Follow the Leaders: The Business Marketing Brand-Builders You Need to Implement

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Here are the Lessons You’ll Learn in this Guide:

  1. Managing a B2B Campaign: The Basics & Beyond
    Start at the beginning with a business-to-business campaign. What are the leaders doing — and how can you take their work and apply it to your business?
  2. Using Premium Content in Business Marketing
    Premium content is a valuable component of any campaign. Not only will it move your followers and prospects further down the funnel, but it will also help you start to set your brand — and yourself — above your competitors.
  3. Establishing Yourself as a Thought Leader
    Your campaigns and content bring with them an additional benefit: the ability to position you and your brand as authorities and thought leaders. Learn why this is important, and how to get started.

It’s easy to look at business marketing as a one-and-done activity. A Facebook post here, a blog entry there — in some sense, business marketing can feel like a one-time activity. Yes, you’ll see some results with those sporadic pieces, but you’ll see an even bigger impact with a strategically planned business marketing campaign that reaches your target audience.

Look at the brands you’re currently following. Starbucks, Apple, Facebook and Nike are popular brands that have been positioned as global leaders. Their logos, their slogans, their products — even children can recognize these components. Beyond those marketing basics, though, is the fact that each of these brands has also been innovative in its approach.

  • These companies know how to coordinate their marketing efforts and run campaigns that inspire and motivate their consumers and followers to take action.
  • These companies know how to give their consumers what they want, when they want it, whether that’s through high-quality products or, for example, the free premium content Starbucks began offering customers in 2011 when they used Starbucks’ free WiFi and the Starbucks Digital Network.
  • These companies know that innovation comes from the top. Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Phil Knight are more than just founders and CEOs of these businesses. They are brands in and of themselves, with millions following their speeches, reading their books and learning from them.

The best thing about this innovation? It’s not limited to big brands. Whether you run a large company on the brink of massive expansion or you’re just getting started with a business where you’re the only employee, you, too, can take these same components — managing a business marketing campaign, developing premium content and becoming a thoughtful leader — and see growth.

1. Managing a B2B Campaign: The Basics & Beyond

In the field of marketing, there are two main categories of campaigns: B2C and B2B. B2C is what most people think of when they first think of marketing – brands targeting consumers and encouraging them to buy their service or product. B2B, on the other hand, is marketing between businesses. A company is selling a product to another company, rather than directly to a consumer.

B2B marketing utilizes many of the same techniques as B2C, but there are, of course, some tricks of the trade to keep in mind when running a B2B marketing campaign. In this section, we’ll look at what B2B marketing is, how to run a B2B campaign and what B2B success looks like. Like any aspect of business marketing, though, B2B requires some innovation – so we’ll examine some trends in B2B marketing, examples of companies that are doing an excellent job with their campaigns and some ways to innovate in your B2B marketing.

Success in marketing depends on creativity, innovation and great content. If you need a refresher on the basics of marketing before delving into B2B marketing campaign strategies, check out this post.

B2B can be a lucrative and fascinating industry, and a great way to expand the influence and applications of your company’s product or service. In a lot of ways, it may seem that B2B marketing would be more boring or dry than B2C marketing, but that doesn’t have to be the case! If B2B is done well, it can be (and should be!) just as lively as a B2C campaign.

Challenges of B2B Marketing

Simply put, B2B marketing is the marketing done by businesses that want to sell their product or service to other businesses – not to individual consumers. B2B is unique and different from B2C in a few key ways:

B2B buyers aren’t ever going to buy something just for the fun or appeal of it – they’re purchasing with the intention of making their sales easier or more efficient.

– Because of this, B2B buyers are overall more rational and less impulsive than ordinary consumers.

– Typically, B2C marketing is focused on making one individual person choose to purchase a service or product. With B2B, a lot of times there are multiple people involved in the decision making – whether it’s a department, a team or some other group – meaning that the B2B marketer has to convince multiple people to agree before they will purchase.

Overall, B2B can be more demanding and rigorous, with a higher emphasis on personal relationships between the marketer and the purchaser. By nature of the industry, you aren’t going to have someone stumble across your product quite as easily as they might in a B2C campaign. (This isn’t to say that inbound marketing won’t work for B2B – quite the contrary – but it just requires a bit more effort and creativity!)

Knowing what unique challenges you may face with a B2B campaign is important, but none of these are insurmountable. With a little know-how and ingenuity, you can run a brilliant and successful B2B marketing campaign for your company!

Back-2-Basics: How to Run a B2B Campaign

Let’s give a little overview of how to run a successful B2B campaign. At its most basic level, B2B marketing is just business marketing aimed at a different buyer profile.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that B2B campaigns are still aimed at people.

While the purchaser will be a company or business, you’re still going to have people making that decision. Somewhere along the line, an individual person is going to encounter your marketing and choose to engage with your content. From there, some person (or people, more likely), will make the decision to buy your product or service.

Keeping that in mind, here are three tips on how to run a successful B2B marketing campaign. (For a wealth of information on B2B marketing and how to do it, check out this site. It’s full of articles and how-to guides aimed solely at B2B marketers!)

1. Curate and Create Strong Content

As with any business marketing or inbound marketing, B2B will rely on strong, well-written, well-curated content. Without good content, there’s little to no chance of luring in prospective buyers. This is especially important with B2B marketing, because it starts out with a much smaller potential customer base than B2C marketing does. Even the most niche of B2C markets can be larger than the typical B2B market. Because of this, it’s vital that you fill your website, emails and advertisements with stellar copy and content. For some inspiration, check out this HubSpot list of great B2B marketing content.

2. Define and Aim at Your Targets

Focus in on your ideal buyer persona. Target your advertising and marketing to that persona. It’s easier to start with a niche and potentially expand than to do the reverse. Make it clear from the beginning of your campaign what constitutes a success. With B2B marketing, this may mean demos, sales, webinar registrations, downloads of a program or views of a video. Whatever the case may be, this is an important thing to decide upfront.

3. Identify and Connect With Influencers

Influencers are the thought leaders of different industries. A lot of times, influencers are viewed on social media promoting a weight loss program, cleaning product or clothing line. Find out who the influencers are in your market, and contact them. Ask them to help you create content – interview them, ask for a promotion via a sponsored blog post or Instagram photo or something else entirely that suits your product. They may be willing to write a guest post on your blog and then post a link on their social media accounts. Use their influence and gain more sway over your field!

Top B2B Companies and Industries This Year

It’s always a good idea to know the top companies and industries in your field, and this holds true of B2B marketing. According to Larry Myler, writing for Forbes, the top five industries to watch for B2B in 2017 are:

1. Virtual Reality
2. Medical Marijuana
3. Financial Technology
4. Biotechnology
5. Content Marketing

There are also examples of B2B companies doing well on Instagram and some inspiring B2B marketing campaigns to spark your creative muse. A lot of times, B2B companies may be behind-the-scenes, like the ones in this list, including Northrop Grumman, Palantir Technologies and Omnicom. So how can you become one of these top influencers or companies? Read on for some trends and innovations in B2B that you should know and use!

Trends & Innovations in B2B Marketing

As with all marketing, it’s important to keep tabs on what the most recent trends and developments are for B2B marketing. Here are a few that you should consider integrating into your next B2B campaign:

– AI and Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already taking the marketing and tech scene by storm, and B2B is no different. One of the biggest and most effective applications of AI to B2B marketing is through automation. AI can help with data collection, personalization for clients and taking ABM (Account-Based Marketing) to the next level. Integrating AI into your marketing scheme can help you speed up your process and further enhance your ability to connect with potential clients. It’s not just for Siri and B2C marketers anymore!

– Marketing Automation
There’s a lot of research on how marketing automation fits into B2B marketing, but one thing seems to be true: B2B marketers aren’t taking full advantage of automation’s potential! Make use of lead scoring and lead grading to help make email and phone content more relevant to qualified prospects, as well as dynamic content to keep the funnel moving.

– ABM
Account-Based Marketing was a big trend in 2016, and it has continued into 2017. Amanda Maksymiw advises that marketers “be smart about the content they create and distribute to break through the noise for the accounts that matter most.” Incorporate automation and ABM to better nurture groups of leads through content, emails and re-targeting.

– Personalized Web Experiences
A lot of online marketplaces – like Amazon – use personalization of their websites to enhance user experience, but this particular form of marketing hasn’t been used as widely with B2B. Dynamic content is a great way to raise engagement and interest. Pam Neely notes, “Personalization is also the next logical evolution of content as some struggle to get past content shock. Pair it with marketing automation and you could be downright dangerous.”

– Social Media
If you aren’t already making massive use of social media – both through pages and through targeted advertising – then you are missing out. Social media is a great way to drive traffic to your site, engage with users and generate new leads. According to research, B2B marketing is best served by LinkedIn and Twitter, while Google+ is the least effective.

– Livestreaming Video
This is one of the new top trends. Livestreamed videos are becoming more and more ubiquitous across different platforms. Facebook and Instagram both have integrated livestreaming capabilities now. Use these for interviews, Q&A’s, demonstrations, lectures or even just to invite viewers into a typical Friday afternoon in your office. A HubSpot study found that video is the most consumed content format – take advantage of this and use it in your social media marketing!

– Mobile Marketing
Over half of online traffic comes from mobile devices. By the end of 2016, 50 percent of all B2B companies had a responsive (mobile-friendly) site. If you are part of the 50 percent that don’t, you need to make a change. Of course, mobile marketing isn’t limited to your website – many B2B companies now have apps that can be used to engage with their products, contact their team and more.

Understanding how to run a B2B campaign is one thing – making sure it’s successful and keeping up-to-date on all the newest trends is quite another. Hopefully, you feel like you have a better grasp on the state of B2B marketing in 2017 now. There are so many fascinating and exciting things to incorporate into your marketing strategy. Innovation is integral to any successful marketing. Don’t let your B2B campaigns be dry or stale – liven them up and give them personality! Never lose sight of the fact that ultimately, just like a B2C marketer, you are selling to a person. Using social media and other engaging methods to get your message across will help your case tremendously. Experiment and connect with your clients. Get feedback, see what’s working!

One way to engage your clients and give more personalization to your campaigns is through premium content. Let’s look now at some ideas on how to use premium content to your advantage in a B2B campaign.

2. Using Premium Content in Business Marketing

While the basics of a digital marketing plan begin with your website, landing pages and blog, content which reaps results goes to the next level. (For a review of these basic formats, visit the Copywriter Today guide here.) Expanding the breadth of your quality copy to include premium content and the depth of it along the sales funnel makes it work for you.

Whether generating revenue, leads or both, premium content helps you accomplish your business marketing goals. What exactly is premium content and how is it best used?

Let’s discuss it.

Premium Content 101

Critical industry information, trade secrets and niche insights lay the foundation for premium content. With your growing experience within your given field, your intellectual worth grows as well. Content consumers want to know what you know.

In general, premium content includes:

— Inside information
— Exclusive knowledge
— An exchange of value

The key is trading value for value. Specifically, premium content causes consumers to think, “This is the answer to my biggest questions!” It then elicits an action. Readers are compelled to trade data or money to engage with your material. All with one click!

The information you choose to give in exchange speaks to the information needs of the reader. However, baring all is unnecessary. Transparency principles guide you in determining the balance between what you are willing to share and what your target audience wants to know.

Again, the reader trades finances or personal data for your expertise. For instance, a low or moderately priced ebook generates revenue. Or, an industry research report becomes a gift for entering contact information. Finally, a low-cost subscription potentially returns both revenue and information.

Successful premium content:

— Solves the top needs of buyers
— Draws readers by filling their needs
— Nurtures leads throughout the sales funnel

But there’s more.

The Underlying Principles of Premium Content

Beyond the basics of premium content lay the principles which make it a powerful force in your business marketing campaign. Human tendencies which drive consumer behavior work to your advantage and illustrate why you need this tool in your tool kit.

One, premium content addresses a buyer’s need for a relationship. How so? It capitalizes on the human hardwiring that says, “If you give me something, I feel obligated to give you something in return.” This principle of reciprocity works in your favor.

Free and low-cost items offered by your business qualify as gifts to the human mind. Yes, reciprocity kicks in when premium content is accepted by buyers. The favor is returned, and a sense of relationship is born. Nurturing this connection leads to loyalty over time.

Two, premium content builds your reputation as a thought leader. While this is discussed further in the next section, suffice it to say, trust is built and your influence is sought out. Engaging buyers in further conversation around solutions to their problems is the role of premium content.

In truth, this is a cycle. To increase the chance of a reader exchanging information or dollars for your insight, authority helps. However, quality content also bolsters this authority. Again, more on how to begin this cycle later.

To review, the heart of premium content runs deeper than information gathering and lead nurturing. Trust and authority are built — which, in turn, builds your audience. The trade-off value bolsters a relational connection and breeds loyalty. Premium content continues to give along the sales funnel and the whole of your business marketing campaign.

Premium Content Examples and the Sales Funnel

Keeping buyers engaged throughout the sales funnel requires compelling content and opportunities to interact. Premium content comes to the rescue throughout the buyer’s journey by nurturing leads and reaping rewards. (To get an overall picture of the sales funnel, read HubSpot’s well-written article here.)

Statistical evidence suggests strongly that investing time and money into premium content works. For example, 88 percent of B2B marketers use custom content. Engaging content tops the priority lists of 72 percent of them.

To make premium content work well for you, going back to the basics of knowing yourself and knowing your audience is vital. Specifically, you need to understand how the sales funnel differs based on your:

— Niche
— Business strategy
— Products or services
— Pricing
— Buyer persona

As a reminder, your target audience is unique, which means their buyer journey is unique. To succeed in engaging them and converting them to customers, these considerations are crucial. Copying another company’s plan fails to achieve results for your business.

In this guide and through other contacts, be inspired by thoughtful leaders and influencers. However, be cautioned to avoid the temptation to apply their seemingly magic formula to your business marketing plan. Wisely choose the principles which apply to your audience and develop a unique journey which fits your readers.

Let’s get started with a few ideas along the sales funnel.

Awareness

Getting the consumer’s attention is the wide, top end of the sales funnel. After all, they need to know you exist. Fortunately, most shoppers use digital media to research purchases before making a decision. In fact, 81 percent do so. This data provides you a platform for your message.

In this stage of the buyer journey, consumers want information. Research data, insight, educational material and other resources prove useful in their search. Offering the answers to their queries gets attention for your business.

Include content which is authoritative and engaging when catering to readers in the awareness stage. Well-written, well-documented white papers, e-books, webinars, how-to guides or videos all offer copy which drives them to finding a solution. To be more clear, quality premium content pushes them to see YOU as THE solution.

Evaluation

You are in the buyer’s sights by the time you reach this stage of the sales funnel. Evaluation-stage behavior includes heavy research. The quest of the buyer is to find out which products or services meet their needs, answer their questions or solve their problems.

The evaluation stage is critical in the buyer journey. In fact, middle funnel strategies improve consumer engagement rates by four to ten times when done well. Also, sales opportunities increase by 20 percent when these leads are nurtured.

A focus on how your product’s features benefit buyers is crucial at this point. Consumers want to know if your product or service fits them well. Comparing benefits and how you rise above the competition as a solution proves valuable.

Beware that gimmicks and forcing a fit fails to work in the long run. This is the reason quality leads are so important. A poor fit between product and consumer breeds unhealthy relationships and decreased retention.

Engaging buyers and building relationships at this stage comes through white papers, expert guides, case studies, data sheets, demo videos, webinars and live interactions. Done well, this copy builds trust and nurtures leads. Again, you grow your influence as a thought leader in your niche.

Purchase

The narrow, bottom end of the funnel brings consumers to the point of purchase. In this stage, prospects ask, “What do I need to do to become a customer?” The decision to buy is established but final selections on the “From whom?” question still arise.

A compelling call-to-action helps seal the deal and convert consumer to customer. A well-designed and perfectly placed button or strategically chosen offer are premium content options which nudge the buyer to take this final step down the funnel.

For example, hesitant prospects react well to free trials and live demos which allow them to try out products or see them in action. Money-back guarantees offer reassurance. Consultations give you the opportunity to personally understand and address the fit of your product to a consumer’s needs. Finally, coupons present the hard-to-resist deal.

Generating Revenue and Nurturing Leads With Premium Content

Premium content works to generate lead information, build relationships with buyers, establish authority and generate direct and indirect streams of revenue. While these results benefit your business, they also benefit the customer by moving them along the sales funnel and helping them find a fit. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

For information specifically on drawing revenue from content, the Content Marketing Institute discusses the topic in the article, The Only 10 Ways to Make Money From Content Marketing. While this monetary stream supports your efforts, information can also be exchanged at the same time.

Let’s get a handle on this. Any copy retains the ability to be premium content if exchanged for value. Your blog material might come at the cost of an email address. Logging into exclusive web content may require answering a question. An ebook may require a donation and email address.
But how do you best use premium content to boost results?

You must start with a plan. Haphazard content production fails to get optimum results. Each piece of copy lays within a foundational plan based on your content marketing goals. Your strategy focuses your efforts.

In fact, data indicates that the four factors of successful B2B marketing include:

— Strategy documentation (48 percent of successful marketers do)
— Editorial mission statements written out (49 percent)
— Frequent team meetings regarding content (41 percent)
— Clearly defined goals of content success (55 percent)

As referenced above, e-books, reference guides, white papers and video scripts play a vital role in premium content. However, the options are endless. Choose a platform and type of content your audience values and responds to, creatively combine them and collect leads and revenue. (Reminder: Understanding your target audience and its behaviors boosts your results.)

How about a few ideas to help you think outside the box?

Person to Person Events

For 75 percent of marketers, in-person events rank as number one for effectiveness. Webinars are second at 66 percent. Offering these events in exchange for information or a small fee makes them a valuable component of your premium content.

What are the options? Consider inviting prospects to:

— Conferences or trainings
— Livestreamed events
— Webinars
— Podcasts
— Virtual conferences
— Online demos or presentations
— Live events via social media
— Exclusive VIP gatherings

Content Products

The direct sale of high-value e-books and industry reports generates revenue as well as leads worth nurturing. Linking to topics which interest your audience and providing valuable information are the keys to success.

Plus, be sure the final product is written well. After all, poorly written content is worse than no content at all. Remember, your reputation and influence are impacted by every piece of copy you produce. And, the internet is not quick to forget or forgive.

Look to your niche for ideas, but consider:

— Research reports detailing valuable and useful industry trends
— Downloadable video series which instructs or offers how-to’s and tips
— Aspirational material which takes readers beyond the mundane to their dreams of success

Syndicated Content

Younger audiences respond well to the collaboration and distribution content syndication provides, according to Smart Insights. This way of publishing content on popular third party sites in exchange for a fee gains the attention of new audiences and establishes authority.

In addition, syndicated content on your site brings revenue and connects you with industry leaders. Increasing your influence is vital to your reputation as a thought leader in your niche. (Keep reading for more information on this idea.)

Paid Subscriptions

Offering content delivery over a period of time (typically a year), subscriptions give buyers more bang for their buck. And, again, humans like a good deal. Adjusting this content and length of time to your audience and marketing goals makes paid subscriptions a viable component of premium content.

The time frame also naturally lengthens your relationship with the prospect. This opens multiple points of content to nurture the lead by offering more informative content and introductions to products and services. A deeper connection develops as a result.

Premium Content

Whew! Are you dizzy with premium content thoughts and its impact on your marketing strategy?

Premium content speaks to buyers at every stage of the sales funnel when done effectively. To determine content best practices and reap results, keep your audience and your content marketing goals at the forefront of any planning.

This intentional strategy also helps define the content options which work best for you. And, finding a fit between premium content and your unique sales funnel experience births success. Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute founder, helps you understand the definition of success.

3. Establishing Yourself as a Thought Leader

When asked to think about top influencers in your field, a few names probably come to mind. What makes these people stand out? Why do you place their opinions and pieces at the top of your must-read column each week? What makes you choose their content over another person in your industry? And, more importantly, how do you get to to the top, too?

In business marketing, authority and value are two of the biggest keywords floating around. From content marketers, who worry about the writing, to B2B and B2C marketers, who want to reach two distinctly different audiences and even SEO specialists, who are dedicating themselves to driving traffic to your website, these two themes regularly re-surface.

Developing a concerted campaign is the first step toward establishing yourself as a thought leader. In an inbound campaign, knowing what comes next, where the piece will be published and the subject of the piece allows you to develop significant, meaningful pieces that will attract your audience members’ attention and encourage them to get to know you.

Premium content plays a big role in that, and most, campaigns. As you’ve learned, these are pieces that require the reader takes an action before being able to access the content. You’ve probably downloaded some on your own — maybe you watched a video before signing up for a giveaway or typed in your email address in order to download a guide or e-book. The value of these easy-to-produce pieces adds to and enriches a reader’s life, finances or profession.

As you continue to produce organized premium content, readers will return, piece by piece. They’ll send their friends and family members to you. You’ll be adding value to your readers’ lives while establishing your authority in the field. And, soon enough, you’ll be the one in your industry that people look to for direction and trends — you’ll be an established, respected thought leader.

Today’s Thought Leaders — and How They Got There

Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Phil Knight are some of the biggest names in the world. When they speak, people listen. When their opinions are published, their brands see a difference. Starbucks, Apple, Facebook and Nike have seen their fair share of public relations mishaps — but their leaders have continued to remain top influencers, and this has helped to sustain their brands.

They aren’t alone, though. Hundreds of individuals each day are building their names and their brands, both personally and professionally. They are finding new ways to harness the power of the media to make their opinions heard. And they are reaching ever-growing audiences of people who want to be the first to know what they have to say.

Despite what seems like overnight success, though, these individuals worked hard. John Rampton, for example, said that becoming a thought leader took him more than four years.

“It took time, effort, work and focus,” he wrote in a piece for Forbes. He said he focused on several key areas that were vital to growing an audience in each platform. “By taking each level and doing each process a consistent and well-planned way, I was able to become a thought leader fairly quickly.”

Rampton knows what works. He is the founder of Due, an online invoicing company. He considers himself a serial entrepreneur and investor. Others consider him a leading voice in the crowd, as he was listed as the third in Entrepreneur magazine’s “Top Online Influencers in the World” list. He’s also been named one of the top ten most influential PPC experts in the world.

He writes about everything from business marketing and running your business online to marketing, SEO, branding and entrepreneurship.

Rampton said that online technology has made becoming a thought leader easier and quicker than ever. Early leaders had to reply on print publications, from articles in trade magazines to books, to share their opinions.

Don’t get me wrong. Those steps were great. Look at Stephen M. R. Covey, one of the Top Thought Leaders in Trust, and named a 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner by Trust Across America, an network of social innovators designed to improve corporate trustworthiness. He’s the son of renowned thought leader Stephen R. Covey, who sprang to the top with “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” a best-seller and the first non-fiction audio book that sold more than one million copies.

The younger Covey’s book, “The Speed of Trust,” is a highly-regarded piece on trust and its importance in society. He is an acclaimed author, a prolific speaker and one of the leading authorities on trust.

He, like every other thought leader, has one thing in common: it doesn’t matter what platform you use to become a thought leader; the business marketing principles, along with the traits and characteristics of good marketers, are the pieces that will bring your brand greater exposure and are the same principles that will help you build your personal brand and your brand’s authority.

Standing Out: 3 Ways to Build Your Personal and Brand Authority

Stepping up and claiming that you are the leading authority in your industry is one way to get noticed; being taken seriously after that, though, might be difficult. As you can imagine, and as countless thought leaders have said, reaching that position isn’t one that happens overnight, or one that comes as a result of a publishing a handful of blog posts each year.

1. Gain your audience members’ trust

One reason Covey’s work is so interesting is that, while he was positioning himself as a thought leader in the area of trust, he was showing the impact trust has on someone becoming a thought leader. Make sense?

Thought leaders reach their level of authority because people believe them. They do what they say they will do. (Interesting note: this same concept has propelled Alex Sheen, founder of an international non-profit, into the spotlight as a thought leader on the importance of trust and keeping promises. His organization, because I said I would, has been rapidly gaining momentum since it started in 2012, based on one premise: people keeping their word.)

Covey’s work shows four “Cores of Credibility,” which are needed to not only build but maintain that credibility. In your efforts to become a thought leader, start by becoming a credible, trustworthy person.

  • Integrity and intent, both of which are character cores that show you have and act according to your values, show humility and courage, and show that you have the good of others at the forefront of your actions.
  • Capabilities and results, both of which are competency cores. These are both tied to discovering and improving your passions, skills and talents — and showing what you’ve done and will do with those talents.

All of this boils down to showing that people are your priority. You want the best for them and you’re willing to take what matters, your character and competency, put your money where your mouth is, and say the things that need to be said to improve that specific area of thought.

2. Be willing to speak out

It’s the content, not the platform, that will make or break your efforts in becoming a thought leader; although, as Rampton points out, new communication methods have made it easier than ever.

“With more communication moving online, I’ve found that, as a CEO and established leader at influencer marketing, there is so much more opportunity to help others be able to create that thought leadership role and do it more quickly than previous approaches because of the advent of the online platforms,” he said.

Rampton suggests starting with a blog. He found his voice, shaped his worldview and began to give people advice that, in turn, positioned him as a trustworthy resource.

Sheen started his non-profit with a speech at his father’s funeral; his growth as a thought leader has grown organically since then.

Michael Schein, CEO of MicroFame Media, though, says it can be done in far less time.

“Many people assume that if they throw up a blog and publish great content, members of their target market will find it,” he wrote in a piece for Inc. “They won’t. The most successful thought leaders built their audiences by fostering relationships with other influencers they knew could effectively spread their message.”

To see faster results, Schein proposes starting with your circle, reaching out to them and watching the results come rolling in.

Be willing to speak out on topics that are important to you. These should be areas within your level of expertise and that interest you, because you’ll want to keep learning about and following trends in that specific industry. Then, start to communicate. Whether you’re communicating online or in-person, whether you write a blog or a book, start to share your message.

3. Appreciate the view from the top — but keep working

As a thought leader, you might feel like you’ve got better results. After all, you’re meeting your customers’ needs. Your brand-building activities, both personally and professionally, have led to even better SEO results and, in turn, better business results. Once you get to the top, you can’t stop. Rampton said that if he had ceased all of the activities he was doing that made him a thought leader, “someone else would’ve quickly stepped in,” he wrote.

“It’s an ongoing process to maintain this thought leadership position and it requires research, review, and feedback to stay on top,” he said, noting that, “the results in my life of striving and working towards this goal are well worth everything that I’ve put into it.”

One you’ve reached a position of authority, there are several avenues you can pursue. Perhaps you want to become even more of a leader in your field. A position and reputation of authority allows you to help to shape the industry. You can make bolder, more confident claims in the pieces you are publishing, your expertise and experience has let you become a better trend forecaster and your followers will look to you to drive the future of your area of speciality.

You can also choose to widen your area of expertise. Include other interests and passions in your publications. It might take time to build up another audience, but you’ll find that you may already have members of your current audience with similar interests. Look for other platforms who are willing to publish your pieces as a guest author based solely on your established authority.

This growth will come based on the work you did in step two to create and build a network. Other thought leaders and influencers would be very interested in the members of your own community that would follow their blogs because of the pieces you wrote.

Like every other area of marketing, becoming a successful thought leader comes when you put people first. When you think about your target audience and what they want — and dedicate yourself to not just getting them the information, products or services, but changing the way they look at those areas in their own worlds.

Effecting Change Through Your Business Marketing

Your business marketing efforts are more than just the sum of their parts. Each piece, from the campaign itself to the content that moves it forward, does more than just promote your brand. When done correctly and consistently, you can become a leading authority with the platform and position to spark a change in your industry and your world.

Start by looking at the characteristics and traits of these leaders and their brands. Learn as much as you can and uncover new and innovative ways to apply what you’ve learned to your brand. You’ll find that with persistence and perseverance, you’ll become the leader others are trying to emulate.

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