If you walk up the hillside and they follow you, you are a guru.
If you walk up the hillside and they do not follow you, you are a lost hillbilly.
To be a thought leader in any industry implies that others should follow your thinking.
They should seek it out and value it.
Do you give them reason to? Are you sufficiently entertaining, educating, controversial or unique? Is your voice so utterly riveting that people might, for example, subscribe to a publication just to read your column? It can be done.
I recently subscribed to a financial publication on the strength of a single contributor's consistently fascinating insights.
The great majority of industry practitioners will tend to replicate the popular memes - say what everyone else is saying - in order to fit in with their colleagues.
But experts understand that 'fitting in' is the same as 'disappearing among.
' Your goal is not merely to qualify as another industry practitioner, but to stand out from the pack as more.
Your goal is to be iconic.
Three Levels of Breadcrumb: That said, I believe that there are three levels of breadcrumbs that experts can leave, like Hansel in the woods, in order to create a trail of followers.
The first level breadcrumb is the simplest.
It is nothing more complicated than a business card.
It is your contact details.
A simple means of finding you.
Always have these breadcrumbs at hand, and dish them out liberally.
The second level breadcrumb is the online relationship.
It's the Facebook Fan Page, the LinkedIn profile, the Twitter handle and the YouTube channel; it's the possibility of following you, remaining connected with you and developing an ongoing relationship.
You need the first and second levels of breadcrumb, but you can also begin to separate yourself from the herd using the third.
The third level breadcrumb is the 'offer of more.
' The Offer of More: The offer of more is the answer to the question, 'Why should I follow you?' It comes in a myriad of permutations.
Simple examples might include free articles on your website, free education, free entertaining and 'how-to' videos.
Or it can be visuals that are so irresistible that people pour through them for hours.
It is anything that elicits the reaction, 'That is so cool!' from your target audience, and has them digging ever deeper into your content, on their own time, and because they want to.
With a little creative thought, your offer of more can become so enticing as to be almost irresistible.
Think Sexy: When you design your offer of more, don't be conservative.
Sure, it's great to offer simple articles, but everyone else is doing that too.
What could you do that separates you from the pack? In all things, be guided by the phrase 'Noticeably above and beyond.
' Try to think of ideas that would get the reaction, 'Oh, wow!' from your target market (even if they are tie-wearing actuaries, or right-brained engineers.
It can be done).
Announce it Often: Once you've created a really great 'offer of more,' you can use it repeatedly.
Every time you are interviewed in the media, try to mention it.
Include it in speeches and articles.
Breadcrumbs should litter the corridors by the time you leave any public forum.
If it's well designed, your offer of more will be so interesting that people will share it, creating new followers for you.
Here's an example: I have a website called http://www.
The site is essentially a questionnaire for readers.
It allows them to answer a series of thought-provoking questions and then provides them with their current ranking on a continuum between 'amateur' and 'industry legend.
' So, Hansel...
Why should we follow you through the woods? Guru, why should we follow you up the hillside? Go ahead.