A personal brand has been considered a "must-have" for entrepreneurs and aspiring thought leaders for years, and there are countless tools and resources for establishing one. Whether you've started with content marketing, an eye-catching website, or public speaking, your personal brand likely looks different from your competitors'.

But no matter the path you take, the goal is the same--being named the expert of your industry. The go-to person for information about your topic. The big cheese.

Though there are many different ways to become your industry's expert, there are a few similarities most experts share. Here's what the top industry experts have in common.

Thought Leadership Content

Whether it's a blog, a podcast, video, or a book, industry experts almost always produce some thought leadership content. After all, they're usually viewed as experts because they provide resources that prove their knowledge.

But while there's pressure to do all of the above (while also maintaining a robust social media presence), some of the most successful industry experts start by only focusing on one or two areas, connecting with the audience, and growing naturally over time to new platforms. The key to knowing where to start is to get familiar with your audience. Where would they most appreciate hearing from you? Would they prefer to listen to your podcast on their morning commute? Do they want quick bursts of information that would be best served in blog posts?

Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself where you'd prefer to go to get this information? Start there and build over time.

Loyal Following

Another hallmark of an industry expert is a following of engaged and loyal fans. Across industries, the volume of followers needed may vary. If you work in a niche industry, a small but mighty fan base may be enough to secure your spot at the top of the industry. But in more general spaces with greater competition, the bigger the better.

Followings can be found on social media, and that is often what people think of first. But industry experts also know the power of email. For that reason, both their thought leadership content and their social media efforts typically funnel people toward signing up for a email updates. If enough people are willing to trust you with their email addresses, then you know you've made an impact on them in some way. Most people don't invite just anyone into their inboxes.

Press & Speaking Opportunities

The size of your following can have an effect on the other opportunities available to you, like media. If a television show is looking for a talking head on a topic, you can bet they'll look into your follower counts. They're looking for proof that you are the industry leader and that they can count on you to shed light on topics they may know little about.

If you're still on your way up, consider getting some speaking experience at industry conferences and local events. Live events often book out months in advance, so be aware of deadlines for submitting speaker proposals. As you accumulate experience, keep a record of past events, along with information like the topic covered and audience size. Having detailed information about past speaking experience (and videos of you speaking if you can get them) will make the process of applying to new opportunities much easier.

Standard of Excellence

The last sign of an industry expert that often goes without saying is producing excellent work. You can put out all the thought leadership content you want and grow an email list of thousands, but if your paying clients don't feel you've given them real value, that success won't be sustainable.

So on your path toward industry expert status, don't forget the basics. Help your paying clients first, and keep them first and foremost in your mind as you take on the rest. When you create thought leadership content, write for them. When you grow your audience on social media or your newsletter, try to find and connect with more people like your clients. And when you book speaking engagements, think about the events your clients would go to and speak to them. Never forget that being an industry expert means more than just getting more clients--it means serving them, too.