6 Ways To Gain Credibility as an Industry Thought Leader

Let’s say you’re looking for a real estate agent to help you sell your house. You find one agent’s website with all the standard stuff – a generic welcome, a bio page, listings…

But then you discover a realtor webpage that’s obviously different. It grabs you from the very first page with important information that’s extremely useful for someone looking to sell their house. Free downloads are available, with tips on how best to stage your home when potential buyers come calling. There’s a daily blog discussing the real estate market in depth, and how you can take advantage of – or work around – current trends. Later that day, as you’re browsing through some real estate groups on LinkedIn, you see that same realtor taking part in discussions, and answering people’s questions – not in a sales-y way, but just to help them out, no strings attached.


Which of these two realtors would you choose to sell your house?

Of course, you’d choose the second one! And that is the power of becoming an industry thought leader.

So how can you apply this real estate scenario to your own business? Just follow these six steps to establish yourself as an expert in your field:

1. Blog about your industry.

This is one of the most basic – but also one of the most effective – ways of showcasing your expertise. Set up a blog on your website in which you educate customers about your industry. Make sure to update it regularly, at least once or twice a week. A well-written blog will give potential clients confidence that your products or services are among the very best, since they were created by an industry expert.

2. Reach out to other thought leaders about guest blogging.

Once you’ve established  your own blog, it will lend even more credibility to your name if you can contribute an article to the blog of someone who is already seen as a thought leader in your field. The fact that they value your contribution enough to post it on their own blog will show clients the depth of your expertise.

3. Make a name for yourself by publishing helpful content.

Go beyond blogging. Write ebooks, white papers, or other downloadable content that people can read for free. Doing so demonstrates that you are capable of thought leadership on an even higher scale – that your knowledge of your industry extends beyond 500-word blog posts.

4. Try podcasting, or host webinars.

Adding these video or audio components to your website can give extra authority to your claim to thought leadership. Discuss industry news, or invite other industry experts to join you as guests.

5. Be helpful on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a great tool for reaching out to potential clients. Join groups, and take the time to answer people’s questions thoughtfully. Take part in discussions, so that you are a familiar presence. You might even want to set up your own group, so that you can guide the conversation yourself.

6. But whatever you do, don’t go overboard with self-promotion.

In fact, don’t promote your own business at all, in any of these avenues. A long, thoughtful, well-written response to a question will immediately come across as a mere ploy to get someone’s business, if you end it with, “Give me a call and we can discuss the ways I can help you…” or something similar. Just be helpful, without expecting (or asking for) any business in return. The perception is that thought leaders don’t need to ask for business – people seek them out because of their expertise – so don’t compromise your position as a leader by looking pushy or needy.

Have you discovered any other routes to establishing yourself as a thought leader in your field? What works, and what doesn’t? Let us know in the comments section below!


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  • http://leadingthought.us.com Liz Alexander

    I’ve mentioned your article (although not in a flattering way) here: http://leadingthought.us.com/2013/08/burt-wonderstone-and-the-illusion-of-thought-leadership/.

    Any interest in continuing the debate or countering my perspective?

    • Shama

      Thanks for your comment, Liz! Great post! We agree that thought leadership shouldn’t be a surface-level thing, but our audience loves specific tips and tactics to help them spread their very real expertise in their various fields, so we focus on that in our blog!

  • http://leadingthought.us.com Liz Alexander

    Thanks for responding, Shama. Yes, that’s always the challenge isn’t it? But therein lies the power (and paradox) of true thought leadership. You have to be able to speak at a level that those you wish to influence will pay attention to and understand…while not necessarily pandering to what they want to receive!

    Those who understand this are more likely to be recognized as thought leaders, as opposed to experts offering tips and techniques :-) As Henry Ford is reputed to have said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” Thought leaders characteristically provoke others to think about and recognize opportunities + solutions that they would never have achieved on their own. Everything you have identified in your post is good advice for experts…I still question whether being recognized as a true thought leader will occur as a result :-)