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Want Trust? Be a Thought Leader
by Shawn Hessinger Thu, 05/19/2011 - 11:37
When Woody Allen said that "80% of success is just showing up," he probably didn't have online marketing in mind. While it's true that 49% of small businesses have a website, new media users on average only follow five brands or companies online. If most of your competitors have an online presence, where does that leave you? Simply being a bystander may garner some attention, but if you want to stand out from the crowd and make fans out of your prospects and customers, you need to offer more than a product. Your brand needs to transform itself into a thought leader, a go-to source for information and forethought in your space. Easier said than done, right? For small businesses, becoming a thought leader may seem like an overwhelming task. Creating new ideas, pushing your message out and staying ahead of the curve is time and resource consuming. Fortunately, the work you put in now will contribute to building a stronger brand, and a stronger brand is going to enhance your marketing efforts. Don't worry, by just being a part of your industry, you've already done some of the work. After all, as a small business leader, you are steeped in the new trends and ideas in your space. Your next step is to…
Aggregate useful information
Whether you sell widgets or have a business networking site, you probably spend tons of time keeping up with the trends in your industry. Don't just navigate away from that interesting article or toss your trade publications once you're done reading them, share the good stuff with your customers. Sharing a link on your Twitter and Facebook pages is a great way to aggregate useful information for your prospects and customers. Most magazines and trade publications have their content available online, making it easy for you to share printed content with customers as well. Your customers will be impressed that you continue to learn about the trends in the industry, and therefore be more likely to trust you. But be warned - sharing alone is not enough. It's also important that you…
Have an opinion
No, you don't have to offer the most groundbreaking perspective on your industry. But don't be afraid to take a stand. Disagree with an article? Tell your customers why. As a participant in your industry, you have the authority to share an informed opinion. Even if you completely agree, suggest how the article might have gone one step further or what you would have added to the discussion. Sharing your opinion with a link to an article is difficult using Twitter, so you may want to consider posting a note on your Facebook page. Even better, create a blog on your website that is linked directly from the homepage. Encourage readers to leave feedback on your post, and then…
Interact and evolve
There is a difference between having an opinion and stubbornly sticking to your guns. The most influential leaders are those who continue to take in new information and reevaluate their stance. Your customers may not completely agree with your opinion, but if they take the time to share their thoughts with you for better or for worse, you know you have their attention. Respond politely and ask questions. Tie in your brand whenever possible. If a customer has a really interesting opinion or perspective, use that as a launch point for a new blog post or tweet. Customers love getting recognized by brands. Referencing a prospect or customer in a positive way is a great way to create an instant fan, and evaluating and discussing new ideas helps you evolve as a thought leader in your industry. Whether you own a small dog grooming shop or run a CNC machining facility, your experience makes you a valuable source of information. When your customers feel they can trust you as an authority, they will be less hesitant to do business with you. The time you put in to forging your brand into a thought leader is not only going to increase your reliability, but also your market share.
About the author
Shawn Hessinger is the community manager of BizSugar, an online community of small business owners.