insight magazine

Practice Perspectives | Summer 2021

The Magnetic Power of Thought Leadership

Thought leadership done right can establish you as an expert in your field and effortlessly draw clients to your accounting or advisory firm.
Art Kuesel President, Kuesel Consulting

How are impressions of someone’s knowledge and expertise on a topic formed? From listening to what they say. Socially, you can tune into someone’s conversations. In a business setting, you can listen to what they say at meetings. In the digital world, you can follow what they share on their LinkedIn page. The point I am making here is that if you aspire to be known for your expertise on a topic, you have to start talking and writing about it. Speaking and writing are the foundation of thought leadership, and great thought leadership draws in an audience like a strong magnet. Before long you will have attracted a pool of prospective clients that are interested in your unique expertise.

But where do you start? Here are my three steps to becoming a magnetic thought leader.

Step 1: Narrow Your Focus

First, you have to find your specialization. A good way to zero in on the right focus for you is to think about your dream client: Is there a specific industry, type of business, or service line specialty that just calls your name? The more you can define and delve into your focus, the easier it will be to find topics that your audience cares about because you will be hyperaware of their needs, wants, pain points, and challenges. Part of becoming an expert is moving away from being a generalist. For example, when I aspired to be a consultant to accounting firms on growth and business development, I began by narrowing my focus to marketing leaders in accounting firms. Because I narrowed my vision to a very concentrated group, I was able to build content and thought leadership to specifically appeal to them and answer their burning questions.

Step 2: Decide on Your Topics

Any thought leader can tell you this is often the most difficult part. Trying to find a topic that is popular yet not already highly covered, that appeals to your niche without being too specific, can be a huge challenge. To make this decision, put yourself in the shoes of your audience: What do they want to hear about? Think about what problems they are facing, what challenges they are having, and what issues are keeping them up at night right now. These are the topics that will draw them in and have them calling or emailing you for your help! If you’ve chosen your focus correctly, your knowledge and experiences will align with the pain points being experienced by your audience, allowing you to be the solution to their challenges. However, you can’t stop learning. You will need to continue to stretch your knowledge base to dial in more effectively to what your audience and prospective clients are worrying about. That continuing education will also allow you to continue to expand the topics related to your area of expertise, which will help you create a scope of content that you can speak on with authority, engaging your audience by offering them valuable, relevant information.

In my case, with marketing leaders in accounting being my target audience, I began to formulate my thought leadership around hot-button issues that they were facing, including building effective marketing plans and creating client feedback programs. While I had a wealth of knowledge about these topics, I did find that it took practice before my writing and speaking skills matched my knowledge base. Once you start building your thought leadership catalog, you should also seek out resources that help you grow as a writer and speaker.

Step 3: Build Your Distribution Plan

To really establish yourself as a thought leader and draw in prospective clients, you’ll need to find the right channel and frequency for sharing your content. Is YouTube or LinkedIn right for you? A blog? Industry publications or events? How frequently should you post or make appearances? Generally, I recommend a minimum of 12 thought leadership touches of original content a year, though ideally more. You want to hit the sweet spot between people getting tired of you and people forgetting you exist. But your channel and frequency will largely depend on the focus and topics you choose. Do your research within your specific niche to find what channels your potential clients congregate on and how often they like to tune in. A speaking engagement can turn into a great piece of content for a monthly newsletter, blog, LinkedIn page, podcast, and/or webinar, which are all safe bets for those hoping to establish themselves as thought leaders in the accounting and finance space. So, don’t forget to parlay your efforts by sharing your new and excellent piece of thought leadership across multiple channels to maximize your audience reach!

It took several years of consistent outreach before I had created a community of prospective clients that valued my thoughts and had confidence in my expertise. Now my consistent efforts in writing, speaking, and blogging continue to draw opportunities to me. Be patient and wait to see the results. Your current clients value your knowledge, and your prospective clients will too if you can effectively communicate it. Make sure you know who you are targeting, zero in on the things they care about, and be consistent in getting your thought leadership out there. Before long, you will have built your own strong magnet to effortlessly attract great clients to your firm.

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