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Developing Your Visible Expert℠ Strategy for Thought Leadership Marketing

This is Part 3 in a series on Becoming a Visible Expert. In this series well cover why your firm should consider developing these high profile experts, the strategy behind it, and how to do it, step by step. An accompanying Executive Guide and book are available as free downloads.

 

In the last post in this series we reviewed how one might assess the standing of a professional as a Visible ExpertSM. Now it’s time to explore the process of developing your strategy and how it can drive a thought leadership marketing approach.

Begin with Your End Goal in Mind

Any strategy must start with your end goal in mind. Do you need to be the foremost authority and thought leader in a particular topic, or are you primarily interested in generating leads and increasing the visibility for your firm? The latter can be much more easily achieved than the former.

Be realistic about what you are aiming to achieve. If you have no experience or no credentials in a field, becoming a Visible Expert in that field will indeed be a challenge. Most folks begin a Visible Expert program with some basic background and try to build a specialization or increase visibility around an emerging issue. This is a very practical approach to thought leadership marketing.

A focused, clearly stated goal will make the strategy development easier. Be specific and write it down.

Here are the basic steps in strategy development.

1. Start where you are strong. Any successful strategy has to be founded on a realistic assessment of where you stand today. If you have completed a Visible Expert assessment along the lines that we discussed in the previous post, you should be in good shape.

In this step, you are focusing on your existing areas of strength. Where are you already strong? The best thought leadership marketing strategies tend to be ones that leverage these strengths.

Can you start from scratch and completely change focus? Can an audit partner at a CPA firm with no direct experience become a health insurance finance expert? Yes, but it is a difficult road. An easier goal would be to become an expert on health insurance fraud, for example, where the audit experience has more direct applicability.

2. Pick your target audience. Who do you want to influence, exactly? The more focused your strategic targets, the faster you are likely to be perceived as a Visible Expert by that audience. Remember, you want to target both your potential new clients and the influencers around them.

3. Specify the limits of your expertise. What are the bounds of the expertise that you want to be known for? The goal here is to be as narrow as possible while still being broad enough to have an enduring impact.

This relationship is best seen in the evolving world of technology. If your expertise is focused on a single technology it may well become outmoded when the technology shifts.

On the flip side, the narrower the breadth of desired expertise, the faster you can achieve it.

4. Pick your issues and perspectives. This is one of the most important aspects of your strategy. An expert becomes visible by applying their expertise to specific topics or issues. If their perspective is particularly insightful or provocative it tends to gain traction in the marketplace of ideas. This is a hallmark of thought leadership marketing.

Contrast this with the approach of most traditional professionals. In their search for visibility they tend to provide conventional, widely accepted perspectives on topics that are of little immediate interest to their target audience. Ho hum. Not much opportunity to increase visibility and garner influence.

Look for issues that are about to emerge on the scene and are likely to be complex and controversial. These are the issues that journalists will be writing about and potential clients will be talking about. These audiences will welcome expert opinions and perspective.

Remember that some specific issues will endure for years, while others will have a very limited life. Over the course of your career you will have both.

Make sure that for each issue you target you have a clear perspective. That clarity and consistency will help you as new variations and permutations of the issue emerge.

5. Outline an implementation strategy. How will you use these tools to develop your expertise and visibility? Where will you publish your thought leadership pieces? Where will you secure speaking engagements? Who will you cultivate as partners?

For example, you might conclude that the best strategy is to partner with an industry trade association to do a major piece of research. Based on that research you will seek certain speaking engagements.

You can then turn that research into a book. That book will become the foundation of your expertise and be used as a tool to generate additional speaking gigs and interviews.

All of these specific objectives fit together to reinforce expertise while increasing visibility. That’s how a good Visible Expert strategy should work.

6. Identify the tools you will need. What are the specific tools you will need to implement that strategy? Many folks are surprised to discover the wide range of tools they need to succeed. Here are a few important ones:

  • Bios in various lengths
  • Professional photography
  • Videos overviewing your expertise or sampling speaking skills
  • Dedicated website or microsite
  • Blog posts
  • Position papers/ white papers
  • Media kits
  • Articles
  • Research
  • Books or e-books

The specifics will, of course, vary by industry and profession. And you may need outside professional help you develop some of these tools.

7. Turn your strategy into an action plan. The final stage of your strategy development is to turn it into an action plan for thought leadership marketing.

  • How will you build out the tools?
  • What outside resources will you need?
  • What is your implementation timeline?
  • What is your budget?
  • Who will be responsible for making it all happen?

Once you have these basic planning tasks completed you can start the implementation phase.

Developing a solid Visible Expert strategy is fundamental to making it a reality. When you look around at all the individuals and firms that have pursued thought leadership marketing and failed, it’s very sobering.

We believe that one of the reasons so many fail is that they are either following a flawed strategy or none at all. Vague wishes and unfocused effort do not make for a successful strategy.

In the next post we’ll focus on the relationship between the Visible Expert and the firm’s brand. It’s an important consideration. In the meantime check out our free book, The Visible Expert.

Author: Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. Who wears the boots in our office? That would be Lee, our managing partner, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day and drives strategy and research for our clients. With a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, Lee is a former researcher and tenured professor at Virginia Tech, where he became a national authority on organizational behavior management and marketing. He left academia to start up and run three high-growth companies, including an $80 million runaway success story.

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