Transcript of How to Become a Thought Leader
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John: So you think you want to be a thought leader. Everybody’s doing it, can’t be that hard right? Well… maybe it’s not. We’re going to talk to Liz Marshall about the 10 steps that you need to take to build a platform to become a thought leader, check it out.
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Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, this is John Jantsch and my guest today is Elizabeth Marshall, she is a consultant to the stars, that’s what I like to call her. She has helped influential thought leaders including Seth Godin, Michael Port and former Starbucks president Howard Behar she’s also co-author of the contrarian effect: why it pays big to take typical sales advice and do the opposite and we are going to talk about becoming a thought leader today. So Elizabeth, thanks for joining me.
Elizabeth: Absolutely. Happy to be here.
John: Everybody’s doing it, can’t really be that hard, people call me a thought leader sometimes so how can we do an entire show on this?
Elizabeth: Yes a lot to cover in 20 minutes but you know it’s interesting like there’s all kinds of reasons that entrepreneurs and executives alike consider thought leader [00:02:00] that can help you get more clients, it can help you get speaking gigs, it can help you land a book deal and all of those reasons are fine and good but it really starts with the motivation you know, are you being called to be a recognized leader in your industry and have staying power? Or is it more about adding best-seller to your bio just for the credibility factor.
John: But if I want to take this path, whether anyone thinks I’m a thought leader today or not, I look at this thing and go, “Gosh the thought leaders get paid more they get hired more. They get preference so maybe that’s a good strategy for me to take.” Is there — again I’m not suggesting you just [00:02:39] on the thought leader but is there — is there a path that somebody who says, “I’m going to take that — I want that to be part of my brand.” Is there a path that they can start to go down?
Elizabeth: Absolutely and I would — there’s two things, the fact you used path, you know the thought leaders and I’m going to — you’re a great example of this, Michael, and some of the others that you mentioned, it is very much a path and a commitment to making a long-term impact so that’s the first thing. The second thing is yes in fact there is and you can think about this as a framework instead of a formula because the world of thought leadership is dynamic and every changing so when you — to borrow a song lyric, when you “hold on loosely but don’t let go” and you have this [00:03:28] to your strategy it’s going to be much easier to navigate some of the uncertainty and the changes that come across publishing speaking and media as well as the industry you might be speaking in and around. But to answer your question explicitly there are 10 elements of a thought leader platform that you want to be thinking about at any given time and I’m just going to name them so you have these in your mind. The first one is message, second one is audience, third website, fourth content strategy, five social media, six publishing, seven speaking, eight traditional media, strategic relationships nine and business model [00:04:12] 10.
John: Okay so we’re done.
Elizabeth: Yes exactly!
John: So actually I’m going to unpack each of those with you and so we’ll spend a little time on — hopefully we’ll get through most and we’ll go pretty quickly but you have a great graphic on your website and we may publish that in the show notes if that’s okay with you?
Elizabeth: Absolutely perfect.
John: And obviously we’ll link back but I think it really helps bring home the — sort of the interconnectedness of these and the fact it is a big process and not just a tactic or even a strategy. I want to start with the first one obviously core message and I would go a little deeper, there’s a lot of people who have a great core message but it’s kind of a so what core message, we think this sounds good. I heard my agent [00:05:02] somebody asked him, “What’s the one thing I need in order to be a best-selling author?” And he said, “Well you need something worth saying.”
John: And I think that is really the key. The people I see that really get seen as thought leaders not just have something to say but they have a unique point of view that in some cases is sort of contrary to what you know, the general path is.
Elizabeth: Absolutely. You know my viewpoint around messages that it’s this core message that you know, other people may be — many other people may be speaking about but there’s something that you’re — that you can add to the conversation that shifts the dialogue and the conversation in your industry, whether that be leadership, marketing and sales, communication, it doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, but you have something meaningful to say you know what’s the collective conversation that’s come before and between that and you know the current state of our markets and industries what’s happening right now that makes your message really resonate and powerful and worth hearing and worth spending our time. There’s a lot of messages that look great on paper and could be good for lead-gen, they’re great topics for an article or a podcast but they’re not necessarily meant to be a book or meant to be the core message that you’re going to be known for in [00:06:34]
John: So the simple idea of Duct Tape Marketing that I have hammered home six billion times now and my point of bringing this up is it doesn’t have to be something earth shattering it just has to be something that somebody’s missing I think. And I have said a billion times, marketing is a system and that’s what I hang everything that I’ve done and that to me is an example of a unique point of view that resonates and that kind of leads straight to the second part, a lot of people talk about how do I build an audience, how do I get all these followers, how do I get all these fans and I think that a great deal of it is linked to that core message. You get a lot of fans because you’re saying something that resonates.
Elizabeth: Absolutely and you know you mentioned Michael in my bio, you and Mike were great examples of two thought leaders that have similar messages for small businesses, you have Duct Tape Marketing and you know the books and thought leadership that have come from that, he has [00:07:35] and yet for all of us that have something meaningful to say and to contribute to our audience, there’s enough to go around and you know the work that I do with my clients is not the same that another strategist would do in this thought leadership space. Instead of backing away from the level of depth and specificity that’s required to attract your audience in a powerful way to go even deeper. I was speaking with a potential client who’s actually pretty experienced speaker and you know the missing link for him is that he’s got some specificity about his message and audience but not enough to go to that next level, that ten to $15,000 keynote level and so by digging deep and saying what is my audience thinking at 3 o’clock on a Wednesday you know, what are their mindsets? What are their trigger events that would cause them to hire me? Get really specific about who they are and why this message is meant for them that will go a long way to attract the people you’re meant to serve.
John: So one note we need to make at this point is that book yourself solid is mostly derivative of Duct Tape Marketing so…
Elizabeth: [Laughter] That’s right. Michael came second.
John: Exactly. We won’t have to because I’m going to share this with him. Alright so I’m going to go through the list and maybe we’ll have to speed up a little bit here or we’ll run out of time but website?
Elizabeth: Yeah so you know so I think when it comes to website you can have this beautiful design and graphics but it’s all about — is it creating — positioning you as a change maker and deepening your relationship with your audience and sure you’re going to have things like you know, lead generations, call to actions, e-books, special reports blah blah blah, but it’s about the — is it positioning you properly and is it allowing you to actually develop a relationship, you know you talked recently on the blog about community and the importance of actually having conversations and so does the website spark conversations with real human beings as opposed to just adding numbers to your list.
John: Yeah and I think all great websites, regardless of what they’re for today are really good at moving people along a journey, because a lot of times they find your site because somebody told them it was great [10:06] and so they go there and then what? And so how do you build that [00:10:09] try by — that kind of journey and I’m not saying there’s a simple way to do it but I think the ones that are truly effective do that. So let’s lump content and social media sorted together.
Elizabeth: Sounds great because yes they go hand and glove for sure. You know so there’s content strategies, [let’s say topic of the years 10:31] [00:10:31] and it’s an important one because how do you build — to borrow a phrase from our friend Michael, how do you build that trust and credibility over time it’s looking at the aspects of your message that you can share in smackable formats that is meaningful that moves the dialogue along [00:10:51] goal was to you know attract more clients, whether it’s to attract more speaking engagements or whatever your strategic goals in your business model looks like. Being consistent but also being meaningful, we’re certainly in an age where there’s no shortage of content and so being consistent without having something valuable to say just means you’re creating noise and a lot of posts on your Facebook business page that no one’s looking at. So finding a way to you know, be relevant, to tie current events into the key questions that your audience is thinking about or tie particular pieces of your you know focusing on one very relevant aspect of your message and tying it to a recent development or breaking news item like [00:11:46] just did with United [00:11:48] so umm but the consistency is important but it’s all about finding the right channels and the right pacing for you. So one of the things I like to say is what works for [00:12:01] doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for you. [Seth 12:05] is a prolific writer, Seth [00:12:07] that is. He’s a brilliant writer, he’s prolific, he writes a blog post every day, that consistency and that particular channel is not going to be right for a lot of thought leaders. Maybe it’s you know publishing a weekly video or maybe it’s just podcasting, finding that mix of channels and the right frequency where your [00:12:29] skills and talents can shine and you can be in your own element versus following someone else’s content strategy.
John: So let’s [00:12:37] to publishing and for a lot of people — I mean I get a lot of CEO’s and folks that want to be seen as thought leaders and maybe they follow a few of these first steps but they all know they need a book and it — I don’t know how to ask this question but is a book still a valuable tool?
Elizabeth: You know… it depends. If you write a book just for the sake of having one — and here’s where this diagram gets really interesting so if you’re looking at the show notes you might see this but imagine a circular diagram with all of these elements around the outside of the circle and it’s about the relationship and the interconnectedness of these elements so you know if you write a book that’s not tied to your audience then you’re going to have a problem or if you write a book that’s for your audience but not really tied into your business model and the type of business then you’re growing then the book is not going to be successful for you. And a lot of — as it relates to speaking, a lot of organizations take for granted that many thought leaders have speakers so it’s [00:13:48] to have on your bio line, oh he’s the author of X, Y, Z book. So you know and looking at your audience message and business model together you can say you know, why now, what is happening in my industry that makes this book idea really resonate, why me, what is it about my background, my expertise and experience that make me uniquely qualified to share this message and why this book. I could write on 100 different topics that why is this particular concept relevant and useful both to my media audience as well as the wider audience of say, industry organizations, conferences and associations that might hire you to speak, when you have those strategic questions, number one the book has a much better chance of succeeding and two if you look at your publishing pathway and whether it’s traditional publishing or self-publishing really being intentional about that is also important and ultimately make a difference in terms of whether your book will be successful or not.
John: Well — and let’s define successful in that because one of the things — you know I have a lot of folks that they’re not trying to be keynote speakers at big conferences, they would just like a little leg up in their industry and their town. And I think we get a little caught up in that national platform idea. But what if I’m a sales person that sells some sort of managed engineering services or something and if I wrote a book all of a sudden in my little pond you know I’m considered a thought leader because the only people I need for me to consider — to consider me a thought leader are the people that are talking to other sales people. So would you say even if that sales person didn’t have something earth shatteringly new to say but had that tool that does offer some credibility that that would be worth doing?
Elizabeth: It is. Especially if they’re passionate about it. You know I think just like you know we over blow the national[00:15:51] we also look at books like sort of Tim Ferris’s’ the Four Hour Work week or any of Seth’s [00:15:57] books for examples on say oh my gosh I have to have this big idea book when in fact those are really challenging to write and those are more unicorns [00:16:08] when you have a book that’s useful and practical and it’s something you care about then it’s a method that you’re committed to sharing not just for the few weeks after the launch but for one, two, three, four years and beyond after you publish it, that’s a really good sign that you’re onto something. And if it’s integrated with your business model you’ll be able to talk about that book in potential client conversations with the local chamber with your industry groups in your local and regional community and focusing on being that category leader. Who cares if you’re on the national media platforms like the Today Show you know there’s that sex appeal around that but it doesn’t really matter if you’re in a B2B space you know, trying to reach a particular industry.
John: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to your by Thriveleads. This is a tool that we use on the Duct Tape Marketing website thoroughly for content updates, for slide in boxes. Actually we even use the visual editor for all the pages and landing pages that we design so go check it out at ducttapemarketing.com we’ll have a special line in the show notes for today and check it out.
So I want to — you mentioned business model and to me that’s kind of like the glue that brings all the money together.
Elizabeth: It is. Preach it.
John: Talk to me first about the strategic relationship.
Elizabeth: So strategic relationship — they’re different from your audience, so your audience [00:17:47] you know these are the potential clients and fans that are subscribing to your newsletter, to your podcast, to your content channels. Strategic relationships are those one-to-one relationships that you’re developing with fellow authors and speakers that service similar audience with industry groups in associations with conferences with your local chamber for example, with other you know executives and leaders in the particular part of the thought leadership world you focus on and [00:18:24] really all starts with relationships in your business model but with relationship, when you are cultivating those connections with an industry group or a conference or a local organization that serves your audience, it’s a leveraged opportunity because you know if you’re able to go in and speak or you’re able to write a ghost article or to be interviewed for their podcast you’re reaching your audience, your targeted audience of a much larger size then you may current have as a subscriber base so one of my clients by building a relationship with two particular organizations collectively reaching over a million people just through those two organizations and that’s far larger than her newsletter list and of course her newsletter list has grown as a result but by building those relationships it’s related in not just ghost articles and podcasts but you know keynotes and other pretty significant opportunities for her. Not to mention clients.
John: Yeah and I think that really helps bring home the interconnectedness of this because I know early on in my career I’d build a couple of strategic relationships with people who loved my content and they wanted to share my content with their very large audiences and that certainly built my audience, it built credibility, it built my social media platforms, it led to some publishing and in fact they hired me to speak at a conferences and all those things by really developing those strategic relationships it really helped all of those other elements.
Elizabeth: But wait absolutely. When I’m talking to clients and [00:20:07] publishing you know when you think about strategies, strategies are just concepts but they’re animated by people and when you think about who you know, whether it’s wanting to generate more referrals, wanting to generate different types of content more speaking [00:20:24] all comes down to the people you know and making the most of those opportunities so the one organization — one of the organizations that I was referencing with my client, it started with a book club when her book first launched four years ago and there was 50 people on the call, if she had said oh my gosh well this is a lame opportunity and she — but she made the most of it and that led to another opportunity to three and four and now she’s spoken globally at their conferences six times and that wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t committed to something more than a transaction and also making the most of every opportunity in front of you.
John: So onto the business model, we both know I suspect people that have built large audiences that put out a lot of content, have huge social media followings, maybe they’ve written a book or two even and do some speaking but they are not able to figure out how to make money by being considered a thought leader. Where does the business model fit? How do you think about it, how do you become one of those because we also know people who are doing very similar things that are making lots of money.
Elizabeth: Yeah so you know and this ties back with your message, if you think about what you stand for and the value you offer your audience then it’s about how are you delivering that value beyond sharing your content. Are you working with — you know do you have one-to-one coaching or consulting[00:21:56] do you offer workshops, do you offer virtual group programs, do you have a certification program, what is the monetized aspect of you sharing that message and it effects everything. Let’s say on the publishing side of things, traditional publishers when you come to them with an idea and a message they want to know that they’ve tested it with your clients and with your audience. It’s one thing to write about your message in theory but it’s another thing all together to say I know this message works so [00:22:31] is popping to [00:22:32] his concept around the first 100 days and his book is in process now, it’s going to be a huge success but it’s because he’s worked with 100’s of companies and lots of clients to make sure this message actually works and delivers results to his clients — consulting clients and the companies he works with. So that’s one aspect, using the business model to make sure your message holds weight, and the other thing too is to say what are my goals? If I’m serving a B2B audience and I have a strategy practice or maybe I’m just doing consulting then you don’t — you know some of the internet marketing models are not going to make sense for you. You’re not going to build a list of 200,000 people and that’s okay. That’s not necessary to be that recognized leader in your particular industry.
John: But I think that — I think it does involve some forethought. I — and I think a mistake a lot of people make is that they’re taking the next step instead of planning the next five. I wrote — or co-wrote my last book with an SEO person called SEO for growth and we wrote the book obviously to have that thought leadership in that space but that was just the beginning, we also created a certification and now we’re actually selling, we’re calling them sitelets, that are allowing people to rank for St. Lewis SEO for growth, so that book was in a lot of ways just the starting point of an entire model that is going 10 or 12 directions.
Elizabeth: Exactly and you know, I like to say — every author wants to sell books, book sales are a given that you have that thinking really strategically about what can this book do for me in terms of whether it by creating things like a certification program, building a speaking platform, building out your workshop presence, when you think very intentionally through how all the pieces fit together then you can make much better informed decisions and I will say what inspired me to create this model was that I saw so many — not just aspiring thought leaders but establish thought leaders who were coming back to [00:25:03] publishing and speaking after being out of it for a while and wasting lots of time and energy and money because the space that we live in, the thought leadership space can be very confusing, there’s a lot of shiny objects, things are changing on a regular basis and it’s about understanding your stage as a thought leader and secondly, finding your unique path and so you may have these elements at play at any given time but the mix of ingredients is going to look very different for me versus you, versus you know Joe next door, so understanding that you can learn a lot from watching your favourite recognized leaders but the goal is not to copy them but to find the unique expression of your strategies for these various elements for the platform and find the mix that works for you.
John: I think the whole thing comes down to your individual goals and objectives too and that’s where a lot of people get tripped up, it’s like I’ve got to have all these followers blah blah blah but then you look at it and you say that’s not going to serve my goals, you know or that’s not going to get me to where I want to go and I think if you start there you might make better decisions.
Elizabeth: No question.
John: So I know that you actually help people in this process and that’s what we’ve been talking about, the kind of 10 graphic, the wheel the 10 items on that wheel. But you also can help somebody just by giving them a baseline evaluation, you want to tell us how we can do that?
Elizabeth: Absolutely, so when I work with clients around the thought leader platform diagnostic, the goal is to identify your current state [00:26:44] thought leader and that’s critically important because when you know your stage, A you know where you’re starting and we know exactly where you’re heading you know, if you don’t know you’re in Chicago and you should be heading to New York then if you’re driving to California then that’s a problem, so by understanding your current stage then we can say okay, based on that stage and your unique goals, these are the three to four priority areas for you to focus on right now. So you know, we have limited time, money and energy and a lot of thought leaders get tripped up because they try to do, they either have holes in their platform or they try to focus on everything at once. So the idea of this diagnostic is like giving you a compass to say I know exactly where I am starting, I know where I’m heading, it’s not a formula but I know this is the right path for me and this is where I need to invest my time to actually go to the next level instead of just being really busy with activity and not seeing results from it.
John: Yeah and I’m sure you see people all the time that say “Okay I wrote a book, now what?” You know and of course now what should have been asked a year and a half ago.
Elizabeth: Right before the –yeah there was one word written on the page. And that’s heartbreaking for me when I have those questions because yeah in many cases there’s not a lot we can shift to undo a book that doesn’t fit your business model so the diagnostic lets you know what to do, what to stop doing, what to wait, you know sometimes strategies are great but not right now, or not at all for you and I’m — [00:28:23] especial delight in helping people save time and money that’s not necessary for them and just recoup the savings or reallocating it into areas that need more attention so they can both see some immediate results but more importantly that they can rest easy knowing that they’re heading in the right direction instead of working really hard only to find [00:28:47] spinning their wheels.
John: So I don’t think you mentioned it but tells where people can find out all about this diagnostic and possibly working with you and we’ll have it in the show notes too.
Elizabeth: Great so they can go to elizabethmarshall.me and from the work with me menu it’s the dropdown a [00:29:07] diagnostic.
John: Awesome. Elizabeth always great to catch up with you and hopefully we will see you soon out there on the road.
Elizabeth: Yes absolutely. Always a pleasure John. Thank you.