$71 billion dollars!!
Even though this sounds like a quote from Dr. Evil of Austin Powers, it’s actually Jeff Bezos’ current net worth.
Before Bezos hit the Forbes Top 5 list of billionaires and Amazon became the $250 billion multi-industry powerhouse that it is today, he and the company had a multitude of naysayers.
Yet Jeff Bezos is the perfect example of a visionary thought leader. Since the early years of Amazon, he has confidently shared his opinions on ecommerce, retail, on-demand cloud computing and more, while boldly predicting what to expect in the future. Notably, Bezos is willing to discuss his forecasts and reasoning publicly, and provide context to help others connect the dots. Today, he trailblazes and actively drives the conversation about both traditional and emerging markets such as in-home smart devices, space exploration, drone delivery, news publishing and online music. Here’s a short video and great write up by Fortune’s managing editor and best-selling author Adam Lashinksy on Bezos that spotlights his [visionary leadership]1.
You’re no Jeff Bezos…
The good news is that you don’t have to be Jeff Bezos in order to strengthen your brand! In fact, you don’t have to be a spectacular success like the founders of Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Tesla either. Does it help to have a proven track record? Absolutely. But there’s a lot you can do right now, whatever your market position, to become recognized, as an industry thought leader.
. . . but you’re already an industry expert
There’s a multitude of talented, proven entrepreneurs and executives with incredible insights into their business and industry segments. Because they live in the trenches, such industry players have deep experience and understand what’s going on in their market better than anybody else. Their viewpoints aren’t being heard, however, because they don’t proactively speak to their market, customers, or stakeholders. We get it and know that you're swamped wearing a bunch of hats, closing big deals, working with customers, overseeing product development growing the company, etc. And while growing your executive brand does take time, taking the first steps to get started doesn’t require having to move mountains either. Chances are that your competitors aren’t speaking to the market either. Herein lies a great opportunity for executives to build their brand, step up and share their point-of-view (POV).
Find your voice and get started with your content marketing strategy
To begin your journey toward becoming a visionary thought leader, take a look at what is happening in your industry from multiple perspectives. Ask yourself: what are the key market drivers that are changing or likely to affect the landscape over the next year? What about the next 5, or even 10, years out? Next, look at key aspects of your respective market and industry such as:
- Shifting customer patterns and preferences
- Technology advancements
- Product developments
- Supply chain
- Global factors
Once you’ve identified key market drivers, identify your vision for how things will unfold. It’s critical to discuss how customers will be impacted. Try to come up plausible scenarios and provide more context for your viewpoint even if it might be anecdotal.
- What are the opportunities?
- What are the challenges?
- How is your company addressing or planning to address these?
- How will the shifting landscape impact the status quo, customers, entrenched competition, etc.?
- What new technology advancements, regulations, or consumer habits, for example, are likely to emerge? Make sure to provide context around your viewpoint.
- From a market standpoint, which companies are likely winners and losers of these shifts?
Why should customers care? How will these market forces and events impact your customers? Will it improve their lives, save them time and money, or have some other effect? What is keeping them up at night?
“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” Jack Welch
Too often, we hear from executives who float out a single idea that lacks substance. Merely saying, “yes, (fill in the blank) is going to change the world,” isn’t meaningful. A point-of-view must have more meat on the bone in order to gain buy-in from key influencers, stakeholders and a general audience. A visionary thought leader looks at different data points, lends their own insights, inspires others with their POV, and is willing to put a stake in the ground and predict what they see up ahead.
A visionary leader must be willing to go out on a limb and make gutsy calls. While not necessary, it helps if you can back up your perspective by solid data, customer insights, market reports, or other supporting evidence. Just be sure that your efforts to prepare supporting evidence don’t interfere with the timeliness of sharing your perspective. With this in mind, plan ahead and pull any evidence together at the same time that you are putting together your key messages.
And remember, even if you get it wrong, you likely won’t be penalized for it. After all, you’re offering your opinion and no one is ever going to be right all the time. Also keep in mind that the market is especially forgiving of startups and small business owners. The only time when you might be called out on it is if your company is one of the big market gorillas and you’ve been particularly adamant about one of your predictions that goes against the odds and doesn’t come close to unfolding as you proclaimed.
Ways to share your perspective
To start talking to the market involves a solid content marketing strategy and roadmap for delivering your POV with consistency. You’ll want to consider the many options you can pursue to elevate your presence by talking to your stakeholders. This should include any number of the following:
- Company blog
- Panels / presentations
- Social media marketing (Facebook page, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Video content marketing
- Podcast participation or a regular podcast
- Enewsletter to enhance inbound marketing
- PR activity to secure media interviews
- PR outreach to secure industry analyst interviews
Benefits of executive branding
Over time, there are great benefits to building your executive brand as a visionary leader:
- The media sees you as a knowledgeable go-to-source for insights.
- You build credibility for both your executive and company brands.
- You create momentum and build greater awareness of your company.
- You receive more invitations for media interviews, panels, and presentations.
- Your company gains more in-bound traffic to its website.
- You successfully capture greater market mindshare.
Note, we mention ‘over time’. It’s important to note that becoming a recognized industry leader does take time and won’t happen overnight. In the words of Jeff Bezos, “attention is the scarce commodity of the late 20th century.” So why not try to capture some of this mindshare for yourself? If you sit on the sidelines, there is always the possibility that your competitors might just step up and seize the opportunity.