aimClear is approached by traditional advertising agencies, often with rich history and too-often in stagnation or slight decline, seeking advice for growing online reputation as experts. Whether marketing regionally or nationally, it’s seriously powerful stuff to be perceived as an expert.

Though at least somewhat multi-faceted, many agencies have more experience in certain categories. Examples include health care marketing, travel, b2b, retail package design, education, web design, video production, outdoor products, etc… Your agency’s historical specialty is natural territory to stake out for thought-leadership.

There’s no secret sauce whatsoever. Successes stem from actually being an authority, a devoted willingness to share and a fanatical drive to build community by unselfish participation. There are no shortcuts.

Your website is a publication, not a brochure. Get ready to work incredibly hard, because this assignment is no less than becoming the definitive publication in your area of expertise. Having several thousand or more followers in any tight niche is an extremely powerful tool.

A website becomes a publication when the publisher (that’s you) holds content creation and scheduled release thereof, completely sacred- for months or even years. To pull off reflecting your inner thought leadership to the web, you’ll be posting content a minimum of 3 days per week until further notice. Half measures will avail you none.

Commit to daily category research for study and rebroadcast. Hands down the best way to become a go-to resource for readers who might become customers, is to have the edge of always being fully current.

This is not an endeavor to be taken lightly or relegated for 9-5 treatment. Start by making a list of dozens or even hundreds of definitive blogs, posts and authors to follow and share. The research serves double duty: keeping your knowledge totally current and caching great material to share with others.

Identify channels with obvious ROI for networking, sharing and essential learning opportunities. Learn the vernacular by weeks of consumption and lurking. When ready participate, share what you know and rebroadcast content you’ve uncovered. Let the friend making begin! Next week in part 2 of this post, we’ll share specific tactics to identify conversations, relevant to your expertise, in networking channels.

Spend any significant time on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, Reddit, Delicious, StumbleUpon or hundreds of topically specific communities and you’ll note a common pattern. Users don’t just talk about personal items. They share content with the group in exchange for receiving reciprocal recommendations.

He/she who brings most useful and stimulating content to the dialog wins.

This is where your daily research comes in because that’s the content you share! Exchanging information is the foundation for socio-professional networking. Learn to walk the walk in order to gain respect as a leader in your space.

Give to others unconditionally (until it hurts) and then give some more. At the end of the day true thought leadership is about keeping up to the minute, as regards industry dirt, and having the depth/persona to add extra value by extrapolation.

Publish properly by recurrent content disseminated by feeds and advised by best SEO practices. WordPress is a terrific publishing platform choice and is open source so it won’t break the bank.

There are a number terrific of” how-to-blog blogs” out there so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Check out ProBlogger, CopyBlogger, TopRank and early SEOmoz for classic tactics to serve, delight, bait and engage users in community building tactics.

I’ve been in the advertising business in one capacity or another for the better part of 20 years. Without question the most versatile, hardest working, sharpest and committed bunch I’ve ever witnessed is made up of professional business bloggers. Feed based publication killed the newspaper God. Capture a bit of the mojo for your enterprise.

Share proprietary thinking and processes. Our company’s philosophy is built on the principle that anyone who’s really capable of competing with us will figure out what to do anyway without our help.

Therefore we might as well empower, inspire followers and have them ask us to be friends. Today’s follower is tomorrow’s customer, employee, vendor, fellow conference speaker and friend. Our blog’s readers bring us cool clients, job and friends.

Confident bloggers link to complimentary and non competitive resources in order to serve readerships. Power bloggers link to their competition. That said, don’t give away the store. Todd Malicoat told us, in a 2007 interview, “teach people to fish without giving away the fish bucket.” The Tao of unconditional sharing without sharing too much, is an acquired wisdom.

Brand by exclusion to stake out a niche’ that’s totally yours. If ever there was a time to shed the jack of all trades identity, this is it. Keep in mind that branding has as much to do with specialties excluded from the package.The old adage is that a clothing line specializing in northern, southern, eastern and western wear, is much harder to brand than only northern wear.

When I started aimClear, I made a decision to retire from my life-long personal and career passion: music. It helps that I love the online marketing industry as much as I do music, but the decision was deeply emotional. Measure focus by what you’re willing to give up. The returns can be incredible.

Evolve: The Ad Agency to Thought Leader
Be an actual authority by committing to research. Identify worthy channels, as indicated by possible return, for unconditional giving in your niche’. Publish properly, keep SEO in mind and spend time reading bloggers who are adept at inciting engagement by technique.

Don’t be afraid to really share valuable insight for readers. Exclude peripheral skills from your brand in order to achieve focus, or at least create the perception thereof. Above all get ready to some incredibly hard work along with the reciprocal return.

  • JP Rennquist

    This is one of the most thoughtful and accessible things of yours that I have ever read, though. A lot of your stuff just goes way, way over my head, since I am not in the advertising or promotional industry, but as a social marketer and street level public health advocate I found that this one really connected with me.

    Among my many other duties and distractions I have been charged with directing the redesign and deployment of our organization’s web site. There are so many different visions and ideas and it is not my area so I feel in way over my head.

    But the thing is, I’m actually really good at what I do. And we are actually an organizational leader in our field. This reminds me of time in graduate school when I saw what technology can do … As a DJ/entertainer I know a thing or two about how microphones work. But I found myself at the prestigious Cape Cod Institute listening to a workshop by one of the most brilliant Organizational Development Consultants in the world today (Edgar Schein) and the week long seminar was attended by people who were simply brilliant. Well, everyone kept getting distracted and even maybe looking a little incompetent because of the aforementioned microphone. The batteries were dying or there was no sound person to minimize feedback or they were out of range … I don’t remember what the problem was but I remember thinking that improper implementation of technology or technology can make even a genius look like a rube. Plus, it is very distracting.
    But it sounds like you already knew that.

    Hope you still play music sometimes. That would be too much to give up if you ask me,

  • Lauren

    Great post, Marty – your boldfaced points really hammer home what we should all keep in mind when creating a presence on the web as an industry expert. I particularly identify and agree with the advice outlined under: “Identify channels with obvious ROI for networking, sharing and essential learning opportunities.” Nice tips, tricks, and tidbits- keep up the great work.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @JP Rennquist: Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment. Since your a local reader, stop by our office some time for take-out, and sit a spell to chat. 🙂 PS: You’re also the rare reader who has seen me play piano at Nettleton Elementary.

  • Kat G.

    Thank you for such a motivating post! Your recommendations and philosophy is inspiring. You’ve laid out an excellent framework for earning authority in the Internet marketing-heck any field; now the tricky part: serious study and committment to reaching success!

  • Michael McDermott

    Marty’s article hit home with me due to the number of interested marketing companies that have gone out of their way to introduce themselves and become educated in Social Media. Trying to gain acceptance and understandinng of SM principles that Marty describes can be an act of trying to pull a camel through the eye of a needle. I have found that constant repitition and baby-step goal setting works well.