Any company 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.
You know about your industry as well or better than anyone in your community. By sharing your expertise, opinions, and knowledge, you become the local de facto "go-to" person or “thought leader” for your industry. When you take on this role, you increase your brand recognition and subsequently give yourself opportunities to grow your business.
How can you become a thought leader? Here are two simple questions to consider:
What do you know the most about in your industry?
Do you know how to build things? How is 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 there. 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 or her expertise to work for you. Most times, you will find that your company's resident expert is eager to share knowledge.
The first step to becoming a thought leader is to make your presence known to the local community. Remember, many of the people in your community will be influencers of your potential customers or potential customers themselves. Yes, even the mom who brings her kids for a birdhouse-building event is an influencer. You can never know whom she knows or to whom she talks.
Here are a few suggestions to help you make your presence known:
- Print out “tips & tricks” flyers with 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?”
- Host events or hold a clinic on how to make, do, build, or repair something. With 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. Teachers will likely line up around the block to get a piece of that action.
- Become the industry expert for the local press, which is actually easier than it may seem. Use the resources of your local trade associations (including research studies and surveys), business publications, and tradeshow sessions as a way to learn more about your industry. Once you are confident with your resources and statistics (editors love hard numbers), look for a strategic opportunity time to reach out to reach out to local news editors. This may be an event or an occasion during which 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 valuable resource for the community following a natural disaster, or they can discuss purchases as they relate to the real estate market.
- Office equipment dealers can be environmental advocates when discussing toner and the “paperless” office.
- Host an event and invite the press, with a compelling issue or proposition! Environmental issues like recycling old computers and toner cartridges are a creative way to reach out to and benefit the community. Or how about taking old lumber and building doghouses for the local animal shelter. Or, you could invite your local Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop to tour your facility. Moments like these are made for TV, as well as the radio, print, and digital media.
However you choose to make your presence known, once you do, provide a few good quotes about your industry and your business, and soon you will become a reporter's best friend. Whenever they are working on an article or broadcast piece relevant to your industry and need a quote, you will be the local go-to thought leader.