are available in almost every industry. Thought leadership is about reputation. That is developed over time with continuity.

Much like Search Engine Optimization, thought leadership does not happen overnight. But, much like SEO, once established thought leadership can generate inbound leads for years to come. We all like to work with experts, it gives us a feeling of comfort that the best is helping us succeed. You can develop that reputation if you become a thought leader.