Being a thought leader in their niche is the dream of many small business owners.

However, the path to the top is comes with many obstacles and a harsh climate.

It’s like trying to climb a mountain peak at the same time as all of your competitors. The twist? Not all of you started climbing at the same time.

As someone who is starting the back, you know you have a lot of catching up to do. What will help you move forward faster than your competition?

It comes down to experience, tools, and effort.

Experience = the depth of insight and knowledge you have on your industry.

Tools = blog, content marketing, social channels.

Effort = time and work you are willing to put in to stay on top of news and drive trends in your industry, as well as nurturing relationships with influencers and relevant media outlets/

To become a person (or a company) recognized as an authority in a specialized field, and whose advice is highly sought after, you must first prove that you are worth listening to.

One of the best ways to do that is to build an audience to increase brand trust and awareness. And your best wingman for the job? Content marketing.

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Why Content Marketing?

Simply put, you need an outlet through which you or your company can share your experiences and insights. Publishing content (in whichever form) is one of the best ways to do exactly that.

However, even though this isn’t an exact science, not everything can qualify as thought-leadership content, and not every content marketing method is suited to accompany you on the quest to becoming a thought-leader in your niche.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what type of content and marketing techniques work best as though-leadership content and why.

1. Ultimate guides and in-depth how-to posts

Your journey has to begin somewhere.

Ultimate guides and in-depth how-to posts can present a strong foundation and an excellent starting point.

They allow you to display the full depth of your knowledge and expertise as you are not limited to a certain word count. Additionally, this type of content usually ranks better for SEO which means it has a higher chance to reach your target audience.

Be sure to focus on topics where you can give an insightful advice, which usually boils down to writing about something you have experience with. People tend to recognize when something is just a rehashed overview, so create content that has value and brings a fresh perspective. 

A good example of content in this category is Point Visible’s complete guide to target audience. It’s a comprehensive guide on target audience research, written by our strategist who share their expertise and best practices on the subject.

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2. Controversial content that lets you stand out

Controversial content has one main purpose: letting your voice be heard.

If you’re yelling out the same thing as everyone else, as someone fairly unknown, you’ll rarely get the chance to climb up to the stage and be given the microphone.

While controversial content can let you stand out, it can be tricky to successfully pull off. There are two things you need to watch for:

  1. Being too “click-baity”
  2. Stating misleading and/or incorrect data and information

Remember, it isn’t a click-bait if you can deliver on the claim. However, if you were trying to lead your audience to something other than what they expected – it simply won’t work in the long run.

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A perfect example of controversial content is this piece from Mark Schaefer that discusses how content marketing isn’t a sustainable strategy for everyone. With over 2000 posts written (positive and negative) in response to this article and over 400 comments, it’s an article that brought a massive amount of attention.

Controversial content needs to bring an original perspective to a subject that has been much discussed. So go ahead and disagree! It might just bring your the content engagement you need.

3. Publishing research and case studies

A great way to prove that you are someone worth listening to is to show it with results. If you are as good as you claim to be, this is the best way to do it.

Publishing your own research shows that you are capable of staying at the forefront of your industry. It leaves the notion that you have unique insights and that your opinions are based on proven facts and experience.

A good example is this research on the importance of various ranking signals done by SEMrush. They analyzed 600,000+ keywords and identified trends that they found in the top ones. This demonstrates their expertise and  proves their thought-leadership on the subject.

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The value of case studies has also been widely discussed. These are essentially testimonials of how your best customers use your product so they can be very powerful pieces of content.

When creating case studies, be sure to include quotes about which specific features of your product helped your client to solve their biggest challenges.

4. (Live) video content

While becoming a known name in the industry by writing superb content is great, becoming a known face can be equally as important.

And what better way to present your face to your audience and build a connection with them than through video content.

For starters, you can create a Youtube channel and start inserting clips into your posts. Later on, the video can be the sole focus, and the text can be in the supporting role.

A good person to look up to in marketing space is definitely Brian Dean.

And here is one of his videos where he is talking about an advanced SEO strategy, something many would consider to be a thought-leadership content.

When you build a decent following, you might even consider doing some live streams and webinars, at least if you are in the industry where your target audience wants to engage with you this way.

Can’t commit to creating an entire video? Try creating ephemeral content with Instagram Stories or Facebook Live. This type of content is highly engaging, easily consumable, and requires low effort to make.

When it comes to video content, try to offer something that your audience can’t get from other channels – give them a reason to come back to your video channels.

5. Opinion pieces on news and trends

What would you expect to hear from an influencer in your niche?

An updated version of their ultimate guide? Maybe a roundup article or a quiz? All viable answers.

However, what definitely won’t surprise you is to see their comments on the latest development in the industry or how a new technology looks to disrupt your niche. It is basically a definition of thought leadership content and as such has to be a part of your strategy.

The more you can provide timely, up-to-date news and opinions, the more your audience will take you seriously.

6. Building a presence on social networks

While the number of followers on social media can be very misleading, people still tend to have a mindset that someone with more followers has a bigger influence.

And while the reach is important, without any engagement, the number of followers is close to irrelevant.

However, as someone trying to become a thought-leader, social channels are a great way to stay in touch with your audience, expand the reach of your influence, and build a name for yourself in the desired space.

What’s more, you can reach new audiences beyond your existing community quickly and easily.

And how do you do all that? Well, one of the ways is by sharing all the insightful thoughts and content you produce as a part of your overall marketing strategy.

If your social media content is valuable and put in front of the right audience, you’ll see engagement before you know it.

7. Attending conferences and becoming a speaker

Another great way to make a name for yourself is to attend some of the conferences in your industry.

While becoming a keynote speaker is one of the more daunting challenges on this list, it is undeniable how effective they can be in building your personal brand.

Yet again, even in these cases, the connections you make and the content (speech/presentation) you deliver will decide if people are ready to see you as a thought-leader.

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It just goes to show you that without having a deep-insight on your industry, it will be close to impossible to brand yourself as an expert, simply because you are not able to get acknowledged by your peers and other influencers.

One way to combat this problem is to specialize in a certain field. For example, you don’t have to be an expert in all things marketing, just a go-to guy for a subfield like PPC or social media.

If you can’t at first participate in an event as a keynote speaker, don’t be discouraged! Ask to be a part of a panel or to lead a workshop. Once you have some presence under your belt, you’ll be able to ask to be a part of bigger and better events.

8. Developing educational material

Developing educational material is one of the last steps on this journey. As it usually requires a high resource investment to develop and distribute, it’s best suited for cementing your thought leadership position.

If you’re looking for an example, you don’t have to go much further than Digital Marketer. Their marketing courses were a bold but logical move after they became a well-known name in the marketing industry.

However, educational content can live beyond online courses. These can be in the form of webinars, Instagram tutorials or email courses. Check out some of the different types of educational content available online and try them out.

Final thoughts

One thing is clear – becoming a thought leader in any industry requires hardwork and dedication.

Whichever marketing technique or content type you decide to use on your journey to become a known name in your industry, just have one thing in mind – nothing can replace valuable content.

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Dario Supan is a content strategist and editor at Point Visible content marketing agency. When he isn’t neck deep in outreach projects and editorial calendars, you will most likely find him designing a custom graphic for his next exciting post.