Anyone can say, “Buy from me” or “We have great customer service.” However, if you really want to build your business and your brand, becoming a thought leader is one of the best and least expensive ways to reach out to your local community.
The term “thought leader” is nothing more than the millennials’ way of referring to an expert. You know about your business more than anyone else in the community does; by sharing your expertise, opinions, and knowledge, you become the go-to person. When you become the go-to person, you increase your brand recognition and, subsequently, grow your business.
How do you actually become a thought leader? Here are two simple questions to ask yourself:
- What do you know the most about in your industry?
Do you know how to build things? How's your knowledge on school supplies or gardening tools? Take a minute to write down the things you—or someone else in your company—have knowledge of that most people do not.
- Are there people who come to you with industry-related questions?
If this is the case, then you are already halfway to becoming a thought leader. Being that go-to person is an indicator that the community needs your knowledge. If you aren't the go-to person in your company, find out who is and put his/her expertise to work for you. Most times, you will find that your company's resident expert is eager to share their knowledge.
The first step to becoming a thought leader is to make your presence known to the local community. Remember, these people are your potential customers. Yes, even the mom who brings her kids for a birdhouse-building event is an influencer. You never know whom she knows or to whom she talks.
Print out “tips & tricks” flyers with the answers to frequently asked questions such as, “What is the difference between an OEM and a remanufactured product” or “What kind of wood is best for summer do-it-yourself projects?”
Hold a clinic on how to do, build, repair, or make something. If you have a retail location, you can really get creative if you have lots of opportunities for add-on sales with your building supplies and accessories. Here's an idea for office products dealers. Offer a discount on school supplies for local teachers who will come in and host a craft day. You don't think teachers will be lined up around the block to get a piece of that action?
Become the industry expert for the press. This is actually easier than you may think. Use the resources of your local trade associations (research studies, surveys etc.), business publications and tradeshow sessions as a way to learn more about your industry. Once you are confident with your resources and stats (editors love statistics), look for the perfect time to reach out. By perfect time, I mean an event of some sort where your industry knowledge would be beneficial:
- Office products or furniture dealers can discuss back to school season trends or trends in seating or ergonomics;
- Manufacturers can comment on industry growth for the economics side of business;
- Hardware and lumber dealers can be a great resource in the event of a natural disaster or can discuss the industry as it relates to the real estate market;
- Office equipment dealers can be great environmental advocates when discussing toner and the "paperless" office.
Host an event and invite the press! Environmental issues like recycling old computers and toner cartridges are a great way to reach out to the community. What about taking old lumber and building doghouses for the local animal shelter? Invite your local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to tour your facility.
Provide a few good quotes about your industry, and your dealership specifically, and soon you will become a reporter's best friend. Whenever they are working on an article and need a quote (which happens often), you will be the expert they go to.
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