Does being a thought leader mean you get access to these magical, inbound clients in a way that a salesperson could only dream of? Well, actually, sort of. There’s a reason clients come looking for leaders like Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, and Gary Vaynerchuk. They’ve created a community and brand around their knowledge and made themselves invaluable. They’ve massively differentiated themselves from the competition because they’re generous with their knowledge.
However, they’re not so generous they’re giving it away for free. Clearly! So, how do you go about earning the title of thought leader while being honest, intriguing, while still leaving prospects wanting more?
Should You Give Away Knowledge?
The most common problem I encounter among consultants who are trying to market themselves is that they don’t want to give away information that they’re used to sharing on paid consulting calls and engagements. They tell me that they’re afraid to give away ‘the good stuff’ for free and worry about what they’ll say on their engagements if their marketing says it all.
Why You Should Give Freely
Fortunately, as the world moves ever further toward an abundance of information vs a dearth of knowledge, the role of service providers like those in the CoSolo consulting community continues to shift toward being integrators and applicators of information, rather than merely providers of it.
Remember: they can Google whatever they want nowadays. If they’re going to hire you, you’d better be providing them with advice and outcomes that are tailored for them, which they can’t get elsewhere. Otherwise, what’s the point of your services?
To justify your value, you should be willing to give your perspective in the market, freely. This will get you noticed. You just don’t need to apply that perspective to individual situations in public - save that for the private, paid engagements. People will see your perspective, think about it, and wonder how it could apply to them.
Give general (but not tailored) advice, and industry advice, in public. Spread it as your vision, and your ideas. Do so on LinkedIn posts, blog posts, and/or wherever your target market spends time online.
Where Marketing Stops and Consulting Sales Starts
First, when you post or comment about a technique or strategy for a while, people should start to engage with you about it. Some of those people will not be prospects, others will be connected to potential prospects, and some will be direct hot leads.
Here’s an example. I was talking about this exact topic - organic marketing, in this case on LinkedIn - and some people I would want to do business with asked clarifying questions:
Then, I went and connected with these folks and started a private Direct Message conversation about the topic:
Clearly, my brief comment and response thread is not the sum of my knowledge here, nor does it represent the full application of the knowledge to Sean or Yitzy’s business situation. So, perhaps they’d like to hire my team and I to help them apply this knowledge to their business.
Thus, I gave away knowledge and had a sales opportunity in return. I don’t know if I’ll ever do business with these specific two people, but it doesn’t matter: I am going to give freely, follow up persistently, and show up consistently.
The Key to Good Thought Leadership
Like we’ve talked about in the past, leading the discussions in your industry involves:
Being your authentic self, not copying others’ ideas
Being bold, not conformist
Promoting your perspective, not your services
Understanding where your audience spends time, and only sharing your viewpoints there, vs trying to be on all platforms at once
The hardest part is getting started. Look at the tone and style of people in your industry that you admire. Think and reflect about your unique position on the issues they discuss. Begin to comment, post, and discuss in the conversations that you see happening.
Once you’re “warmed up”, start posting your own original content and remember to show up consistently - this is not a one and done approach.
Being a thought leader can be a serious revenue stream. It’s no fools gold; it’s a real inbound contender. That being said, inauthentic and promotional content can be damaging to a brand just as much as good content can elevate it, so tread lightly and intentionally.
If you follow the advice we’ve laid out here, you’ll be on your way to learning how to consult in a way that still allows you to make serious money, even if you do give away some tidbits for free.
Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions!