Sitting here in my UK office while my family and U.S.-based friends are taking the day off and attending barbecues and fireworks, I’m reflecting on what real freedom and independence look like.
I moved across the pond 23 years ago (hard to believe!) and I am grateful I had the freedom to make that choice. I became self-employed 12 years ago. and feel the joy of independence on a regular basis. Running your own business is exciting and challenging, and there is never a dull moment. However, I’ve come to believe that you only begin to do well in business once you have momentum and traction.
Traction is where clients refer more clients, going viral as people share your ideas and insights in traditional and on social media. It’s where the prospective customer feels they are missing out if they don’t get in touch and work with you. It’s all about the buzz. This is the definition of thought leadership: having unique and original ideas and being recognised for them. And, ideally, creating that buzz.
When speaking to audiences, I am fond of using my snowball analogy: if you take a little time to pack the snowball before you send it down the hill, it will gain speed and pick up more snow (followers) and generally get larger and larger.
The metaphor, of course, is an obvious one, but I still see people throwing snow around instead of packing neat snowballs before sending them down the hill. These folks are putting out useless posts and updates devoid of value. Their blogs don’t say anything exciting or original. And their books! Well, don’t even get me started…
It’s not all bad news, though. I see real thought leaders putting out interesting ideas in the right format, and getting attention from the right people. I see books, articles, blogs, videos and speeches that are shaking things up and opening doors for the author. Four of my authors last year won business worth six figures, by using their books strategically. So it can be done.
The real key to freedom and independence definitely lies in working for yourself and creating your own future. And the way to get more of the right kind of business flowing in is by packing that snowball carefully with your best thought leadership, and sending it flying down the hill. Ah, freedom! Happy Fourth of July!
So now we come to the question of HOW to REACH your audience.
There are indeed so many ways, but here is a good look at the best, tried and tested, techniques. Where you can have the biggest impact in the shortest time.
Networking is important, in fact it’s crucial. When people don’t see you, they forget about you. Remember that old adage, out of sight, out of mind? This could be worrying if your competitors are still out there meeting new people. Great leaders use networking to their advantage and they stick to these three important pointers so they get it right:
- While networking, get your best message across. You need to respond to the inevitable question ‘What do you do?’ with a concise 60-second answer. The golden rule here is less is more.
- Meet the right people, and remember networking isn’t selling. You should use a networking event to find common ground with others, and business may (directly or indirectly) can come later.
- Look after the relationships you already have. And, nurture the new relationships you build at networking events. When you have found a common ground, follow up with these new contacts. Don’t get swamped with meeting people just for the sake of it.
This advice pertains to networking in person, or online (social media). You may think they are very different, and indeed there are some nuances which you need to remember. But for many people who will never get to meet you face to face, the online or social media experience needs to be as positive as possible!
A note about your online network:
- Don’t connect with people just for the sake of increasing numbers. “Would you approach someone at a networking event and simply say, ‘Let’s exchange business cards’ before walking off?” Quality is infinitely more important than quantity. Thanks to Andy Lopata (www.lopata.co.uk) for this reminder!
Writing and Publishing
Of all marketing strategies out there, writing and publishing achieves the greatest reach. Of course I’m going to say that! But it’s true, how else are you going to get your message out? Even if you’re an accomplished networker or a successful speaker, you can’t reach your whole potential market in person. If you want to get known, you absolutely must be writing and publishing because it is with books and other products that Thought Leaders instantly catapult themselves into the mass market.
When I talk about books, I am talking about the whole spectrum. Yes, a hard copy is great but you also need to be thinking about writing blogs, feature articles and ebooks as well. Each one has a different purpose and each one needs to be handled differently. With that, they all support each other and reinforce the material you produce. But I believe it is only with a printed book that you can achieve your goals of credibility and authority.
Don’t Forget Public Speaking
Speaking is a natural way to assert your position as an authority on your topic. What you need for success is a clear message, absolute passion and conviction in getting that message out to your audience. The best speakers have a rock-solid belief in themselves, their organization and their key messages.
You should consider using public speaking while writing so you can gauge your audience’s feedback. Seeing the way people react to your spoken words is instant while the reaction to your written word, whether it be via email, comments, or clicking through to your other material, is far different. With speaking added to the mix, you get a variety of feedback so you can continuously refine your message delivery.
Have you considered making videos? You can make them in the comfort of your own home and have them professionally recorded and edited. Using your online resources this is a great alternative medium to reach people.
And a final note
Ensure that there is a consistent message, style, tone and personality throughout all of your communications — written, spoken or even on video. This is absolutely vital. If you need help and support with any of this – especially your thought leadership and content strategy – that is what we do! Get in touch and we will help you get some great results!
Welcome back to the blog. First, let’s recap. The last time we looked at what exactly a REAL Thought Leader is. The acronym, let me remind you, is as follows:
Now I’d like to look at each of these elements (or chair legs, remember the wobbly chair?) so today we are taking a look at Reach.
The Internet is great for making household names in politics, business, the arts and more. But does it really matter if people, who are experts in their area—however small it may be, are not receiving the brand recognition or market penetration they deserve?
Well, if they want to achieve positive change and influence larger groups, then yes it does matter. If they want that, they need a bigger and bolder plan.
Think about it. Imagine becoming a household name, you could command higher fees and attract more business but it’s not always about the money. The passion to get your expertise out there could be enough. And to extend your reach, it’s imperative not to leave this to marketing and PR. Business leaders must own this part of the job and lead your team. That way you’ll get even better results.
So let’s look at where you can extend your Reach.
Extending Your Reach Geographically
Most businesses strive to create larger markets and grow the customer base. The goal is to extend into new territory, even internationally. Roy Palmer, a friend and Book Midwife client, is a great example of this. Roy is an expert in human physiology and a qualified teacher in the Alexander Technique. He’s worked with some elite sports teams and gained a good reputation. With the release of his second book Zone Mind, Zone Body, he started to get noticed in the U.S. This led to more book sales and more business opportunities opened up in North America. On the flipside, you can actively use your book to break into new markets abroad by promoting the book there.
Cross-cultural and Other Factors
When someone is making big changes, that person has managed to cut across several segments of society. They have reached beyond their peer group and extended into less obvious markets breaking the normal barriers of age, gender, religion, education and more.
Moving into new sectors
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and business can go stagnant. Perhaps it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and look into new and different (exciting and new!) sectors. It’s a strategic decision and needs time, money and effort. Undertake this route with careful thought.
Narrow to Just One Sector and Extend Your Reach Within
The power of niching is great. If you become an expert in a narrower field it could mean more recognition and ultimately more business. I speak about this from personal experience. I moved from a general marketing role to follow my passion of writing and publishing. I then moved again to focus solely on business and personal development books, the area I am most passionate about and where I can make a difference. I haven’t looked back.
“When you are willing to go deep and narrow into a niche, you can become known as the real thought leader within that niche and achieve that recognition from a smaller but very relevant group.”
Redefine a Sector
Look at Apple, once the realm of designers and creatives, the company has launched a multitude of products that have brought this sector to the mass market. Even their Mac computer has become an integral part of the blended work/home/entertainment environment. Apple has managed to transform the world of computing. Now we see a far more glamorous and desirable product in a sector that was once far less appealing.
So you need to consider if you go deep or wide, or even both. Do you want to extend geographically and culturally, or will you delve deeper into your existing market? Make this decision according to your business goals and personal aspirations.
Next time we look at HOW to achieve greater reach. There are so many ways, but they essentially fall under these categories; Networking and Social Media, Writing & Publishing, and Public Speaking.
See you next time when we look at each of these methods of extending your Reach.
Taken from 24 Carat Bold by Mindy Gibbins-Klein.
So, we reach the crux of REAL Thought Leadership. We know now that innovation is the key to being a thought leader and that there also needs to be some kind of following. If you think of thought leaders you’ll see how they have influenced others’ thinking, which leads to action which in turn creates a shift in society.
Is thought leadership so rare though and do they really have to have truly revolutionary ideas?
Perhaps all it takes is to think slightly differently to the crowd. Personally, I think everyone has in them the potential to be a revolutionary thinker and there is no limit to the number of great thinkers we can accommodate. The issue is how we define it.
Over time, I came to realise that there are four key attributes of a real thought leader; four logical areas that give context and framework to achieving the three objectives outlined in my last blog post, Innovation, Promoting & Sharing and Recognition. Not only a way of measuring and assessing thought leaders, these four areas provide a roadmap for thought leaders to follow that will help them reach their goal.
The criteria creates a convenient acronym:
If you can focus on these four areas, you will go from being an excellent leader to being perceived as a real thought leader. It is only natural that you will rise to the top and take the limelight in business.
Over the coming weeks I will look at each criteria in more detail and show how each of them play unique and specific roles. By way of introduction though, let’s look at how they also work together. Think of them as four chair legs. You could get away with maybe just three of them, it would be a bit wobbly. But if you just focus on one or two, you’ll tumble.
This criteria also represents the rules of the game; it is a benchmark and measurement criteria giving something to aim for and keep yourself on track. Knowing these ‘rules’ to the game of REAL Thought Leadership gives a tremendous advantage over other people who may not know these rules and are running around in the wrong direction. What’s more, with these rules out there, all is fair in the game of REAL Thought Leadership. They are four immutable priniciples that don’t change on a whim, they are not trendy, they’ve always been there, they’ve just not been shared. But here they are and may the best leaders win!
Taken from 24 Carat Bold by Mindy Gibbins-Klein.
So, lifting off where I left off last week, here is my definition of a thought leader:
A futurist or person who is recognised among their peers, mentors and market for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote and share those ideas as actionable distilled insights.
Now let’s look at the keywords in this definition and in chronological order:
A thought leader must INNOVATE then PROMOTE and SHARE, then gain RECOGNITION.
Every area of our lives is subject to constant change. But every now and then something happens that calls for some dynamic thinking, beyond evolutionary development. Someone needs to lead a new way of thinking to deal with this monumental change, in other words there needs to be a huge shift in thought. One example is the bank bailout in 2008. Controversial yes, but the alternative was unacceptable. Something radical, something new had to be done.
The term thought leadership should be used sparingly, it’s generally only used for a truly new and unique message. It really needs to be a strikingly new angle or idea to be noticed in the crowded leadership arena. But let’s clarify something, it needs to seem new and different enough to get noticed.
Promoting and Sharing
We can assume that most leaders want positive change, they mostly want a good, desirable and beneficial impact on a person or group. To improve the chances of positive change, there needs to be positive intention. It all starts with a tiny idea and the positive will to make it happen. The key here is to identify it and give it the opportunity to shine. Give these people the chance to innovate and promote and share. Think about email communication, as an innovation it took real strength of will to enforce its use and to develop email use within and between companies. People don’t like change, thought leaders are excited by it, they are ready to promote and share their innovative ideas.
Perhaps the idea of recognition for your thought leadership is exciting? Or perhaps it is daunting? There are plenty of inhibitors preventing people from attaining it and it probably won’t surprise you to know that many of these inhibitors are internal factors that reside in the potential leader himself. Ask yourself these questions:
Do you make excuses? Are you too busy to be a thought leader? A real thought leader is too busy for excuses, these are the people who are out there changing the world while others are still asleep.
How do you deal with the pressures of time? If you can make fast decisions, if you can delegate with ease and you don’t waste valuable time, you’re on the path to becoming a thought leader.
How is your time management? Do you spend all your time dealing with crises and fighting fires, the kind that are urgent but not very important? What about the important goals that are not urgent? A thought leader appreciates the importance of these too, and carves out time in the day or week to work on those as well as the urgent items. If you can use this allotted time then after a week, a month you will see a big picture in sharper focus.
So Thought Leadership is your choice. Having read through this, ask yourself if you’re ready to aim for thought leadership. Ask yourself are you meant to be a thought leader? Clearly, by definition, there can’t be too many stand out figures, they just wouldn’t stand out. There needs to be followers too.
If you’re still not sure, then keep reading. Too many people lead their lives feeling unfulfilled. When lack of fulfilment comes from ignoring or fighting the voice inside that has something important to say, the feeling is magnified.
Not just a Book Coach, Mindy Gibbins-Klein is a successful author herself; it was her book writing experience that led to The Book Midwife’s creation. In 24 Carat Bold, Mindy calls would-be leaders to take a leap of faith and boldly rise to the challenge of inspiring and leading others. The book’s aim is to inspire and empower people to become thought leaders which will reward them with more business, higher fees, recognition, better client loyalty and a great sense of achievement and satisfaction.
We will be posting a series of blogs that cover the topics discussed throughout the book. Your comments are most welcome.
So what is thought leadership anyway? An article in the Financial Times gave this definition:
‘The ability to develop and communicate pioneering and rigorous ideas that are relevant to society and influence people’s behaviour’.
This could be far more detailed and precise and 24 Carat Bold is a response to the term’s (mis)use and (mis)understanding and aims to give context, criteria and strategies to REAL thought leadership.
This may be a good place to clarify what is NOT thought leadership.
Celebrity culture is so flawed because it celebrates the wrong things. Young people are now aspiring to be a celebrity rather than pursuing more realistic and worthwhile pursuits. However, being famous for fame’s sake does not a thought leader make.
Size does not determine leadership either. Large old companies cannot easily adapt to change and are now commonly overtaken by younger, more innovative and dynamic companies. On the flipside, being small doesn’t make a company exceptional either. So, there is absolutely no correlation between the size of company and its thought leadership quotient.
Imitators, bullies and boastful wannabe leaders have no claim to thought leadership. Substance is always important.
So is thought leadership really necessary? Absolutely and more so than ever. In today’s world we are faced with unprecedented challenges and extreme economic problems. These have brought the need for some serious new thinking and we need thought leaders to step up to the plate and resolve these challenges.
Further, as we are increasingly overwhelmed with the barrage of information the internet and social media offers, thought leadership is more important. A new batch of thought leaders must take our society to the next phase of its evolution and bring the kind of transformation that is so sorely needed.
Do you have the motivation to be a thought leader?
Use your ego. It is good to have high self esteem and we all have a healthy need to feel important. As long as your ego is not the primary driver of your actions and as long as it doesn’t lead to putting others down in order to make you feel superior, then an ego is nothing to be ashamed of.
Potential thought leaders need to let go of the traditional British (and negative) attitude of ‘blowing your own trumpet’. If it feels unnatural, then you need to find a way to promote yourself; it’s basic marketing. You can always outsource the campaign and have others manage your PR, but you will have to guide it to the desired outcome.
You want recognition. We can all get quite annoyed when others receive undeserved recognition. There are two options, be bitter about others who are less talented than you getting all the publicity and attention, or get out there and develop a strategy to become someone who attracts publicity, interest and business.
You want to leave a legacy. Most of us want to make our mark on the world. Nobody likes to think they didn’t produce anything important during their lifetime, that their life didn’t matter. How strong is your desire to leave a legacy of some kind? This determines how motivated you are to establishing your thought leadership.
You want to influence. An essential skill of a good leader is the ability to influence people. The majority of people in leadership roles not only like to influence others but they are good at it and know how to exert the influence in the right way. With a position of power comes the responsibility of influence and you can’t walk away from your sphere of influence; it is always there.
So, to conclude, you can’t buy your way to leadership, no matter how much you spend on advertising and marketing. Cream naturally rises to the top of the milk and thought leaders rise or emerge to the top in all spheres of life—our communities, businesses, politics and consciousness. With a clear idea of what a Thought Leader is and when your motivation to be one is clear; it is entirely possible to take that leap of faith and rise.
Our Book Writing Retreats, the very beginning of the 90-Day Book Writing Program, have brought together many people from many different spheres, from property investors to sports coaches, from new mums to marketing managers. All come together with the shared aim of getting their ideas down in the most efficient and coherent way and producing their best book possible.
At the latest retreat Penny Samuels, a Clinical Hypnotherapist from Devon, started her book writing journey. She shares her experience here.
BM: Can you tell us more about what you do for a living?
PS: I am a Clinical Hypnotherapist. I specialise in Weight Loss and Trauma (such as PTSD and extreme phobias), although I treat a huge range of problems both physical and emotional.
BM: What has inspired you to write a book?
PS: I have had the ideas sloshing around in my head for a long time, because I knew I could write the sort of practical, down-to-earth guide to help people change their minds about the whole weight loss thing and start at the start rather than at the end, with a diet, as most people do—and fail. I never started it because I didn’t know how to go about it.
BM: Have you been thinking about writing a book for a long time?
PS: It’s something I’ve wanted to do for about 15 years.
BM: How did you find the retreat?
PS: I enjoyed it immensely. Most weekends I have away on any kind of course are with fellow therapists, and although there were several therapists at Mindy’s retreat, it was lovely to mix with people from all manner of occupations. The Dinner was a particularly nice touch.
BM: Is it what you expected? Were you surprised by anything at the retreat?
PS: I hate preconceptions, so I didn’t go with any. Therefore I took everything as it came. I was only surprised by one thing—the lovely portfolio Mindy supplied.
BM: Was there a particular exercise or session over the two days that really helped?
PS: I don’t think there was a particular exercise or session that really helped any more than others because they were all so good and thought-provoking. For me, it was also about the small but very important nuggets that came my way through the entire weekend, such as “Do the thinking before the writing”, and “Don’t ask questions, make statements”.
BM: How has it helped you with your book project?
PS: Without it, the ideas would still be where they’ve been for the past 15 years—inside my head. So there wouldn’t be a book without Mindy.
BM: Lastly, the BIG question. 6 weeks on, how is the book going?
PS: The book writing is going splendidly. By tomorrow evening I shall have finished writing the first draft (around 75,000 words), then I need to edit/proof it. There’s just one problem… drawing upon various things I’ve already written (for clients over the years, blogs, newsletters, editorials etc.) I’ve realised I have sufficient material for TWO books!
Well done Penny! We look forward to your upcoming book.
You too can achieve this. The next Book Writing Retreat is March 21st.