14 Steps Entrepreneurs Can Take To Become Thought Leaders In Their Industry

Thought leaders and influencers have the ability to both speak about a topic they believe in and resonate with people, building momentum for their discussion. For an entrepreneur looking to gain traction in their industry, it can help to be viewed as one of these respected individuals. However, it isn’t as easy as just sharing an article or two to your webpage.

Gaining influencer or thought leader status takes work. So, what are the most effective ways for entrepreneurs to go about gaining more influence in their spaces? Below, 14 experts from Forbes Coaches Council share the steps you can take in order to advance as an industry voice.

1. Keep It Simple

The best way to become a thought leader and influencer is to leverage your space on social media to get your message out. By focusing simplistic messages through blogs and quick, snappy videos you can create a space where you are viewed as a thought leader. The best advice is to start with one word you want to own with your clients so they can know exactly what you do and what you can do for them. – Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience

2. Be Authentic
Influence begins with self-awareness. When you discover who you are at your core, you can show up in the world as the truest version of yourself. Being authentically who you are at your core draws people to you in a lasting way. When customers can connect to your values and/or experiences, they connect with your products as a result. Choose to be true to yourself over replicating what looks popular. – LaTasha Weatherspoon-BaileyThe Lifted Lifestyle

3. Practice Servant Leadership

One of the time-tested methods in gaining traction as a thought leader and or influencer is by using the basic tenets of servant leadership, in particular “selfless help.” This kind of mentorship has a twofold benefit: it illustrates a deep desire to be part of the community as well as allowing the success of the mentee to speak to the mentor’s ability to guide a professional toward success. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

4. Articulate Your USP

Determine what sets you apart from all of the other businesses who are doing the same thing as you. Create your USP (unique selling proposition) by asking yourself, “What do I do that is different or better than others?,” “What value does this difference bring to the marketplace?” and “How will I articulate this value so it resonates with my audience?” Then, use these points to gain influence. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

5. Lead Workshops

Leading workshops and giving talks are great ways to position yourself as a thought leader on an array of topics you can decide on. Those attending will see your command of the material, which builds trust and makes it easier to connect for future business. Presentations create opportunities for press and spark conversation, and recording them allows people to see you long after the workshop is over. – Erik Fredrickson, Erik Fredrickson Coaching

6. Become A Trend Spotter

Successful leaders always have one eye on the horizon, keeping track of trends and anticipating their impact. But many just don’t have time to do this. An entrepreneur can quickly develop thought leadership status by becoming a “trend spotter” and by sharing how to leverage forthcoming trends in their industry through articles, white papers, media interviews, and seminars. – Gabriella Goddard, Brainsparker Leadership Academy

7. Make A “Thump”

Articles are OK, but when you put them on a customer or prospect’s table, do they make a “thump?” As soon as you leave, what usually happens to your carefully crafted article? It’s tossed out. The “thump” of a book instantly conveys significance, credibility and memorability. A book is likely to end up on a bookshelf instead of the trash. Sure, books take time, but they have a high ROI. – Lee Eisenstaedt, Leading with Courage Academy

8. Pick A Niche Within A Niche

Those just starting a thought leadership campaign often select topics that are too large to easily stand out. It’s easier to gain influence and expert status on a small topic than for an entire subject. For example, if you focus on sales, one market niche could be sales skills for lawyers. A topic niche within a niche could be “How to Get Referrals for a Law Practice.” Then, expand topics over time. – Sherrin Ross Ingram, International Center for Strategic Planning

9. Leverage Public Speaking Opportunities

Nothing will accomplish this faster than public speaking. At live events or on video/social media, public speaking is the fastest track to establishing “thought leadership and influence.” Granted, your content has to be good (unique, impactful) and delivery must be engaging/memorable (conversational/authentic vs. robotic/canned). So, it isn’t easy, but nothing works better than public speaking! – Jeff Klubeck, Get A Klu, Inc.

10. Be The Information Curator

It’s tough being a thought leader! Until you begin to have valid, thought-provoking ideas of your own, become the Go-To Curator of Information for your industry. Set alerts for areas of interest in your industry. Pick the best articles, blogs, and books and curate them into an easy to read list with links. People don’t have time to find all the information they need. So let them rely on you! – Sandi Mitchell, APEX Leadership Mastery

11. Plan A Multi-Medium Content Campaign

Entrepreneurs get so excited about sharing posts and getting content out that they don’t plan a clear campaign. Gaining traction as a thought leader means you build out purposeful posts for multiple mediums. With a recent entrepreneurial client, we wrote a powerful article, got it published then created a similar podcast and a PowerPoint. It was powerful and built credibility across platforms. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

12. Understand Your Audience And What They Value

To be a thought leader, you need to influence how others actually think. Otherwise, you are just another voice shouting for attention. Become very clear about who your audience is, what will be valuable to them and where they are. Then consistently provide overwhelming value to them. For most people, begin by becoming a thought leader with those nearest you — your community or immediate industry. – Christian Muntean, Vantage Consulting

13. Partner With A Thought Leader In Your Space

Partner with a thought leader already in your space whom you admire. Choose a leader whose influence is adjacent to — vs. in competition with — your targeted sphere of influence. She may welcome both your fresh perspective and the opportunity to support your growth. Remember: we need others to gain traction. Figure out what that traction looks like for you, then team with others to propel you. – Sandy Schwan, Evolving Strategies LLC

14. Focus On The Path Of Least Resistance

Focus on what you do naturally and possibly take for granted. Get feedback from your colleagues on what they see you do effortlessly and hone those skills so that you have no competition. Use those skills daily and expand where needed. Be curious and listen to what others see in you, and then use them in your daily actions. Make it fun to polish your personal gems. – Terry Schaefer, Profitable Family Business

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Managing Partner at Evolving Strategies LLC
Sandra is the Managing Partner of Evolving Strategies LLC, a consulting firm helping companies and people learn, adapt and perform. Sandra holds a Master of Science degree in Adult Learning and Strategic Organizational Change from Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Arkansas. Previous employers include the Corporate Executive Board, Lante Corporation, Kensington International, and Accenture where Sandra was awarded mentor of the year.

Connect With Sandra:
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