People don’t buy “run of the mill” anything anymore!

I work in a professional services firm and in order for firms like ours to differentiate themselves they have to create perhaps hundreds of personal brands around individuals who understand niche topics extremely well. And since buyers have transparency through the use of search engines they can really get a handle on just how qualified any individual in an organization is to perform a given service for them.

Elise Bauer once wrote in an article on thought leadership.

A distinguishing characteristic of a Thought Leader is “the recognition from the outside world that the company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers, and the broader marketplace in which it operates.”

Think about it, if you or a loved one was going to have heart surgery in New York, don’t you think you would Google “Heart Surgeon New York” and want the heart surgeon who is the most widely known in the field? Same applies in consulting because people just don’t buy run of the mill consultants anymore.

5 Steps to becoming the Thought Leader?

1. Start by defining a clear objective – Most thought leaders become thought leaders because they have a desire to educate the folks that follow them.
2. Pick your spot – There are always just a few thought leaders in every industry and/or field of study so pick a spot that you can differentiate yourself with.
3. Find your voice – We can’t all be Hemingway. Don’t try to write like someone else, find your own voice and don’t try to change your demeanor.
4. Don’t try too hard – Thought leaders genuinely influence others by creating, advancing and sharing their ideas. Thought leadership is not what you say or write. It is a state of being. Use your content as your attraction vehicle.
5. Lather Rinse Repeat – you can’t just write one blog post and call yourself a thought leader – it comes with persistence, it comes with passion about a particular topic and it comes with dedication to continue to publish and publish often.

The impact of a Thought Leaders can be felt in the way they catalyze others to do business. Take Michael Hammers 1990 work thought leadership on business reengineering – it changed every industry – now that’s the effect of becoming a thought leader and created a lasting brand for Michael Hammer!

This post was initially posted on Personal Branding Blog

4 comments to People don’t buy “run of the mill” anything anymore!

  • Phil Darby

    Too true Paul, but its nothing new. I’ve been banging on about differentiation for years. My Full Effect Marketing drives business growth around a clearly defined brand with a relevant promise that, we see to it, the organisation consistently delivers.

    I work a lot with proffessional services firms, especially in the marketing services sector and day one of any engagement is Brand Discovery day.

    However, as we enter the era of the new consumer/customer, its not even enough to be different, that difference has to be relevent too.

  • Paul Dunay

    Thanks for commenting Phil

    Love your point on its not enough to be different – the difference has to be relevant too! (NICELY SAID)

  • Steven Woods

    Paul,
    you are absolutely correct that it takes the effort, creativity, authenticity, and consistency you mention to become a thought leader. Also, I think it has become a fairly widely accepted statement that building a position of thought leadership leads to increased sales.

    It’s interesting though that there has been very little work (at least that I’ve seen) on exactly how thought leadership translates to sales. Is it the emotional cue of “people buy from people they like (emotionally) and justify rationally”? Or, is it the more rational concept that thought leadership allows you to set buying criteria in the prospect’s mind?

    It would be interesting to see which of these is more relevant as it guides decisision such as whether content or tone is more critical in establishing thought leadership.

    Thanks for a thought provoking piece.

  • Paul Dunay

    @ Steven

    I think it is the later – in my experience with my many thought leaders here – I have seen (and heard testimony from them) to the effect of “my pieces on XYZ totally changed the dynamic of the sales conversation”

    They were no longer “selling” they were advising – which in the end is where they wanted to start anyway!

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