If you're a business owner looking to grow your firm's client portfolio and bottom line, successfully positioning yourself as a thought leader in your field is an effective way to achieve your goals.
Many business leaders often shy away from thought leadership because a significant component of it involves sharing new ideas and notes on your success with competitors.
However, the benefits are numerous. Being a thought leader and developing content around a niche your business operates within can help you communicate what you do more effectively to the rest of the industry and, more importantly, to potential clients.
Not only is thought leadership a great marketing opportunity for your business, but it can also help your business earn a reputation as an authority figure within your field and peers.
If you are interested in becoming a thought leader, below are steps to help you achieve this goal.
Spend some time thinking about why you want to become a thought leader and what you would do with your platform. You might be looking to generate a competitive advantage, for example.
Once you have a goal in mind, try to determine what your actual platform is. Do you want to speak on a specific problem within your industry and offer solutions? Do you have a vision for the future you would like to share with your peers?
To aid in your decision making, try looking into your industry's future and identifying relevant risks or opportunities you see. Then, use that insight to develop your platform and let people know what they need to do in the present, given what will most likely occur in the future.
It's imperative that you are passionate about your chosen platform. You have to meet your audience with enthusiasm about the topic, which can be difficult when talking about the same subject for several years consecutively.
Choosing a topic that you are passionate about will allow you to continue developing fresh content and actively engaging with your audience for years to come.
The decisions you make around your goals and platform will help you narrow down your audience.
But while your first instinct might be to cast a wide net and engage as many people as possible, think again.
If you aim for the broadest possible audience, you risk watering down your content to a point where it's no longer interesting or relevant to anyone.Share on TwitterShare on Facebook
Once you have a clear picture of who your audience is, the key is to develop content in a way that speaks directly to them.
A helpful approach is to pick one person you're trying to reach and develop content as though you're sitting down and talking to them one-on-one. This approach helps thought leaders create content that is interesting and primed for their target audience.
How you deliver this content to your audience will depend on your niche and what kind of content you're creating. For example, a business leader may distribute content through their company's website or on webinars, while individuals might distribute it through their personal social media platforms.
When people consider establishing themselves as thought leaders, their initial idea is to write a book sharing personal insights on their respective industries. But anyone that has gone down this road will tell you how writing a book is a time and labor-intensive activity that may not have the payoff you desire.
Rather than committing to something that big, try a lower-scale effort, such as a few LinkedIn articles, and see what type of response you get.
Or if you are a better speaker than writer, try booking speaking events in front of small groups, like at a local event rather than a national conference. This trial-and-error method allows you to see what your target audience does and does not respond well to so that you can adjust your approach or platform as needed.
Remember that you do not have to be the only person within your firm to produce thought leadership content. Try to leverage your team's expertise to market your services further.
For example, your team members might do well with interviewing experts in your field (who double as potential customers) for articles your team will then draft and post to your website or other relevant industry webpages.
Good content is king. You can make decisions around your approach to thought leadership and put in the time and effort to develop content, but it doesn't matter if the content isn't vital and fails to engage your target audience.
Recommended reading: 6 content marketing strategies for accountants & bookkeepers
To help ensure that the content you produce achieves your goal, make sure that you offer a variety of stories and insights to capture and keep your audience. When people repeatedly tell the same stories, in the same way, the audience usually stops listening. It's also essential that you tailor your language to your audience so you can quickly connect with them.
Aside from creating quality material, ensuring that you deliver your content consistently is also essential to your success. Putting out content always helps you capture and keep your audience's attention, ultimately building out a base of people interested in listening to what you have to say and who will follow your team's work.
Also, establishing an editorial calendar can help you produce material regularly and give you the preparation time you need.
While you may be hesitant to offer valuable insight into your industry, positioning yourself as a thought leader in your respective field can help you attract clients, grow your business, and push your industry forward. If you decide to become one, following the steps above is a great way to safeguard your success.
Co-Founder and CEO, Summit CPA Group
Jody Grunden is the Co-Founder and CEO of Summit CPA Group, the leading provider of Virtual CFO Services in North America. He started the company in 2002, bringing more than 23 years of public and corporate accounting leadership, tax expertise, and executive management experience to his role with the company. He is a member of the Forbes Finance Council, AICPA, and the Indiana CPA Society and the author of Building the Virtual CFO Firm in the Cloud.