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Become a Thought Leader

The benefits of thought leadership are many, and cost less than engaging in a full-blown advertising campaign.

In my estimation, the best way to stand out from your competitors, without spending a fortune, is to become a thought leader.

In the simplest of form, a thought leader is someone who is considered an expert in an industry, technology or topic. Thought leadership is a form of marketing that can be an extremely cost-effective approach to acquiring new business if used properly. The idea that not everyone can conduct thought leadership campaigns is false. I believe you can, either directly or indirectly.

First, let's understand some of the characteristics and benefits of thought leadership.

  1. Thought leaders are continually investing in the acquisition of knowledge in their field. They want to know everything possible about a subject and they subscribe to multiple sources in their quest for information.

  2. They also are proactive in sharing information with people, publishing their ideas and speaking about their areas of expertise. In short, thought leaders are willing to freely give information away. You may be thinking that this is foolish because competitors can steal this information, but thought leaders see it differently. They know that competitors cannot articulate the ideas as well as the thought leader can. Therefore, the more information they give away, the more people will accept them as true leaders. It truly is like the old saying, "the more you give, the more you get."

  3. Along the same lines as giving information away, the thought leader is readily accessible for inquiries. This is important because such exchanges are a rich source of opportunities. Couple this accessibility with giving information away and the thought leader has created an environment of openness and sharing, which, in turn, gains the trust of the market. And, who would you rather do business with, someone you trust or someone you do not trust?

  4. Thought leaders can also command higher fees. Like a high-end car company can charge more for oil changes, tire rotations or auto-body work, a thought leader can also charge more because their value to the market is perceived to be more. Why? Because they're experts!

  5. Thought leaders are bold and typically take a stand in order to differentiate themselves. For example, instead of saying, "we implement Microsoft CRM solutions," position yourself by saying, "our experts have developed industry-specific templates that sit on top of your Microsoft CRM." Don't be afraid of calling yourself an expert.

You might be saying, "How do I actually become a thought leader?" First, take inventory of the things you and your company are exceedingly good at. You will be surprised to find out what some of your people know and, more importantly, how you can push this knowledge onto the marketplace. Once you figure out some areas of expertise, start writing articles, volunteering for speaking engagements and blogging, to name a few activities. Soon, you will start to gain recognition.

If any true expertise escapes your company, you can align yourself with a thought leader for specific campaigns. For example, a client used my expertise with channels to recruit resellers. We wrote a series of articles around picking the right vendor, with the vendor pushing the articles to their target audience. Receptive resellers appreciated the effort the vendor made in trying to educate them on best practices, rather than just selling them on the vendor's program. Consider a third party if you cannot find the experts within your company.

The benefits of thought leadership are many. In short, thought leadership costs less than engaging in a full-blown advertising campaign. You also get far greater exposure, while creating a pull effect in attracting clients. Word will spread on who the experts are on certain topics, and before you know it, you will be retrieving calls instead of placing them when it comes to capturing new opportunities.

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About the Author

Keith Lubner is Chief Business Strategist at Sales Gravy, the sales acceleration company, and managing partner of C3 Channel, a global consulting organization focused on channel strategy, design, enablement, outsourcing and training for growing companies. For more information about Keith, visit www.c3channel.com, www.channeleq.co or www.salesgravy.com.

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