You’ve got to hand it to Mark Bouris. His Yellow Brick Road mortgage broking and wealth management business is a loss-making minnow in the multi-billion-dollar Australian finance industry (revenue of $11.3 million and a loss of $2.6 million for the year to 30 June 2011). In fact, it doesn’t even own its domain name (yellowbrickroad.com.au goes to a carpet cleaning business!)
Yet in just four short years – and particularly during 2011 – Bouris has managed to make the business a household name by leveraging his profile, communications skills, personal wealth and – let’s face it – his model-like good looks. He’s done this through public speaking, media interviews, publishing a blog, offering advice on his website and most recently by playing Australia’s answer to Donald Trump on the local version of The Celebrity Apprentice.
Bouris is successfully pursuing a thought leadership driven marketing strategy. He’s using his expertise and making the most of the media and the internet to raise awareness of his business, win customers and gain investors, by sharing his knowledge and ideas.
In the process, he’s saving millions of dollars on advertising and following in the footsteps of Australia’s earlier finance guru, Paul Clitheroe, who used television and the publication of books to supercharge the growth of his personal finance advice business, ipac securities, and become a multi-millionaire.
So, thought leadership works. You can see it around you all the time. And you can learn from leading lights such as Bouris, Clitheroe as well as the likes of Jamie Durie and Kylie Kwong. But what is it exactly? And how does it relate to your business, especially if you don’t have Durie’s abs or Clitheroe’s easy manner on the radio?
Thought leadership is simply offering clever ideas to help other people solve problems or discover opportunities. These ideas can in turn be a powerful marketing tool in your business. Like Bouris, it will help you raise your profile and gain interest from prospects.
The goal is to transform yourself from being one of many experts to being the go-to person in your field. This will in turn make it easier to win new business and to charge a premium for your products or services. It can also deliver other benefits, from making it easier to attract quality staff to enjoying some lifestyle benefits for yourself, such as meeting other experts and trips to conferences.
According to Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), for example, thought leadership development has recently become the most important tactic in its members’ marketing strategies to increase awareness and to generate leads. Thought leadership has also become critical to purchasing decisions. Nearly half (45%) of buyers surveyed by ITSMA in 2011 said it plays a major role in determining who makes the short list, as compared to only 23% in 2010.
As a former journalist and writer, my particular interest lies in how you can convey your ideas in writing through articles, blogs, speeches, books, social media and other channels. Capturing your ideas in words is essential to creating marketing collateral that you can use with customers. This is particularly important in the Internet age, when customers are searching for suppliers by key words.
By creating unique content that displays your deep knowledge in specific specialist areas you can build your relationship with your customers. Making this information freely available on the Internet will result in attracting links, rankings in Google and getting tweeted.
The process of writing thought leadership material and advising others can deliver some unexpected benefits to you as well as a business owner or leader. It will help you to organise your thoughts about your field and force you to develop interesting views and positions. You are also likely to learn more about your field as you complete research, and find a new level of passion for your focus area.
Obviously, this is all easier said than done so in the book I break the process down to the three key phases – thinking and research, writing and then distributing and promoting your ideas. There isn’t room to explore each in detail here but the key messages are that it is becoming easier and more important to capture your ideas in words, and that anyone can do it.
Just think about the problems or opportunities that your customers face. Think about what unique expertise you hold and what advice you can offer. Think about the best format to use – like a book, blog or video script. Then start writing!
Grant Butler is Managing Director of Australia’s leading business writing firm, Editor Group (www.editorgroup.com), and author of Think Write Grow – How to become a thought leader and build your business by creating exceptional articles, blogs, speeches, books and more (Published by Wiley, RRP $29.95 and now out).
Great news! Several of our business books have been nominated across a variety of categories for the Small Business Book Awards 2012, as run by Small Business Trends.
The Small Business Book Awards initiative, now in its 4th year, is produced by Small Business Trends, a popular online publication, which along with its sister sites, serves over 4,000,000 small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually. The site was founded by Anita Campbell, widely regarded as an authority on small business issues, in 2003.
Voting is now open and will close on the 16th February 2012 when the top 10 winners’ list will be announced.
Check out our nominations:
- How To Retire in 12 Months
- Paper Flow
- Learn Marketing with Social Media in 7 Days
- Learn Small Business Accounting in 7 Days
- Think Write Grow
Which is your favourite business book?
For a complete list of nominated books, visit the Small Business Book Awards here.