Efficient, high-quality production is only one element in a successful, growing manufacturing business.
To succeed today, you need visibility. New customers need to find you in a crowded marketplace. You need a brand that builds trust, so new customers put their faith in you with their purchases. You need a way to separate yourself from the marketplace so that every order doesn’t come down to the lowest cost or fastest turnaround time.
It’s a daunting task, but one way you can deliver on those goals, set yourself apart from the competition, build trust, and grow your business is through a thought leadership strategy.
What Is Thought Leadership?
Ever read an article from an industry expert that you know and trust? Have you signed up for a webinar where you learned something that you were able to bring back to the production team? Ever find yourself excited to work with a company because you know how innovative and awesome they are? If you have, then you understand thought leadership.
Thought leadership is providing genuine and useful information and content that has value. It’s sharing what you know with others in a similar situation. It’s helping, lending wisdom, experience, and expertise to those in your industry.
While some may argue that thought leadership is about taking a controversial opinion and then arguing it with anyone that disagrees, that isn’t the goal. The goal should be identifying a topic and then providing value to the people with an interest in it (your audience). It’s about understanding a topic until you are an expert in it, and then sharing your expertise.
When you do that, you build trust. More people learn about you and the value you bring. Suddenly, customers are excited to work with you and fight for your business, rather than immediately looking for the lowest-cost option.
The Benefits of Thought Leadership for Manufacturers
At first, it may seem counterintuitive to business growth to freely share wisdom and expertise. After all, knowledge is valuable, and sharing it seems like it would seem to reduce that value. But the benefits that many businesses see from promoting their thought leaders far outweigh any concerns about lost value.
Companies that promote and share thought leadership see benefits that include:
- Business branding: Industry leaders provide insight and innovation and lead by example. That can boost your business’s brand significantly more than a catchy new tagline.
- Sales growth: Companies want to work with industry leaders. They want to work with the best, and that means the manufacturing companies where the thought leaders work.
- Market visibility: Brand visibility for your company can be costly. Thought leaders can generate invaluable and effective word-of-mouth visibility.
- Trust and authenticity: Thought leaders have trust in the industry. Rather than struggling to build credibility, their words carry weight.
- Increased revenue: The work of a thought leader has more value in the eyes of your audience. Additional value means more revenue.
Manufacturing, an industry that relies heavily on experts, with a long history of siloed expertise, is hungry for thought leaders. Innovation is how companies grow, and innovation often starts with thought leaders pushing the boundaries of best practices.
It’s why there is so much opportunity to lean into the existing thought leaders that you have in your business.
How to Build Your Brand with Thought Leadership
When you’re ready to start exploring thought leadership opportunities, it can be tempting to immediately write an article and schedule your first webinar series. But that’s not the most effective way to establish yourself as a thought leader. You need to cultivate and build your thought leadership.
Here are a few steps you can take to start building your thought leader credentials.
Identify and define your area of expertise.
We can’t all be good at everything all the time, which is why it’s so important to find a niche, an area of expertise. You need an identifiable specialty. Be clear and consistent in what your focus is. Focus on what you know and deliver the insight that you know best. Be authentic and honest, and don’t be afraid to tell someone that you aren’t sure. Consistency and honesty are how you build authenticity and trust.
Set aside time to build your brand.
Thought leadership, and building an audience that trusts you, takes time. If you want to be a thought leader, then set aside time and make it a priority. Schedule time each week to focus on your area of expertise, interact with people, and do the work. That should include finding your audience and getting to know them and their needs.
Research what people are saying about the topic.
Keep in mind that it is a wide and deep industry with a multitude of voices out there. There are a lot of messages and an incredible depth of information. Conversations are happening all the time. Do research and understand what people are talking about. Stay current on the latest news and information. Don’t let yourself be surprised. See how the expertise that you have fits with the current conversation and best practices. You may find that fitting into the conversation may require adjusting your messaging.
Find where the conversations are happening and join them.
Once you know your audience, the people that you can provide value to with your expertise, you need to find where they go for information. This could be a trade magazine, a LinkedIn group, or a discussion board where people chat, talk, and get their questions answered. Once you find them, answer questions, join the conversation, and be helpful as an active member of the group.
Provide value to the conversation and build your audience.
No one wants a lecture from a know-it-all. Don’t speak at the audience like an annoying teacher. Instead, provide value and support where you can. Interact, engage, and listen. Be helpful and understanding to build trust. Over time, it will be the expertise and insight that you bring which will build your brand as a thought leader.
How to Make an Impact as a Thought Leader
There’s not a checklist to follow that can guarantee “thought leadership.” It’s a process that starts with the value and expertise that you can bring.
But, if you put in the time and effort and are willing to listen, then you can find the right people to talk to. If you are able to provide value, you can build an audience as a thought leader. People in the industry will come to you with problems that you and your business can help solve. You can build your brand, both personal and professional, based on expertise and trust.
If you have questions or want to know more about how the latest business and marketing techniques can benefit your business, then contact the team at GO2 Partners.