How Any Company can Become a Thought-Leader in Their Niche
They’re immortal questions. “How do I develop brand recognition?” “What do I have to do to stand out as an authority?” “What steps can I take to help people discover my brand?” Luckily, the answer for all of them is the same: become a thought leader.
If you’ve ever wondered how to become a thought leader, you’re not alone. This is by far one of the most challenging things companies face in their tenures. Today, it’s not enough just to start a business and be good at what you do. Instead, you need to be the best at what you do. You need to be the brand people turn to when they have questions – the source that stands out above all others online.
Not only does this level of authority improve your relationship with your customers, but it also earns you better Google rankings, since the search engine offers special preference for authority brands. When you establish yourself as an authority, landing those coveted, first-page rankings is easier.
The only question now is how you do all this. Here’s your complete guide to making the transformation, in a single month or less.
Step One: Claim Your Platform
Before you can become a thought leader, you need to establish a robust platform. This means building a recognizable brand and publicizing your credentials.
Wondering why a solid platform matters?
Think of it this way: your car needs bodywork, and you have a choice between two auto body professionals. One advertises solely through craigslist, works out of his garage, and has no references or reviews. The other rents a spacious, clean shop downtown, has a website filled with appealing “before” and “after” pictures and has racked up dozens of online reviews.
Which one are you going to choose?
Even if we assume both professionals are equally skilled, you’re more likely to choose the clean shop space downtown. Why? Because that company has a platform. They’ve obviously invested time and energy in creating their brand and communicating that brand to their customers. This, in turn, inspires trust and recognition.
Before you can become a niche authority, you need to establish a platform for your business. Here’s how:
- Buy a Branded Domain Name. Purchase a domain name through GoDaddy or your hosting provider. For best results, keep it short, simple, and professional. For example, www.donascookies.com is better than www.donnasveryawesomeirresistiblecookies.com.
- Get a Logo and a Color Scheme. People process visuals 60,000 times faster than they process text, so visual branding is essential to niche dominance. With this in mind, get a recognizable logo and color scheme. 99designs.com is a great one-stop design studio for this.
- Claim Local Citations. If your business isn’t listed on Google or Yelp, now is the time to do it. Claiming your local citations on these platforms makes your site more visible and gives you a jump-start on brand authority.
- Optimize Your Site. Nobody ever became a niche leader with a horrible website. Now is the time to maximize the on-site factors of your site to ensure a positive user experience. Make sure your site is easy to navigate, your website content is well-written, and your menus are complete and clickable on all devices.
- Do Some Keyword Research. Keyword research is essential to position yourself as a niche authority. Hire an experienced content strategist to conduct the KW research for you, and to help you discover industry niches you should target as you build out your site and content.
Step Two: Start a Blog
Blogging and becoming a niche authority go hand-in-hand. Not only is blogging a great way to drive traffic to your site (according to HubSpot, companies that post 16 or more blogs each month earn 3.5x as much traffic as their competitors), it’s also a smart way to establish yourself as an authority.
Each blog you write is an opportunity for you to express your ideas and expertise, and to position your company as the go-to source for industry information. What’s more, consistent blogging gives you a voice in industry happenings, trends, and news, and allows you to take a stance on controversial issues. Here are some tips to help your branded blog soar:
- Create Plenty of Evergreen Content. Evergreen content is content that remains relevant for years after its publishing date. Unlike trending content and statistical reports, which are most relevant shortly after publication, evergreen content remains relevant forever, and can become a major source of backlinks and traffic. Common types of evergreen content include lists, “how-to” tutorials, videos, and product reviews.
- Be Consistent. It doesn’t make any sense to create content unless you’re doing it consistently. With this in mind, create a blogging schedule and stick to it. At a minimum, you should be blogging at least once a week, although 3-4 times is preferable for most companies.
- Develop a Brand Voice. If you read the company blogs of brands you admire, you’ll notice that each has a “voice” that’s distinct to the company in question. This voice makes these companies immediately recognizable and helps their content stand out online. While finding your voice may take some trial and error (especially if you’re just getting started) your blog is the place to let your brand voice run free. Are you funny and irreverent or serious and professional? The sooner you figure it out, the more cohesive your content will be.
- Keep it Quality. There is no greater sin in the world of content marketing than low-quality content. As you develop content for your brand, ensure it’s high-quality, error-free, and professional. Bad content can damage your brand (and destroy your opportunity to become a niche authority) much faster than you might imagine.
Step Three: Target Terms
As you work toward authority status, remember that one of the most streamlined ways to do it is to target a selection of thematically-related keywords that will educate a broad swath of your audience.
For example, if your target term is “content marketing,” get creative in how you write about it. Possible thematically-related keywords could include “how to learn content marketing,” “best content marketing tools,” “content marketing mistakes,” and more. You could even write about inbound marketing and SEO and still be relevant.
Since Google’s shift toward machine-learning technology, the search engine is better than ever before at determining user intent and matching readers with content that will answer their questions. This frees you from death-grip adherence to stiff keyword strategies and allows you to write about a large selection of topics without going off the rails.
Step Four: Get Social
Some of my most frequent clients are small businesses who want to enhance their brand presence but aren’t sure where to start. With these companies, one of the first things I look at is their social media profiles. Do they exist? Are they updated frequently? If so, is the content on them useful, engaging, on-brand, and relevant?
Social media is more important right now than it’s ever been before. With more than 2.46 billion users worldwide, social platforms represent the largest source of potential audiences for brands. With this in mind, now is the time to focus on boosting your social profiles, across the board. Here’s your playbook:
- Optimize Each Profile. On each social platform you use, your profile should be built-out as much as possible. This means writing a compelling bio, adding a high-quality photo of your logo as a profile photo, incorporating keywords into your brand description and bio section, and keeping your content fresh.
- Tailor Content to Platform. While Twitter and Facebook are both helpful social platforms, they’re not created equal. Whereas Twitter is best for sharing links and offering quick commentary, Facebook is well-suited for long-form content, polls, and visual material. To get the most ROI from your social efforts, be sure you’re considering the intended platform as you create content.
- Use Social as a Customer Service Vehicle. If you use your social media presence the right way, people will start using social platforms to ask you questions, pose issues, and interact with your brand. When they do, be sure you’re responding kind. When you reply to your customers’ questions, comments, and input, you not only position yourself as an engaged and participatory brand. You also lay the foundation for the niche authority you’re working so hard to build.
Step Five: Establish Your Credentials
The final (and most critical) step in becoming a niche authority is establishing your credentials. This involves getting active in your online and in-person community and helping people understand why they should trust you. Here are a few tips:
- Conduct Original Interviews. Original content is a secret weapon for anyone who wants to learn how to become a thought leader. By carrying out original interviews with other thoughts leaders in your industry, you give your audience something they can’t find anywhere else and secure a spot for yourself as a go-to authority.
- Write a Guide. If you want to be a thought-leader, long-form content can be a huge help. By penning a guide, book, or extensive tutorial, you can enhance your brand and establish your expertise with a larger audience.
- Start a Group. Starting a Facebook or LinkedIn group is a fast, simple way to establish authority in your niche. In addition to allowing you to communicate with like-minded individuals, being the head of a social group also provides an opportunity for growth.
Thought Leadership: The Ultimate Growth Hack for Your Brand
If you’re looking for a way to enhance your brand’s visibility and authority, becoming a thought leader is a fantastic tactic. By providing quality content to users, swimming upstream, and being willing to hustle in your strategy, you’ll quickly establish yourself as a thought leader and become that sought-after brand that manages to say it in a way nobody ever has before.