Learn about what a thought leader is and what it means for small business owners.
If you’re a small business owner, you know all too well that time is a limited (and expensive) resource. It’s so expensive, 30 percent of small business owners say even one extra-productive hour in a day is worth $100 to them, 25 percent of them value it at $500.
Given how precious time is, it’s easy to see why so many small business owners are skeptical about becoming a thought leader. They know, as soon as they hear the suggestion, there’s going to be a time commitment required. Maybe a big one, too.
To discover if the investment is worth the time, you need to look at the upside and the downside of being a thought leader, plus the risks of not being one. Then you need to be clear on what thought leadership really requires.
Though being a thought leader can be beneficial, you don’t have to be a thought leader to have a successful business. But does it help? Yes. Could it possibly help a lot? Yes, again. But as with any undertaking, you have to be smart about it.
A thought leader is a newer marketing term that describes anyone whose ideas are heard within their industry. These are the people we think of as moving our industries forward. They embrace new viewpoints and shake up the status quo. So, what does thought leadership get you? In short, it gets you exposure. Namely, public relations exposure.
At its core, it’s a new form of PR. Press exposure has always been valuable for small businesses. Getting your company’s name [and yours] mentioned is a form of free advertising. Being able to have your ideas reach a large audience is a great way to attract attention to your company. It’s also good for differentiating yourself from your competitors.
Thought leadership can work in another way, by garnering more traffic to your website. Blogging is the most-used format by small business owners to post thought leadership.
According to HubSpot, regular blogging can attract exposure. They reported that companies which published 16 or more blog posts per month received almost 3.4 times more traffic than companies that published between 0-4 monthly posts.
HubSpot discovered something else: All that traffic generates leads. Blogging worked for both B2B and B2C companies (though, admittedly, B2C got more benefits the more often they published). Small companies ended up getting even better results than large companies.
This is the No. 1 follow-up question small business owners ask, and for good reason. Let’s face it: Writing is hard. It’s not everyone’s particular gift.
So what to do? Hiring a ghostwriter is an option, and sometimes it works. But you’ll need to hire a ghostwriter who understands your business [at least] half as well as you do. That can be hard to find, and when you do find them, it can be expensive. You can also hire an editor. A good freelance editor can take a rough draft written by you and preserve all your knowledge, even how you talk and your personality, and buff it up so it reads well and error-free.
There’s another alternative, too. For some owners, the task of completing a draft for an editor is a struggle. So skip it. Just pick a topic or question to answer and record yourself talking about it. Get it transcribed and hand it over to your editor. You’ll get some nice, cleaned-up, engaging copy back. All with your knowledge, in your voice, based on your experience.
Creating a system that works for you can be a downside. The work of doing thought leadership can much easier, which makes all the upsides more attainable. That’s why I do recommend you give thought leadership a try for at least three-to-six months. Even in a worst-case scenario, you’ll get some extra website traffic and have some pre-written answers to common customer questions. In the best-case scenario, you might become one of the owners (and companies) everyone talks about.
Photo credit: My Life Graphic/Shutterstock
Brian Sutter serves as Wasp Barcode Technologies’ director of marketing, where he sets the strategic direction and oversees the tactical execution of the company’s marketing programs. This diversified role encompasses all aspects of marketing for Wasp, including brand management, direct and channel marketing, online & digital marketing, public relations, and social media. Sutter joined Wasp in 2006, with a focus on web presence, product promotions, and brand awareness. During his tenure, Sutter has led Wasp through the launch of more than 20 new products, and he has been instrumental in securing various awards for the company, including the prestigious Inc. 500, Collin County 60, CRN 163 Emerging Tech Dynamos, CRN Channel Chief, ISTE Best in Show, and the Web Marketing Association.
Sutter is also a Small Business Marketing and Technology thought leader and contributes to a variety of publications including the Huffington Post, Washington Post, Entrepreneur, and Fast Company.