When looking for advice on your company or industry, where do you usually turn?
More than likely, it’s reading blog posts or listening to podcasts from a thought leader.
They’ve been through the ringer and came out on the other side with a successful business or two.
Think of experts and industry titans like Gary Vee and Warren Buffett. Whatever they tend to say goes.
Even if it’s not true, thought leadership can often “speak it into existence.”
Everybody wants to become famous. But that’s often unrealistic.
Becoming a thought leader in your niche is the next best thing.
Becoming one is no easy feat, though. It’s one of the most difficult things to accomplish in crowded markets.
And more often than not, accomplishments or disruptiveness are key factors, which are hard to achieve in of themselves.
But doing so can take your business from in debt to profitable faster than you can blink.
Here’s how a no-name company became thought leaders and turned a profit in just three months, and how you can set yourself up to become one too.
How Glow Recipe gets free press for their business
Glow Recipe was founded in 2014 by Sarah Lee and Christine Chang. The company sells natural beauty products from Korea, and they are based out of New York City.
Their mission with Glow Recipe was to bring the innovative, natural beauty product scene from Korea into the United States because they saw none of those products currently in the market.
With a combined experience of 20 years in the skin care and beauty industry, they knew they could make it happen.
Traveling all over from NYC to Hong Kong and Seoul, they spent years working directly with beauty companies and women, understanding their target market wants and needs.
Being skincare fanatics, they’ve tested thousands of products over the years. The main differentiating factor of Glow Recipe is that they wanted to focus on the efficacy of the product, rather than branding and shady marketing tactics that are common in the beauty industry.
Any product can make a claim, but most are empty, and Glow Recipe sought to change that.
With 20+ years of experience under their belt, they knew everything about skin care products. But not just the technical jargon, they understood the chemistry, science and real impact that proper ingredients could have on skin.
Having such extensive knowledge and the will to break through landed them on massive publications.
Being willing to share trade-secrets of their craft and a deep knowledge of the industry, they quickly become thought leaders.
And it didn’t hurt that they were also featured on Shark Tank.
Getting publicity is just the first step. As we saw with Glow Recipe, getting the chance to share their knowledge was critical. But if they didn’t have that knowledge, Shark Tank wouldn’t have turned them into thought leaders.
How to become a thought leader in your niche
The recipe for thought leadership is simple: publicity/platform + knowledge/experience
Here’s how to employ Glow Recipe’s strategy to get publicity and become a thought leader in your industry.
Step 1. Build your brand/niche/motto
When it comes to thought leadership, branding is critical.
For example, what comes to mind when you think of thought leaders like Gary Vee?
Probably a slew of descriptive phrases, but likely something along these lines:
A realist, a hustler, a disruptive entrepreneur and voice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
He didn’t get that brand positioning in the eyes of his fans and consumers by chance. That’s his personality to the core.
Everytime he gets published on a new site like Forbes or Inc, he brings that same passion and fire, aiding in brand development.
Everything from his headlines on articles to podcast topics works to reinforce this brand image.
For example, check out this article he wrote for Inc Magazine:
That’s brand reinforcement. He’s given multiple talks, speeches and podcast topics on the fact that you don’t need college or classes to become successful.
His motto is using passion and the drive to succeed. Being disruptive is his brand, and that headline communicates it like no one else can.
Branding works. And according to Search Engine Land and SurveyMonkey, it’s critical to success:
The first thing that people look for in search results on Google is branding. It’s at the forefront of our daily lives.
When you go shopping at the grocery store, do you pick Colgate toothpaste with the shiny red bottle, or do you pick the drugstore brand?
They both have the same active ingredients, yet you pick Colgate despite it being more expensive!
Brand bias is real, and it’s not just for large companies. It’s for individuals, too.
Building up your brand involves a few different things:
1. Developing a position: creating a motto, slogan or association with your name. For example, Gary Vee is known as a serial entrepreneur and a hustler:
2. Showcasing social proof: anyone can call themselves a hustler, or a serial entrepreneur. But not everyone can back that up. It requires social proof in the form of success. In this case, it could be anything from case studies to interviews to featured articles. Gary Vee perfectly executes social proof on his about page:
Before trying to become a thought leader, it’s critical to establish a position that you want to take in the minds of consumers and future fans.
What is your motto? What do you stand for personally?
A great way to test the waters is by asking friends and family how they would describe you.
You can then adapt their description into something that’s marketable and craved in society.
The next step is to showcase any social proof that you have that can justify these claims you make about yourself.
If you call yourself a serial entrepreneur but haven’t started a single company, people will call you a liar.
Back up your motto and brand positioning with proof and experience. Have you helped companies grow? Did you grow your own? How? All of these answers factor into your personality and brand style.
Create a tag-line or phrase that quickly summarizes you and your style. Then, implement that into everything that you do.
Once you’ve crafted a brand image that you’d like to achieve or that you currently hold, it’s time to showcase that with as many people as possible by getting mentioned on huge publications for free.
Step 2. Share the best content you can on industry sites
When guest blogging for thought leadership, you want sites that will generate the highest return on your investment.
For example, if a blog currently has only 100 visitors a month, that is likely not going to be worth your time.
20 of those sites would only equal one great site. Your time is best spent towards high-level sites that reach thousands a month.
To find sites in your niche if you aren’t already familiar with them, conduct a basic Google search using the following search parameters:
top [industry/niche] blogs
Conducting this type of search will always return results that compare the top blogs in a given niche/industry.
Simply add these to your target list to guest blog on or make a guest appearance on.
But, now comes the hard part. It’s easy to find target sites to get featured on. But it’s hard to get the right content on their site.
The content you want to feature needs to be unique and speak from experience, referencing case studies that you’ve been involved with.
For example, check out this post from Simon Sinek, a famous thought leader:
His articles focus on telling a story. They don’t give you XX tips for success in the title to get you to click.
Instead, the articles focus on captivating the audience and sharing insights that others can’t.
Your guest blogging articles or interviews should always focus on content that others can’t and aren’t doing.
If a specific content type is popular in your niche, you won’t become a thought leader by replicating that content.
Instead, you should focus on crafting unique pieces that showcase your knowledge on the subject while also using storytelling to make it palatable.
Glow Recipe does this exact strategy on their blog, using their branding as transparent industry experts within the title itself:
This simple question and answer format establishes the Glow Recipe team as professionals. As the go-to source of information.
When writing these posts, be sure to mention your history. Your work experience. Your triumphs. But don’t boast about them or raise yourself up. Instead, use them as jumping off points, like Gary Vee does:
Using social proof to showcase his credibility early, he can establish himself as a leader and an expert.
But that sounds too cocky and arrogant. It’s too much self-promotion. And that’s why his next paragraph opens with talking about his flaws and ways that he has made mistakes.
It brings the piece back down to reality and away from self-promotion while still promoting himself.
Now that you know what content will get you featured and shown as a thought leader, it’s time to conduct outreach to your target sites.
Try using this template that I’ve crafted for you specifically for sharing thought leadership style posts on huge publications for free exposure:
Hey [first name]!
Huge fan of the [blog name]. Being a [position] in the [industry/niche] industry, I’ve learned a ton from it.
In fact, the blog series on [research their blog and link a post or two] was helpful when I was [outcome or something you learned from that post].
I’ve personally grown my own company from X to X in X months. I’m a [brand motto, i.e, serial entrepreneur] with [trait]. I’ve helped [showcase social proof: case studies, etc.] grow their businesses and my content reaches thousands every month.
I’d love to share my experience with your audience, and together I believe we can deliver a great piece to your fans.
Please let me know if this is a possibility.
Step 3. Connect with other influencers in your content
While it may seem counterintuitive to mention other influencers in your niche, it’s not.
Think about it this way:
Would you want to read content from a person who only talks about themselves? Probably not.
Usually, thought leaders are extremely well-versed in their niche. They know it front to back and everything from a to z.
Meaning they know other influencers, thought leaders, and information beyond just their own brand and company.
Not only does this show an expert knowledge of the current state of your industry, but it also lumps you together with already known influencers.
And if we know anything about being guilty by association, people often judge others based on who they associate with.
For example, this post from Glow Recipe references multiple other products, companies, and skincare experts:
In another separate industry of B2B marketing, Aaron Orendorff mentions tons of influencers in his content to increase virality and associate his own self with high-level thought leaders:
Sometimes, mentioning others can seem counterintuitive when trying to build yourself up.
You might think that it only serves to increase the competition you face. But in reality, it helps to show that you know your industry and that you associate with other high-level influencers.
When creating your next piece, try interviewing influencers or mentioning them in your post.
Step 4. Disrupt traditional thinking with interesting content
As we explored with Glow Recipe’s own tactics, they used one key factor to establish themselves as thought leaders:
In a beauty and skin care industry filled with marketing and advertising jargon and sneaky tactics to sell products, they flipped the script.
Instead, they turned the traditional sales-focused model on its head, focusing more on honesty and the science behind their ingredients.
Using 20+ years of experience, they knew that the industry was too focused on marketing and selling the idea of being perfect.
But that wasn’t appealing to most women. Instead, Glow Recipe uses honest communication and transparency in their product to show knowledge. That knowledge translates into thought leadership. It’s exclusivity.
Glow Recipe becomes the place to be to get your beauty questions answered now. That’s why they run an entire question and answer blog series.
If you want to establish yourself as a leader and an expert, disrupt the status quo. Nobody else in the skin care industry was doing this type of blogging. They didn’t want to give away trade secrets or detailed information that was considered exclusive.
On top of their Q&A series, they also do reviews:
Reviews are a great way to showcase thought leadership. Why? Because they turn you into a trusted source of unbiased information.
People soon look to you for information on products because they trust you. And as we discussed earlier, trust and social credibility are massive drivers of thought leadership.
Do some basic research on the best blogs in your niche. See what type of content they are producing. But, more importantly, see what content they aren’t producing.
See if there are any gaps in their strategy that you can use to disrupt the status quo.
Becoming a thought leader is a great goal that anyone can accomplish in their industry.
As cliche as it sounds, having the drive to brand yourself and prove that branding with great work and experience is possible for anyone.
Keep in mind: How fast you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry will depend on how much credibility and track record you have already. The more credibility and success track record you have or can acquire, the faster you can establish yourself as a thought leader.
If you can get thought leadership to work, it can help you turn your business from zero to hero in no time leveraging your personal brand. We saw it with industry titans such as Gary Vee, Neil Patel, and Glow Recipe in this case study.
Sarah Lee and Christine Chang spent over 20 years in the beauty and cosmetic industry acquiring knowledge and experience to brand themselves as experts on the industry and its products.
Personally branding themselves through their website, Shark Tank and various guest posting outlets has turned them into thought leaders.
People look to them for advice on beauty and cosmetics because they have branded themselves as honest and transparent in an untransparent space.
To do the same, start by building your brand motto. According to research, it’s a big driver of success. Next, get your content featured on top industry sites to establish credibility and reach a larger audience.
In your featured content, connect other influencers by sharing their voice. This establishes credibility and gets your name in the same circles as already popular thought leaders.
Lastly, to become the best thought leader you can, you have to disrupt traditional thinking and go against the status quo.
Now It’s Your Turn
You’ve got the tools in your hand that Glow Recipe used to develop their own branding and thought leadership.
Now it’s your time to shine. Put those to use and build your brand to become a thought leader in your industry.
What are ways that you have gotten free publicity or a platform to share your expertise? How do you build up your credibility and brand?
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