In business, being an expert in your field is an advantage that can propel your business to new heights. If you are looked at as an authority in your space, customers in your industry will come to you before anyone else. This protects your company from new entrants into the market, and also helps build your personal brand.
While many people have tried to become experts in their field, few ever make a giant impact. One of the main reasons why is the amount of noise you hear everyday. The news, gossip, and work take time away that people would have had to listen to you. The question then becomes how can you break through this noise and become an authority in your market.
To help me answer this, I had a chance to interview C&M Group President and CEO Chirag Kulkarni. He specializes in consulting startups and Fortune 500 companies, and also has built a great personal brand. Kulkarni was able to gain momentum by becoming a thought leader. This has allowed him to give lectures at Stanford, Washington University in St. Louis, and other top schools.
Talking to Kulkarni, there are three main ways we all need to use to become a thought leader. Here they are:
1. Grow Your Social Channels
People who say they don't have time for social media really don't understand its power. Networks like Twitter and LinkedIn have given us the ability to reach out to thousands of people in less than 2 minutes. If you're going to break through the noise, you need to start utilizing these tools. On Twitter and LinkedIn, start following professionals who are well known in your space. Get active on discussions on LinkedIn Discussions, and start engaging in conversations on Twitter. You'd be surprised at how many people will talk to you through Twitter rather than email.
At the same time, make sure you are molding your social media presence in the way you want to be presented. One of the lessons I've learned interviewing experts is that they are careful about the image they push online. When trying to build a following, tailor your posts to certain topics that are most prevalent in your market today. Finally, understand that building a social media following is a process. Just like with most things, consistency is key for great results.
2. Have an about page
This is one piece of advice that I am guilty of forgetting. Kulkarni is big on having an about page, even if you aren't well known yet. Reason being, people want to know your story. With so many competitors in your field, giving some personal insight about yourself can be a leg up. The goal is to be able to get people to feel like they know you not only in business but also personally as well.
The about page allows you to do this well. You'd be surprised at how far having a simple blurb about you will go. Once you've started building an audience, more and more people will want to know more about you as a person. One of the easiest ways to give them what they want is to have one page online that describes you, your passion, and your goals.
3. Pick a market you can dominate
Trying to become an expert in a broad market is tough. One of the ways you can break in is by starting to be a thought leader in a small sector then eventually moving up to a larger industry. While this may seem like you're leaving a big opportunity, in reality if done right this will give you a vast and more loyal audience. When you start small, it will be much easier to build a following. Then after you've become a dominant player, you can begin branching into new opportunities. Building your brand is like building your company. Dominate a small market first, than expand.