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What makes your business different from your competitors' businesses? (Hint: it's not your product or service.) It's YOU. 

Yes, Mom was right: you are special. There's no one else like you on the planet. You have a unique perspective on everything, and that includes your industry and your business. So why not capitalize on it by sharing your point of view with others, especially those who might be interested in buying from you?

See, that's what thought leadership is all about. Consider it another tool in your marketing toolkit—a cool tool that's 100% all about you.

Now, the question you might be thinking is this: Can I simply call myself a thought leader, or does becoming a thought leader happen naturally over time?

Our answer: you can (and should) position yourself as a thought leader, but it won't happen overnight. Like anything else, it takes planning. Let’s get to it.

Here are the two most important ingredients in a killer B2B thought leadership strategy.

1. The written word.

The best way to disseminate your knowledge to the masses is through the written word. Here are some tips for doing just that.

  • Write authentically and passionately. If you want to be a thought leader, you need to be the one supplying the meat. Even if you use a ghostwriter, your unique voice should still come through and you should review/revise each piece to make sure that's indeed the case. Over time, people should be able to read something you wrote and know it was written by you, even before they look at the byline.
  • Write about your industry/business, but don't be afraid to occasionally go beyond it. Thought leaders have opinions about many things, not just the goings-on in their own industry. You can certainly share these opinions (it makes you look like a well-rounded thought leader), but keep in mind that certain topics are flashpoints (e.g. the 2016 presidential race). That doesn't mean you should or shouldn't write about these topics. In fact, writing about a controversial topic might garner more shares and so forth. But it does mean you should be prepared for a wide range of responses: the good, the bad, and the ugly. (And if you're not prepared to deal with the ugly, then forgo writing about flashpoint topics for now.)
  • Write regularly. If you want to position yourself as a thought leader, you need to share your message with people on a regular basis. (It's a lot like running for president. Think of all the stump speeches candidates make.) This means you must write regularly and consistently. The best way to hold yourself accountable is by creating an editorial calendar and carving out time in your schedule every week to focus on writing. (Download our free guide about content marketing best practices and pay close attention to the section on creating a content calendar.)
  • Write for humans first, but keep the tenets of SEO in mind. You want people to be able to find the stuff you write, correct? So make sure you're using keyword phrases that people are searching on and that are relevant to your topic. (Here's how to create a keyword strategy that actually works.)
  • Write for a variety of "settings." At the very least, you should have a blog integrated with your company website. You own the content, and people can easily connect your thoughts with your business. But you shouldn't stop there:

    • LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the go-to destination for people in the b2b sphere, and its publishing platform is a great place to post original content AND occasionally republish content from your company blog.

    • Twitter. Twitter forces you to think in soundbites, so it can be a great way to share digestible points you're trying to make while debating/interacting with others. It's also a great place to share links to your other content.

    • Trade magazines. What better way to position yourself as a thought leader than by penning a piece that appears in the magazine that everyone within your industry reads? Note: most trade magazines publish submission guidelines, which will explain how to pitch an article.

    • Other blogs. Publishing a guest post on a highly trafficked blog is a great way to increase your exposure as a thought leader. Find blogs you genuinely love, share their content, and provide thoughtful, engaging comments on their posts (without any expectation for a return "favor"). Over time, there's a good chance your comments will garner the attention of people who manage the blog, opening the doors for a guest submission.

2. The spoken word.

By speaking about your work, your industry, your passion, you can demonstrate your knowledge and personality in a way that you can't always accomplish with the written word.

Not only that, but when people choose to work with a company, they often make their decision based on how the folks in the company make them feel. So allowing people to see you in action is another important ingredient in the thought leadership secret sauce.

So what sort of spoken word "things" should you focus on?

  • Video. Long gone are the days of needing to hire a professional videographer to take and produce videos. With a smartphone camera, quality microphone, and good lighting, you can record and produce your own videos. (Here are seven video marketing tips we recently shared.)
  • Podcasts. Podcasting is a hot trend right now, and chances are good even your mother knows what a podcast is, thanks to the success of ones like Serial. (Get HubSpot's free guide: How to Create a Podcast.)
  • Webinars. Webinars are an excellent way to highlight your knowledge and share it with others (especially prospective clients). Plus, you can record the webinars and make them available on your site (for free or a nominal cost).
  • Live events/speaking engagements. Seek out speaking engagements. You can approach this in a few ways. Use a PR firm to help land and manage gigs. Get involved with a speakers' bureau. Have a "speaking" section on your site where you provide details and solicit inquiries. Offer your speaking services to people who organize industry conferences that you attend. (Or you can do all of the above.)
  • Teaching opportunities. You've probably heard this saying: if you want to become an expert in something, teach it. Well, by becoming a teacher, you're also positioning yourself as a thought leader. At PMG, we practice what we preach. For the last several years, Susan LaPlante-Dube, one of our principals, has been leading social media training sessions for Harvard University staff. As a result, Susan has become a respected thought leader on all things social media—something that helps build credibility with prospects and current clients alike.
  • TED talks. This is probably one of the ultimate "gets," and it’s not necessarily as daunting as you might think. Sure, you won't land a TED talk right out of the gate, but after you've been flexing your thought leadership muscles for a while, give it a whirl. As this article in Forbes says, "The good news is, anyone has a shot if they have an idea worth spreading." To get started, focus on landing a TEDx gig at the regional level.

Love the idea of being a thought leader but feel a little overwhelmed by everything we’ve outlined above? Don't worry. It's normal. We can guide you through it and even manage the process by helping you come up with written topics, an editorial calendar, speaking topics, and more. Let's chat!

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About the Author

Robyn Bradley | Content Marketer
pmg
Robyn Bradley, Content Marketer

Robyn Bradley has been a Content Marketer for PMG since 2006. When she’s not writing, she’s…oh, wait, she’s always writing! She loves integrating real experiences with real clients into her blogs and translating them so that any business can benefit from reading. Complete with her world-famous laser-focus, you can find her crafting articles that help other people in the marketing world find success.

 Tags: B2B Marketing Branding

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