How to Become a Thought Leader

If you’re looking for new ways to engage potential clients, consider beefing up your thought leadership strategy. What is thought leadership, you ask? Definitions vary, but mine is: thought leadership demonstrates your expertise and knowledge in your field. You demonstrate that knowledge through many channels, including writing, speaking and consulting.

In Think Write Grow, author Grant Butler outlines what you need to focus on in creating thought leadership marketing materials:

1. It should advocate an idea.

2. It should solve a problem or reveal an opportunity.

3. It should not sell a product or service directly.

4. It should be rigorous and transparent.

Now that you know what your marketing channels should look at, let’s look at what types of communications you can use to demonstrate your thought leadership.

Blog posts

The easiest way to start talking about what you know is to set up a blog. The blog can represent your company, or it can represent you as a consultant. Either way, it should maintain a professional tone and focus on targeted topics that are interesting to the types of people you want as clients.

Because blogs go on into perpetuity, it’s important to have plenty of topics to write about. Here are some ideas for you:

  • Industry news
  • Your opinion about your industry
  • Basic 101 terms and definitions
  • Tools and technologies
  • Review of products or books
  • How-tos
  • Commentary on published blog posts by others

Whitepapers and Ebooks

Shorter than a book, a whitepaper or ebook is a great tool to express a point and back it up with research. They’re typically five to 20 pages long, says Butler, and are designed to persuade. These days, whitepapers are no longer boring looking documents. They’re often filled with images and graphs, and designed in a way that is appealing to readers.

For ebooks, consider writing about what you get asked about the most. For me in marketing, I get asked about how to use social media for small businesses quite often, so that would make a good ebook. Find a topic that provides answers that people are looking for, and you’ll better position yourself as a thought leader.


Books take a little longer to write, but they’re great for your resume. And if writing isn’t your strong suit, you can hire a ghostwriter to assist you. You probably won’t make it to the bestseller lists, but having a book under your belt goes a long way to convincing a potential customer of your worth.


One fantastic way to demonstrate your expertise is by public speaking. This can be done virtually, via a webinar, at a conference, or in a smaller seminar. Find conferences and trade shows that target your audience, and pitch the conference organizers on a topic you know intimately, as well as one that this audience would benefit from hearing.

Build your thought leadership strategy by creating several of these different types of communication, as well as answering questions on sites like Quora. Share relevant links on social media sites, and contribute to conversations with your knowledge. Remember that selling is secondary; your primary goal is to help people solve their problems with your knowledge. The sales will come as a result.

Photo: goldberg on flickr.

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts. She’s written two books: 101 Entrepreneur Tips and Internet Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs, and has blogged for several sites, including The Marketing Eggspert Blog, as well as MashableSmall Business TrendsFutureSimple, and Lead411. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.


5 responses to “How to Become a Thought Leader

  1. The advice in this blog post is excellent. As you become known as a thought leader in your industry, it improves your personal branding where people will have increased trust, confidence and respect for you and your business.

    Nancy Beth Guptill
    Sweet Spot Marketing Canada

    Twitter: @SweetMarketing

  2. Whoa, whoa, get out the way with that good infromatoin.

  3. This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I have shared your site in my social networks!

  4. I simply added your website to my favorites. I enjoy reading you. Thanks!

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