If you want to be a successful industry analyst or consultant, then you must be a thought leader, the person with the unique insights, the different way of seeing the big picture, the fortune teller, the visionary. The one that others look to for meaning, for where it’s all headed and what to expect. You can be inspirational, a market mover or trend spotter. You exude confidence, communicate ideas effectively and have significant credibility within your industry. You differentiate yourself by saying what others cannot say, have not said or perhaps have yet to say. You capture the attention of the markets or audiences you want to see you as a key influencer, another term of estimation in the business.
One side note here, thought leaders are higher up the value chain than influencers. One can be an influencer without being much of a thinker. Simply play the role of PR support person willing to sell their name for consulting and services and you can wiggle your way into the role. That’s not to disparage those who are true influencers based on well-earned stature. I would say that the most respected influencers are thought leaders. Much harder to bribe them too…..
Back on point here.
The benefits of thought leadership for industry analysts are significant. Aside from invites to all the best industry events and parties, people follow the thought leaders. They reshare their comments in order to support their own points, build their own brands or try and look like they are in on what’s cool. Thought leaders gain significant media attention and are afforded the means to advance their brands via platforms that invest heavily in pushing their content. These people are sought out for their expertise, their opinions and their credibility. They may be getting paid as an expert, representing their own companies in a leadership role of perhaps working to establish themselves on their own. Regardless, they are noticed.
In short, it’s crucial to your brand and how you get paid. But you knew this, right? If you have worked at a larger firm, then likely you have been trained in some of the practices or been directed by management to engage in them. Outside of the tier one firms though, I find people in the business who haven’t sorted out how to be thought leaders or who are not adopting practices that would help solidify themselves in their role.
Not just anyone can authentically wear the mantle of thought leader though. It requires a certain mentality and set of skills. You don’t wake up and decide that you are going to be a star and it happens. Lots of work to do before you ever get to that level. And even for those that do have the skills to occupy the role, there are several practices that have to be adopted and practiced rigorously.
A few initial thoughts to consider or use to self-assess:
Are you working in a business sector where there is room for thought leadership?
Do you have a track record of success within industry? Produced technologies that disrupted markets? Built a business? Launched successful products, driven revenue or won awards? Do you have a track record of producing disruptive research studies?
Do you have a real marketing strategy for yourself? Are you actively promoting your own personal brand or are you leaving that up to your marketing people because you are too busy writing reports or buried in your spreadsheets? If you aren’t working towards building and advancing your own brand, then your pursuits and success in the analysis business shall always remain limited.
Some additional self-assessment thoughts:
- What knowledge, experience and accomplishments can you point to that affords you the foundation as a thought leader?
- Do you have insights that truly resonate with the industry?
- Can you spot what other people are missing?
- Do you have any qualms about being critical of the latest news or marketing pitch by a vendor?
- Can you offer critical commentary with informed basis?
- Can you provide the crucial context that your sector needs to operate?
- How many people do you engage with in a given week?
- Who are they? What do they do to advance your knowledge, network or brand?
- How are you engaging them? Interviews, emails, social media interactions?
- What is the quality of the interactions? What are you providing them?
- Do you give them reason to respect you or consider you as someone they HAVE TO engage?
- How much content do you issue a week/month? And what type?
- How many social media posts do you generate?
- In your public comments, do you talk about companies, technologies or markets?
- Do you leverage other content sources in your activities?
- Are you capable of multi-channel content creation, i.e,. blog, social, video, pod?
- What shows are you attending?
- What events are you speaking at? (You do speak at events, right?)
- What media outlets are quoting you?
- What news releases are you asked to quote for?
- Which investor presentations are citing your data?
There are a lot more elements to consider but the point I am advancing is that thought leadership, if there is a basis, can be developed and used as the foundation for building an analyst brand that is a strong selling feature for the individual and their firm.
Remember, the higher up the value chain you reside, the more you are worth and the harder you are to displace.