This was originally published on AllBusiness.
If you own your own business, you know you’re a smart cookie. No matter how long you’ve been running your business, you’ve surely gleaned knowledge about your industry that others can benefit from. This knowledge is gold in terms of helping you attract new business. It’s all a matter of knowing how to transform your knowledge into thought leadership content that you can leverage to attract new customers and clients.
Steps to Leveraging Thought Leadership Content
1. Find Your Audience
It doesn’t matter if your audience is college students, CEOs, or somewhere in between. These folks consume content online. The key is discovering where they go to learn.
Start by looking at magazines, websites, blogs, and podcasts that cater to this crowd. What sources do you turn to in order to connect with others in your field? You likely can rattle off the top authors or podcast owners in your industry. Rather than looking at them as competitors, consider them potential collaborators.
Not sure what your audience consumes when it comes to content? Ask them. You could speak directly to customers or put a poll on social media to find out.
Aim to create a list of 10 blogs, podcasts, and websites you can contribute to.
2. Figure Out Your Angle
You’re likely a fount of wisdom, but it can be helpful to narrow your focus in terms of topics you want to share with others.
Consider what products or services you want to sell right now. Are there topics that could lead readers to conclude that you’re the best solution? For example, I write blog posts for hire. So writing about the importance of content marketing might cause a reader or two to want to hire me to write content for their blog.
Let’s say you’re a personal wellness coach and you’ve got a big three-month immersive coaching program coming up. What kinds of issues are you going to address in that program? Maybe it’s how to stop emotional eating, learning how to use energy work to feel better, or how to exercise when injured. These are all great topics you can use for your thought leadership efforts.
3. Pitch Your Topic
I always suggest starting with smaller, less popular publications with your thought leadership campaign, and as you get more links to articles and interviews, aiming higher down the road.
Start by crafting a pitch letter. This is your introduction to the editor or point of contact that expresses your interest in contributing. Include a brief (2-3 sentences tops) intro to who you are and your experience, and explain why what you want to share is relevant to that audience.
I recommend creating a template letter that you then customize for each site you pitch. Don’t skip the customization! Sending a letter to “Dear Editor” is a sure way to end up in the spam folder. Show that you put effort into exploring the site and that you understand any writing guidelines the site might have.
4. Craft Your Thought Leadership Content Carefully
If you receive a positive reply, you’ll likely be given any parameters you need to write content, including word count, whether links to your site are allowed, and how the content should flow.
If you don’t get a response, don’t worry. I personally get a dozen requests for guest blogging every day, so some of yours (most, in fact) will probably never get a response. Don’t be disheartened. Keep researching other publications and continue pitching. Once you start having links to published content, you’ll find more editors responding.
In the case of setting up an interview for a podcast, your contact will give you instructions, but feel free to ask questions. Is it easiest to seed questions that you can easily answer without stumbling over your thoughts, or do they prefer to be more free form? Can you promote something and get a link on the podcast page? How will they promote the podcast?
5. Aim to Create Long-Term Relationships
I always tell my clients that a one-and-done approach is never beneficial. Yes, you’ll get a link back to your site, but that’s less the point with guest blogging and thought leadership. Instead, you want to foster a relationship with a site’s audience so they come to expect great information from you. I suggest trying to contribute to a handful of sites once a month if you’ve got the time. (And if you don’t, you can always outsource your guest blogging.)
Do your part by sharing any content that you have published on other sites. This shows you’re eager to support the relationship going forward.
People are Searching for Your Thought Leadership Content
Some people worry that, if they give away the farm by sharing all their knowledge, people won’t hire them. I say pish-posh to this. People seek information, and often, they decide they don’t want to do that “thing” themselves. When they read how well versed you are on that subject, they may be so impressed that they hire you to do the work for them. It’s happened to me again and again.
So I say, give away as much free information as you can. People appreciate the gesture of goodwill. All that wonderful knowledge isn’t doing you any good locked in your brain, but if you share it with the world, you can grow your business easily.