Discover your niche
You are what you do. No matter your field, what you do on a daily basis molds your expertise, thereby making you some-kind-of an expert. To become an expert in your industry, you must not only aim to refine your skills, but to more clearly define them. Aim to discover your niche. The most successful entrepreneurs are not necessarily the thought leaders of their industries. Rather, they are highly specialized experts who have worked tirelessly to define and uphold a personal brand associated with a select set of skills within their industry.
So, what steps should you take in defining your niche? Make a list. Start by outlining what you do well naturally, and the skills associated with each. Then, look back to your greatest professional achievements. Do you notice a pattern underlying your achievements? You probably will. We tend to focus on what we are naturally good at. Thus, it is likely you will be able to uncover a pattern in your successes. Last, you’ll want to reflect on your method of resolving problems. What challenges have you faced professionally in the past, and how have you handled them? Once again, this is a question of discovering your own patterns of behavior and natural inclinations. These are the first steps in defining your niche.
Brand yourself accordingly
Once you’ve outlined your core skillset, you’ll need to brand yourself accordingly. By successfully defining your niche, you’ve already began the process of attracting a highly targeted consumer market. But in order to successfully market yourself as an expert in your industry, you must align your personal branding with your niche focus. Start by identifying your long-term goals. How can you best utilize your skillset for profit? The key here is to brand yourself around your target customers. The dime a dozen consultants, for example, struggle to define themselves, thus inhibiting them from attracting and retaining customers. By trying to adhere to a larger audience, their brand message is too broad and fails to resonate with consumers. They might as well cast a wide net with a large weave over a sea of tiny fish. However, by developing a concise and highly directed message, you will attract significantly more customers within a smaller pool.
Educate through content
Once you’ve discovered your niche, your target market and your message, you should begin creating content to reinforce your brand. By creating content intended to educate as opposed to sell, you establish brand integrity. The goal here is to be seen as a thought leader within your niche industry in the eyes of your customers. To test this theory, consider this: who are you more likely to trust as a customer? A person relentlessly promoting their own product, or an independent, unbiased expert weighing the pros and cons? This is not to say that self-promotion of product is harmful, but rather, that it should be outweighed by the amount of educational content you put forth for your ideal customer base to read.
You’ll need to keep in mind that certain types of content reflect better on your company brand image than others, and that your unique customer base has their own preferred methods of digesting content. In fact, as we continue to evolve technologically, dissemination of information changes drastically. One new-age method of promoting while educating is done through narration, via webinars and podcasts. In fact, storytelling has become so prominent in professional growth culture, Spoke Media devised a way to turn dry, information-heavy content into memorable, semi-fictional stories to help customers understand and retain what they learn. (Which would make their niche - “storytelling for thought leaders”.)
Connect with other Influencers
Now that you’ve defined your niche, streamlined your branding, and have started educating through content, you can begin to add value to the lives of other professionals within your industry. First and foremost, choose wisely. While networking is tremendously beneficial, the thought leaders you aim connect with should be chosen carefully. This step is crucial to supporting long-term, scalable growth within your niche. By building the right relationships with like-industry experts, you will continue to learn about your target market and refine your understanding of your field.
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