Three years ago, the name “Matthew Paulson” meant almost nothing to anyone in the Sioux Falls business community. I didn’t go to any business networking events. I rarely made it a point to meet with other entrepreneurs and business owners. My name never made it into the Sioux Falls Business Journal or any other local media. Frankly, I was a nobody as far as the Sioux Falls area business community was concerned.
Granted, there wasn’t any reason that anyone should have known who I was. I was a 27-year-old entrepreneur that just quit his day job as a web developer and built his business entirely online. This wasn’t much of a problem as long as I only ever wanted to build online businesses that didn’t require any human contact, but I knew that this wasn’t the career path I wanted to head down forever. I knew then and still know now that MarketBeat probably isn’t going to be the business that I retire with thirty years from now. If I wanted to have other business opportunities available to me, other business leaders in the Sioux Falls area were going to have to know who I am.
Fast Forward Three Years
In a period of about three years, I went from being a relatively unknown entity to a relatively well-known name in the community. I’ve been featured on a variety of local media outlets. I’ve been asked to speak at local events like Innovation Expo and 1 Million Cups. I’ve been asked to serve on boards for a variety of nonprofits and I get asked for coffee or lunch meetings at least 10 times per week. Falls Angel Fund, an angel investment group made up of 20 prominent business leaders in Sioux Falls, even asked if I would serve as the chair of the fund. I’ve had the opportunity to invest and partner in companies like GoGo Photo Contest, USGolfTV, Falls Angel Fund and Bird Dog Hospitality. I’ve made a lot of good friends, met a lot of great people and have made good money through all of the local connections I’ve made, but these opportunities only presented themselves because I am a relatively well-known and well-respected member of the Sioux Falls area business community.
Thought Leadership is Key
I didn’t become a prominent member of the business community by accident. I did a lot of things to build my personal brand that you might expect, such as going to business networking and entrepreneurship events and meeting other business leaders for coffee and lunch. However, just about every well-networked business leader in the area does these things. The one thing that has really set apart the personal brand of “Matthew Paulson” more than anything else is that I’ve become a thought-leader of sorts on personal finance and entrepreneurship in my community. By offering my unique viewpoint on these topics through my blog and through my books and spreading them out far and wide, most of the people I meet for the first time in my community already know who I am.
Of course, this sounds easier than it actually is. In order to be a thought leader, you have to have some unique thoughts. You can’t just regurgitate what Dave Ramsey has written and become a personal finance thought leader. You have to have your own unique ideas based on your experience. Much of what I write about comes from my personal experiences running the various businesses that I’ve launched over the last several years. I can also attribute a lot of my ideas to my life-long learning habit that consists of constantly reading non-fiction books and listening to podcasts. For example, it wasn’t until I listened to an episode of Internet Business Mastery that I began to think of my email list as a core business asset. A lot of your unique ideas may not be original to you, but the way that you combine different concepts and communicate ideas will be your own unique creation. The key is to take what you’ve learned and present it in a unique and compelling way.
Spreading Your Message to the World
You might have the most unique and insightful message in the world, but that won’t matter if no one hears your message or cares what you think. First, you need to identify the types of people that you want to hear your message. Since I want to foster business relationships through my writing, the audience that I want to target is anyone that builds online businesses or anyone that’s interested in entrepreneurship in my city. By identifying your potential audience, you’ll have a better idea of who you should be creating content for and what kind of marketing channels you should use to spread your message.
You then have to figure out how you are going to reach your audience. You can’t start writing on a personal blog and expect that people in your target audience are going to read it. You have to figure out the best marketing channels to reach your audience and use them to drive people to your content. For my audience of entrepreneurs, I’ve built a personal Facebook page to promote my writing. Whenever I publish new content, I put it on my Facebook page and use a boosted post to reach my followers and their friends. By spending a little bit of money, I can ensure that hundreds of people in my audience will read my posts. This is especially important locally. I can’t count how many people I’ve met at local networking events that tell me they’ve read some of my content before they’ve met me.
I’ve also used a variety of other marketing strategies to spread my content far and wide. I’ve built up a Twitter following of about 5,000 followers. I automatically post my new content and content from thought leaders I follow to my Twitter account. I’ve built up a personal email list of about 5,000 people that automatically receive every new post that I publish to my blog. Finally, I publish ever new blog post I write on my LinkedIn account to get additional distribution.
Developing Your Content Creation Plan
If you would like to use the content creation strategies that I’ve used to grow your own personal brand, follow these steps:
- Identify your content creation goals. Why do I want to become a thought leader? What do I hope to achieve through my content creation strategy?
- Identify your unique message. What do you have to say that’s not being said? What’s your personal manifesto? Why should people care what you have to say?
- Identify your audience. Who are you communicating to? What kind of people do you want to be your followers? What kind of people do you want to influence?
- Develop your communication strategy. How are you going to reach your audience? What marketing channels are you going to use to spread your message? What social networks do you plan on using? Do you plan on doing YouTube videos, podcasts, blog posts or some other form of content?
- Create a content schedule. How many blog posts am I going to publish each month? How often do I want to put out a new book? What is my publishing schedule going to look like? What time will I set aside to do the work?
Becoming a thought leader through content creation will take time, effort and consistency. While it’s not the easiest way to become well-known in your community, creating and marketing unique content can be a fantastic way to set yourself apart from the crowd.