Becoming a thought leader doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a level of expertise achieved over years of hard work and a dedication to content creation that might initially seem daunting.
Recently, those of us at Hinge found ourselves fascinated with the idea of becoming a thought leader. How do these experts achieve their status and level of visibility? What tools did they use along the way? What kind of benefits do they bring to their firms? And how can others replicate their success?
To answer these questions (and many more), we conducted interviews with 130 highly visible professionals whom we called Visible ExpertsSM. We also surveyed 1,028 purchasers of expert services in hopes of understanding how the presence of Visible Experts influences buying decisions.
One of the biggest surprises from our research was the realization that, despite coming from varying backgrounds and industries, all of our Visible Experts followed a similar path to success. They also made use of similar tools and tactics to increase their visibility and reputation. To sum it up: Content drives thought leadership marketing.
On average, the experts in our research used over 15 different marketing tools to build their personal brands. The most popular responses were:
The list was rounded out by some usual suspects: blog posts, webinars, Twitter, videos, and books. This data showed us that a key element to becoming a thought leader is reaching a broad audience across multiple platforms.
Beyond simply knowing which tools experts used, we also wanted to know what type of content production was yielding the best results. We asked the experts which tools had the biggest impact on their brands.
Books were the clear winner, with an impact ranking of 8.1 out of 10. Speaking engagements again ranked highly, with non-keynotes and keynote addresses coming in second and third, respectively.
We weren’t surprised that books have the ability to make a substantial impact because they can reach a broad audience, but writing a book is not a simple task. To determine whether writing a book is worth an aspiring thought leader’s time, we analyzed the impact ratings with the level of effort put forth. Surprisingly, books still rank number one for return on effort.
However, you don’t have to wait for your book to be published to start producing thought leadership content. As detailed in this post, embracing various types of content creation is essential for building your visibility. Writing articles (both for other publications and your company website) ranked high on the list of marketing tools experts use. Video, visual, and audio content all work to reach various audiences across multiple platforms. Remember: Your target audiences digest content in different formats, so using a range of mediums helps to reach different types of people as well.
Becoming a thought leader might take time, but each piece of informative content you produce — as well as the efficacy of your content promotion — is a step in the right direction. All Visible Experts had to start somewhere. Once you become an expert, it’s only a matter of creating content and utilizing marketing tools to grow your visibility and improve upon your reputation.
How has your firm successfully nurtured internal thought leaders, or how have you become one yourself? Let us know in the comments!
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 LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com.