Thought leadership has become a hot topic in the age of the internet. Stunned by the success of today's high-traffic bloggers and YouTube stars, many have understandably become fixated on becoming anindustry leader in some way or another. At this month's Inc. iCONIC conference in New York, I was again asked what has become a fairly frequent question: how do I become a thought leader?
Ironically, my writing and speaking isn't what has allowed me to provide the answer to this powerful question. Instead, it's my work as a communications agency owner that has given me insight into what goes into creating an industry leader (and what leaves most companies to wallow in mediocrity).
Even more ironic is that many companies and CEOs who say they want to be true industry leaders are the first to take the safe route when it comes to messaging and advertising. As a prime example, these are the companies that will only hire an industry-specific advertising agency (the same agency, by the way, that all of the competitors use). These want-to-be leaders are also the ones who tend to choose messaging that most resonates with their own executive team, rather than with their customers and prospects.
Unfortunately for them, neither of those strategies result in true leadership.
However, this herd mentality is precisely what gives true leaders an opportunity, even in today's saturated market. While everyone is busy going one way, you can easily step out and become the recognized expert in your industry -- no matter what industry you're in. The secret is hiding in plain sight: While most companies stay within their industry-inflicted bounds, all you have to do is literally declare that you are the leader.
That's right -- the one simple way to be the industry leader is simply to declare that you and your organization are the unequivocal leader. Most never consider this simple strategy, either because it seems too simple to be effective or because they're afraid that once they declare leadership, they'll have to fulfill that promise. But, we know from our decade of work in multiple industries that declaring true leadership and stepping into the proverbial spotlight is a surefire way to attract the best kind of attention and draw in your best customers -- often doubling or tripling your business in a period of mere months.
This effective and rarely-used strategy also helps explain the reason why most industry-specific marketing agencies can't achieve explosive results. Think about it: If there were a marketing agency in your industry that could triple revenues, wouldn't you know about it? And if such an agency existed, wouldn't everyone in your industry use it? And if that happened, how could such an agency say that every one of its clients is the leader? That would be a conflict of interest, indeed -- and that's exactly why industry-specific agencies with that kind of record can't, by nature, exist.
Instead, being the leader takes a declaration that puts you and your organization way ahead of your competitors, and that requires an outside perspective that can help you proudly and loudly declare that position in an innovative way. Not only will you need an outside perspective to craft your leadership message, but you'll also need it to help you navigate an aggressive growth trajectory, which will need a fresh industry approach to sales, operations, strategic planning and more.
So, the next time you're wondering how to become the leader, stop wondering and start declaring it openly. Taking the leadership position by openly declaring it is the most simple and powerful way to quickly propel you to the top of your customers' minds. Sure, it takes bravery -- but isn't that what real leaders are made of?