When I first started as an entrepreneur in 2007, my company was called FD Career. Our goal was to build a virtual community to help make the brick and mortar business world more effective and productive. My role within the organization was sales and marketing, and I was in charge of obtaining new clients. My strategy was to focus on outbound marketing: cold calling, emailing, conferences and tradeshows.
This strategy is time consuming and expensive, and it puts you in the difficult position of having to prove yourself. You need to educate the potential client so that they understand who you are and how your company can benefit them. It gives the person you are trying to close the upper hand and can be frustrating for you when you are making the presentation, because you have to determine how to alter your pitch to fit their specific needs.
What is Thought Leadership?
The Internet offers a new way for businesses to attract new business besides outbound marketing that brings qualified leads to you. Building an online reputation with thought leadership and creating a personal brand will generate inbound customers. The type of inbound marketing that I want to discuss is thought leadership. Specifically, I want to explain:
- How to establish thought leadership
- How to build thought leadership to attract customers
- How to increase traffic to your website and blog
- How to convert traffic into customers for your products or services
I am not going to just explain this information to you, however. I am going to offer you three stories of some terrific people who were able to put these strategies in action and how it helped them achieve more sales and more traffic for their business.
How do You Earn Thought Leadership?
There are many different ways you can earn thought leadership. The best way to do this is with a blog. But you can’t just throw up a basic blog and create mini posts or entries full of advertising for your company. You need to put a lot of thought into your blog. You need to determine what it is your market needs to know, the questions they want answered and the information they want to learn so that they can solve the problems that your services or products address.
You need to write fantastic blog posts that stand out from other blogs in your market, such as 1500 word posts, with information they can take away and use, regardless of whether or not they ever become your customer. You need to write guest posts on popular blogs in your niche, you need to be present on social media; you need to interact with people in your market.
It takes a lot of time to create and maintain dialogue with stakeholders in your market, but the upside will be the responses of those whom you share your expertise with during these conversations. The great thing about thought leadership shows people how you are different without you having to prove anything. Actions speak louder than words, and the actions you take on the Internet will help you create a positive reputation, and builds you for long-term success.
Another benefit to thought leadership versus traditional marketing techniques is that outbound marketing is a one-on-one activity. You call one person at a time, and you may be able to close one person out of every 10 calls that you make. You have to put in twice as much effort to get results, and if you don’t keep up that level of effort your sales will start to slide.
With thought leadership, however, your exposure grows exponentially. With all of the information you place online and the speaking engagement you participate in, your influence grows. And the people you reach with that information will share their excitement with others. You achieve the benefit of word of mouth advertising, which enables you to get more traffic and more customers.
What Methods can You Use to Get Customers?
So, what methods can you use to increase your thought leadership and obtain more customers? In addition to creating a blog, you can also use email marketing strategies. One of the benefits of a blog is that you can use it to obtain email addresses, and steer people to your various email campaigns based on their preferences.
Many phenomenal business people, such as Derek Halpern from Social Triggers and Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You To Be Rich, swear by email capture. I agree that emails are one of the most important things that you can use to attract new customers. You will be able to educate them about you, your business, and your offerings so that you can demonstrate your unique selling proposition and expertise.
Businesses are often afraid to do what it takes to establish their credentials online because they don’t want to give away their secrets. They think that if they show readers what lies behind the curtain the individuals will no longer need the company.
My experience in thought leadership proves that the opposite is true. When you lay yourself bare online and go out of your way to help people without concern for your own personal gain, they will remember your effort. Your willingness to offer free advice will allow them to see that you are an expert. Once they know that you are someone who can help them, they will remember you the next time they are in need of a product or service you provide.
Three Case Studies
And now I would like to discuss with you three examples of people who are using their reputation in unique ways to attract customers. These people aren’t any different from you, and you can use some of these strategies to create your own inbound sales funnel and utilize the benefits of an established online reputation.
Steve Wiideman of SEO Expert
This guy has done tremendous work with online marketing. If you Google “SEO expert” he’s the #1 result. Now I have known Steve for almost six years and when we first met he offered me huge amounts of free advice. He is absolutely phenomenal with what he can do with search engine optimization, yet he was willing to take the time to answer any questions I had and help to teach me about his field of expertise. He even became an advisor to our company and he does the same with many other businesses. In fact, whenever I have a client who needs SEO help, I know I can steer them his way and he will be happy to help them.
That is just the way Steve is. He’s a giving person who will help people without expecting anything in return, and this has helped him to become the leading SEO expert online. All of the people he has helped refer others to him and share links to his site across the web. These shares help increase his exposure online and propagate the idea that he is a leading expert in SEO.
Cody McKibben of Thrilling Heroics
Cody is another person that I have known for a long time now and has a great story about how he has become what he calls a digital nomad.
Cody started out as a typical person with a regular job who decided to leave all of that behind him, including his native country, the US. He moved to Thailand where he offered web consulting and design services. He was able to live a fantastic lifestyle since his US funds were able to go a lot further in Thailand. He’s been doing this for the last five years and now he helps other people understand the benefits of a digital nomad lifestyle and achieve their dreams of escaping the shackles of living in one place and being bound by a 9 to 5 job.
What’s more, he has been able to craft a reputation that he has leveraged to create the Digital Nomad Academy. This is a subscription-based business that he uses to teach people how to live this digital nomad lifestyle he created. He has created himself as a thought leader of this type of existence, and any time someone asks me about living abroad or being a digital nomad I immediately send them to Cody. And this is how he obtains all of his customers, via his blog and by referrals.
Jonathan Mead of Paid to Exist
Jonathan is another friend of mine. He created a thriving business, Paid to Exist, that helps people to transform their passion into a career. While getting paid to do something you love may not be a new concept, Jonathan makes it work, and has established himself as an expert in achieving this dream lifestyle so many people want.
He has done this by writing about it and interacting with people on Twitter, his blog, webinars and his email list. He pours inspiration and enthusiasm into everything he does, and it shows in his online efforts. If you want to see a great example of how to build thought leadership through online content you need to take a look at his blog.
What can You do to Start Building Thought Leadership Right Now
Now we come to the take away, what you can do to start building thought leadership for your business right now. You need to have a blog, and if you don’t have one, you need to create one immediately. With all of the people who create online content, you need to be able to make yourself heard above the din.
A great site to review in order to see an example of how to stand out online is yukaichou.com. It is run by gamification guru Yu-kai Chou, and he uses video in a fun, interactive way that draws people in. He uses this technique to become a thought leader in gamification and is now ranked #7 or #8 among the top 40 online gamification experts. He managed to reach this level of popularity in a short time. Only a month ago he was ranked #30, so he is living proof that these methods work.
Once you create your blog you need to write exceptional posts, guest blog, and use social media to establish your thought leadership. There is no secret to success, just a willingness to put in the effort and the ability to offer free advice without expecting anything in return. You can do it. Good luck!
Jun Loayza is the President of Reputation Hacks. In his entrepreneurial experience, Jun has raised over $1 million in Angel funding, sold 2 internet companies, and lead social media technology campaigns for Sephora, Whole Foods Market, Levi’s, LG, and Activision.
Jun currently lives in San Francisco, CA with his girlfriend.