10 Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Field

Photo by Bill Wadman

Photo by Bill Wadman

Let’s start with the definition of thought leadership:

 Thought Leadership is the art of positioning your company as a leader in its field through best-in-class content. By publishing articles, videos, research, or any other form of original content regularly, potential clients and members of your industry may begin associating your brand with insight and authority.

Think of names like Peter Drucker, John Maxwell, Jim Collins, Malcolm Gladwell, or Seth Godin. You know these people’s names not because of their business accomplishments, but rather because of their books. They have gained authority in their respective business niches. You can be viewed in the same way by creating content that resonates with your clients and members of your industry. There’s no one better than Brendon Burchard to help you outline how to start from scratch and become a thought-leader. Here’s a summary of his key content from his best-selling book “Millionaire Messenger: Make a Difference and Fortune Sharing Your Advice

Step 1: Claim and Master Your Topic

Focus and curiosity are the pre-requisite to thought-leadership. Without curiosity, you’ll never be interested enough to learn and grow. Without focus, you’ll be dabbling in multiple topics and try to be an everything-under-the-sun expert.

The key is to pick one topic, learn it, master it, share it, become known for it, and make money teaching it. This will be serve as the foundation to position yourself as a thought-leader. Once you start mastering in one topic, you can further branch out your expertise into other topics.

Case in point. My expertise started with leadership. 5 years ago, I started a blog. I’ve read more than a few hundred leadership books so far. Built a tribe of 100,000 visitors/ month. Over the last several years, I researched and read every single book I can find on calling/vocation and ended up writing “Quarter-Life Calling.” Now, I can talk about three topics with growing confidence: leadership, millennials, and calling/vocation.

Here’s five important questions that might help you think about which topic you want to claim and master.

  • What are the topics I have always studied and been fascinated with in my life?
  • What are the things I love to do in my life?
  • What are the things that I have always wanted to go out and learn more about?
  • What are the things I’ve been through in life that might inspire people or instruct them on how to live a good life or grow a good business?

Step 2: Pick your Audience

Next, the key is to decide whom you want to serve most in the area of your expertise. Once you have a demographic in mind, go another level deeper. Consider their age, ethnic background, income level, educational background, personality type. The best practice is to narrow your audience to a recognizable type of person.

Narrowing down to a specific target of audience is important not only because they need the message, but also because you need to create effective and realistic promotions. You can’t advertise or market to the entire world.

Here’s some questions to consider:

  • The audience that would most likely benefit from training on a topic like mine is…?
  • The audience that would most likely pay for training on a topic like mind is…?
  • The audience of people who seem undeserved on my topic includes…?
  • People who need education on my topic often belong to organizations like…?

Step 3: Discover Your Audience’s Problems

As a thought-leader, you’re a servant first. Study and discover the specific needs of the audience. Here’ some questions you can ask your audience in order to learn more about them.

  • What is it you are trying to accomplish this year?
  • What do you often dream of achieving?
  • What do you often search on Google?
  • What are afraid not knowing enough about?
  • What do you often pay money for?
  • What frustrates you the most about your business or your life right now?
  • What have you already tried to do to improve your situation?

Step 4: Define Your Story

Instead of boasting about all your accomplishments and pedigrees that make you “look good,” start by answering yourself to this question: “What is a story of struggle from your past that could illustrate to your audience that you have struggled through something similar to what they are struggling through?”

Your audience wants to know you in this order:

  1. Who are you and what have you been through in life that I can relate to in my own my life?
  2. What have you overcome and how?
  3. What did you figure out along the way?
  4. What did you succeed at – what results did you get?
  5. What are you going to teach me that I can apply now to make my life better?

The key isn’t the length of these responses. Rather, it’s about the sincerity and heart that people experience when you say this.

More questions for you to consider:

  • What is a story of struggle from my past that my audience might relate to?
  • What is something I have overcome in my life that others might find inspiring or feel a connection with?
  • What are the main lessons I have learned from my journey=?
  • What are the accomplishments and affiliations I have in my life that help further my credibility?
  • What lessons can I teach people that will help them in my topic area and their situation?

Step 5: Create a Solution

This is where most people fail. Few actually do the work of sitting down and creating the how-to program or system to sell to their audience. In part, it’s simply because many don’t know where to begin but also they get overwhelmed by the bad advice.

Here’s five modalities in which people usually learn about something:

  • Reading – books, e-books, articles, newsletters, blog postings, instructor guides, and transcripts
  • Hearing – audio CDs, MP3s, conference call series
  • Watching – DVD study programs, online courses, webinars and mobile video apps
  • Experiencing – seminars, workshops, retreats, adventures, and expos
  • Mastering – exclusive mastermind programs, coaching, mentorship programs

The bottom line is that you need to create a program for sale in order to serve your clients.

Some questions to help you:

  • When my audience learns my information, they will probably want to learn it through these modalities the most…(e.g., reading, hearing, watching, experiencing, mastering)
  • The modality I would like to teach in the most involves my (e.g., writing it, speaking it for audio, presenting it on video, training at a live event, or coaching over a period of time)
  • Based on these ideas, I think the first how-to product or program I will create for my audience will be something like…

Step 6: Put up a Website

These days, it’s not enough have a website. Your website needs to add value. Your website also must capture leads. Growing your e-mail list is imperative. It is almost always directly proportionate to your income and influence. Your website also must make money. It should feature your latest products and generate recurring revenue.

Try answering these following questions:

  • If I were to design my ideal website, the value and information I would want to provide to my visitors would be things like…
  • The main thing people would like to learn upon visiting my site is…
  • The free gift I could offer my customers in exchange for their contact information is….
  • The products and programs I want my clients to know about and buy will be…

Step 7: Campaign Your Products and Programs

A value-added campaign is different than just a promotion. You give out your best content as free and in return provide opportunities where your audience can purchase other services or products. A key aspect of effective campaigning involves communicating your why to your customers. Most people stop campaigning at a certain point, but Brendon says as a messenger you’re on a mission. I think there should be a balance and campaigning too much can be of disservice to your audience.

More questions for you:

  • To add value to people before I sell them, I can send them a few free content pieces like…
  • The first product I want to market to my customers is…
  • The reason people should buy this product is because it helps them…
  • The reason I know this product gets results for people is that it…
  • The reason the price point of this product is fantastic is…
  • The reason people need to buy this program now is…

Step 8: Post FREE Content

You should give your best advice and ideas away for free. Yes, for free. Of course, I’m not saying to give all your content away for free, but rather to give your best ideas away for free. The truth is that you don’t get a second chance to prove your value.

  1. Ten short articles I could write and post on my blog include topics such as…
  2. Ten short videos I could create and post to YouTube could cover topics such as…
  3. The “biggest idea” I have for my customers that I should now share for free via video or articles online is…
  4. The keywords I want to emphasize in my article and video posts so that they are optimized to get good search engine results include key phrases such as…
  5. When I put all this free content online, my goal is for the customer to read, hear, or watch it and then take this next action…

Step 9: Get Promotional Partners

Collaborate with other thought-leaders to promote your message to their base of fans and followers. Attend conferences to seek new partners who can help you reach more people with your message. Brendon constantly cold-calls “gurus” in various industries and offer to interview them for their audience. He lives by this credo: Give and you shall receive. I believe that if I can add value for other people in my industry, then they will reciprocate somehow and someday.

Questions to consider:

  • Other experts training on my topic include…
  • The audience size they have on Twitter and Facebook is…
  • The products they offer for sale on their website include…
  • The price points they most often offer to their audience are…
  • The values this person seems to live by are….
  • The common phrases this person uses are…

Step 10: Repeat and Build the Business Based on Distinction, Excellence, and Service

Provide the following three values:

Distinction – be unique. Understand your unique value proposition and content to your customers.

Excellence – this is about giving your greats effort and caring enough about your customers to make sure the value you bring is equal to or better than anything else out there.

Service – Your name is often your business in this industry. Think Tony Robbins. If you don’t care of your customers, word quickly spreads. This will damage your name and brand and entire business.

Final Questions:

  • What makes me distinct in this industry is that I…
  • The reason I am committed to being excellent in everything I do is…
  • The reason I am doing this work in the first place is to…

  • A commitment to lifelong learning is the foundation.

  • Hey Paul, great post brother! Just curious, did your copy of “Millionaire Messenger” have all 10 steps listed out in chapter 5, “10 Steps to an Expert Empire”? I may have an early edition, but my copy skips number 8 completely (Give away free content) and goes from number 7, “Campaign..” straight to number 9, “Get Promotional partners”. If it wasn’t for your post I probably would have been bothered by the missing info into I was able to ask Brendon directly, since there are a few different options that could fill in that blank. Anyway, just curious. Hope you’re well. Blessings!