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thought leadership branding

It can be hard to be a small business in a world that feels dominated by large corporations and multi-million dollar companies. How do you even begin to stand out among these giants? You’ll be happy to hear that it is 100% possible— and the key is in thought leadership branding.

But what is thought leadership branding and how can you use it in your small business to distinguish yourself?

Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

What is Thought Leadership Branding?

When you think of your industry, is there one individual that towers above the rest — the authority, the go-to person in the space? When the person speaks, everybody seems to pay attention. His or her posts on social media get shared and retweeted frequently and they’re often the first to be consulted when industry news breaks.

That is the power of thought leadership branding.

The primary goal of thought leadership is to build awareness of your brand and your industry expertise. This happens through content — blog posts, social media posts, and more — that engages and educates your audience.

How does this help your brand and bottom line?

As potential customers and buyers see your expert advice and insights again and again, they come to view you as a trustworthy brand. When they need to invest in a solution, yours is going to be top of mind. And, most likely, they will be willing to pay top dollar for your services.

So, we see what thought leadership can do… Now let’s look at some specific ways that you can develop thought leadership in your own small business branding.

How to Succeed with Thought Leadership Branding for Small Business

Research Your Audience

At its core, thought leadership branding strategy isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. And a good strategy should center around one key question: What does your target audience need?

But to answer that question, you need to know who your target audience is.

Start by crafting personas for your customers and prospects. Outline what matters to them and what their biggest pain points are — what problems and issues do they face on a day-to-day basis?

Next, find out where your audience lives online. What social media networks are they on? Which individuals do they follow on these platforms? What sites do they visit most often for their information?

Learning as much as you can about your audience can put you in a better position to connect with and engage them.

Create Content

Content is at the core of thought leadership branding. After all, this is what your audience will engage with as they assess your expertise and build trust in your brand.

Content is anything that you create to engage with your audience. Some examples of this could be…

  • Blog posts
  • Website pages
  • Social media posts
  • Infographics
  • Ebooks
  • White papers
  • Videos
  • Webinars

Create a strategy that includes a nice variety of these content formats. This will ensure that you reach your entire audience in whatever format that they prefer.

And make sure that your content is helpful. In one Edelman study on the impact of thought leadership, 71% reported that less than half of the thought leadership they consumed was valuable. How do you make sure that your content is valuable? This goes back to your audience research — the more you know about the specific questions they’re asking and issues they’re facing, the better you can create content that actually helps them.

Leverage Social Media

Next to content, social media should be at the top of your priority list.

This goes beyond simply posting to social media. As the name suggests, you should be social. This means engaging with your audience. Like and comment on other people’s posts. Respond to comments. Become part of communities and groups on social media. Share your thoughts on industry subjects whenever you have an opportunity.

The more friendly and outgoing you are on social media, the better chance you have of building a solid following that likes and trusts you.

You can also use social media to network with other thought leaders in your community. This might lead to a partnership or guest posting opportunity that can further your thought leadership branding goals. How so? These opportunities give your brand great exposure to new audiences who will likely trust you more because of your partnership with someone they already know and trust.

Be Consistent

One of the worst mistakes we see people make when it comes to thought leadership branding is posting up a storm for a few months and then going silent.

Thought leadership requires consistency. If you’re not going to be there for your audience, they will likely forget about you and turn their attention to another brand.

If you struggle with this, I recommend creating a thought leadership content calendar. This can be on a simple spreadsheet or on an organizational application like Trello. It just needs to be a place where you can outline what content you’re going to create, when you’re going to post or publish it, and how you’re going to promote it. This will help you to visualize your efforts and give you the push you need to fill in any gaps.

Measure Your Results

Not all of your thought leadership tactics are going to succeed. After all, every audience is different and what works for someone else’s audience might not work for yours.

And the last thing you want to do is direct your time and energy into a tactic that is not working.

So how do you know what’s working and what’s failing?

The only way to know this is through measurement. Use an analytics program to measure the traffic that is going to your website, blogs, social media, and other outlets.

Look for patterns to tell you what topics are most popular on your blog or what days are most effective for posting on social media. These details can help you not just avoid tactics that don’t work, but actually strengthen your entire small business branding strategy.

Concluding Thoughts on Thought Leadership Branding

Thought leadership branding isn’t just a fad — it’s a real, 100%-legit strategy that has helped thousands of brands, including many small businesses, to stand out.

Don’t allow your small business to fade into the background, pushed around by larger competitors. You absolutely have the power to stand out with the right combination of thought leadership tactics we’ve discussed here.

We wish you all the best in your small business branding strategy and can’t wait to see you rock thought leadership for your own brand.

Photo by Marita Kavelashvili on Unsplash

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Wendy Marx

Wendy Marx

Wendy Marx, author, coach and marketing and branding authority is the founder of Thriving at 50 Plus, a coaching program that helps baby boomers find more purpose and meaning in life. Wendy over the last 30 years has helped many business owners and executives become well-known, going from Anonymity to Industry Icon™. Her business articles have appeared in The New York Times, InformationWeek, Inc., Advertising Age, & Fast Company, among other outlets.

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