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How to become a thought leader in your industry

4 min read

Brands & Campaigns

Have you ever sat through a keynote address or read a book from a thought leader in your industry and wondered how they achieved their status? If so, you aren’t alone. In fact, we found ourselves asking this question so frequently that we decided to conduct extensive research on the topic. We wondered: What makes these experts so appealing to buyers? How did they rise to their level of fame? What types of benefits are they bringing to their firm?

To answer these questions, we interviewed 130 prominent industry thought leaders — Visible Experts, as we call them. We also surveyed over 1,000 buyers of expert services to get a perspective from the other side of the equation. Our findings proved that these industry stars are even more beneficial to their firms than we originally anticipated.

Over 60% of experts interviewed revealed two key benefits: Brand building, and growth and business development. This breed of experts also creates multiple opportunities for lead generation, whether through publications, speaking engagements or search engines. But employing a Visible Expert won’t just attract new business — these individuals often also command higher rates. Buyers revealed they were willing to pay 13 times more for an internationally recognized expert than for an average professional.

However, these benefits shouldn’t just be reserved for the firms who already have thought leaders on staff. Through our research, we noticed that, regardless of their varying backgrounds and industries, the majority of Visible Experts followed a similar path to success. We identified seven components that can help turn professionals into thought leaders in their industry niche.

7 building locks to becoming a thought leader

  1. Commit. Elevating your status to thought leader isn’t going to be something that happens without deliberate focus and strategic processes. In order to achieve this feat, you’ll need to be fully committed to the hard work it entails.
  2. Develop a strategy for your brand. In order to achieve a Visible Expert brand, you need to work on your reputation and build up your visibility. Again, these are not achievements that will happen overnight. Develop a strategy and commit to putting in the work.
  3. Build visibility in a target market. Zeroing in on your target audience allows you to see where your expertise will be most appreciated. You want to maximize your reach, but you also want to find the market where your skills can thrive.
  4. Strengthen your expertise. If you want to be a well-known expert, you need to have expertise — it’s as simple as that.
  5. Refine your communication skills. Since you’re working to increase your visibility, you want to make sure you’re ready to be seen. Assess how comfortable you are speaking to large groups of people or carrying on detailed conversations about your expertise.
  6. Become a teacher. When they see you as an expert, clients and other industry professionals will look to you for the answers. Practice making complicated discussions understandable and putting clients at ease with your knowledge.
  7. Get the help you need. Once you’ve established your weaknesses or areas that need improvement, it’s time to get the help you need to improve. Recognizing your shortcomings and taking steps to improve them helps you to grow as a leader.

The good news about these seven building blocks is that they don’t have to be completed in a particular order. They’re merely the building blocks to create your foundation. While becoming a Visible Expert or thought leader in your industry won’t happen overnight, it can be achieved with the right strategy, work ethic, and tools.

Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value. Lee can be reached at [email protected] or 703-391-8870.

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