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Business Growth Tip: Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry

If you’re very driven about building your business, you probably have a few smart heads in your industry that you follow fairly closely. You watch their videos, read their articles, and check their Twitter handles and LinkedIn pages for the latest tips and advice they’ve shared. That’s because you need their knowledge of the industry to get ahead in your business pursuits.

In short, you trust them.  Maybe they aren’t the best at other things, but they are certainly quite well informed about the space you’re operating in.  You think the insights they share are really valuable a lot of the time, so you consider them pretty reliable.

Now think how influential these thought leaders are in your sphere; how many persons take their advice like you do, and think they are a reliable source of useful information. This means they’ll have a potentially sizeable number of individuals and groups consulting with them simply because they’re widely respected authorities in their sector. And if they recommend certain products as solutions, a lot of eyes and ears will take note of it.  

Would you want to have the clout of a thought leader, with all the trust in your personal brand that comes with it? How about leveraging that type of credibility to take your business up the growth ladder? 

It’s surprisingly easy to achieve this. Sure, it’s not a walk in the park- there’s hard work to be done if you’re going to shoot yourself into the limelight. But you can. And that’s great news.

Here are five straightforward steps to becoming a trusted voice in your corner of the commercial landscape.

1. Identify What Knowledge Area You Will Master

We’re assuming that you’d like to be a recognized name in your space. But even if you’re transitioning to a different career and wanting to be taken seriously in that arena down the line, you’ll still be doing the same things to achieve considerable acclaim.   

Will you be a ‘generalist’, or will you be specializing in some narrower strand of your discipline? For example, if you’re a digital marketer, you may present as a thought leader in digital marketing; or you could niche down and work towards becoming a social media marketing ‘guru’ instead. It all depends on what you can take in, and how much interest there is in subjects at your preferred sub-level.       

2. Start Learning, and Keep at It

If there’s one thing real thought leaders are known for, it’s that they have a deep understanding of their profession’s tools, processes, and practices. They also know a good deal about their industry’s terrain. Becoming an authority in your field means you’ll have to know more about your occupation and its ecosystem than the average person in the space.

Some of that knowledge can no doubt be gained by reading and listening to relevant material, attending conferences, and speaking with other professionals. But there’s knowledge to be gathered from experience as well. And the more you’ve been at the task of building an enterprise or proceeding up the career ranks, the stronger your understanding of the breadth and depth of your turf will be.       

Remember that your learning will be a lifelong process. Things change, so your knowledge of them will have to be updated as time passes.           

3. Connect With Wise Heads in Your Industry

Anecdotal evidence suggests there’s a relationship between the people we hang around with on one hand and our knowledge and achievements on the other. So if you want to break into the circle of the wise heads of your industry, you’ve got to make the connections. You’ll be amazed how much you gain from interacting with these people- and how much you lose out on by not doing so.

Starting a relationship with respected persons in your sphere could begin with sending them a message on LinkedIn, or meeting them in person at a conference. Whatever the means may be, reaching out to them may be your first step to sharing the big stage with them or at least learning stuff that you wouldn’t if you weren’t in touch with them.

4. Build a Following by Sharing Useful Information and Tips

As you learn more, you’ll want to share some useful tips with others. In other words, you’ll be looking to meet your target audience’s need for information. You want to be the one they turn to for the answers.

At this stage, you do have things to share, but it’s the audience that has to be found. The major ways to do this these days are by contributing your insights on industry-specific online discussion groups, answering questions raised on the subjects you’ve mastered (or are mastering), and having your articles on those subjects published on the major websites and blogs that your ideal followers read.

After a while of working your way into the public’s sights, you may want to consider taking it further by featuring on panels at smaller business conferences and build towards appearing at higher level events in the future.   

If you get better at following these strategies, there will be a growing audience for what you’re saying. Consequently, your public profile will receive a boost.

5. Be an Authentic Voice

Your readers and listeners will remain comfortable with your communication as long as it’s authentic, but they’ll get put off by any evidence that you talk in an overly sales-y way.

Be mindful that your audience has a natural bias for honest stories they can relate to; speak with them with a language and tone that they can appreciate. Be sensible and professional by all means, but let it be seen that you’re accessible and open to having two-way conversations.

These five steps are a summary of the path taken by many contemporary thought leaders to the respected positions they’ve assumed in their various sectors. You could become one by applying these steps yourself.

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Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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