The goal of all your marketing is to stand out from the crowd. To build a site/product that people notice, and are willing to trade money or attention for. This isn’t an easy road though. It takes a lot of work and some luck to stand out from the myriad of competitors any endeavour has.
This is where Stand Out by Dorie Clark is designed to help you. Clark starts by telling us that the experts aren’t better than us, they just found a message that resonates with readers. Stand Out is intended to help us find that message ourselves and then package it so that it resonates with our market.
One thing that Clark is not trying to do is help us become a mere celebrity, someone that has no useful content but brings only entertainment. She wants to help those that have solid intellectual content, market that content well to so that they can make an impact. Here is how she says it:
Thought leaders strive to make an impact, and that requires them to get outside the ivory tower and ensure that their message is accessible and actionable.
In her mind it all comes down to value creation.
Whether you work inside a corporation or as an entrepreneur, today’s challenge is the same: how to add so much value to others that they fight to have you on their team?
Stand Out is broken up into three sections. First Clark helps us figure out our break out idea. Second, she teaches us how we can build a following. Finally, she walks readers through the logistics of making thought leadership happen.
On the journey to finding your big idea, Clark says that good thought leaders are those people that keep asking questions others have not. Good thought leaders are people that are okay with challenging the stars quo in their industry and don’t mind some of the negative effects that may come because of this questioning.
No industry ever welcomes those who challenge its recieved wisdom, but if you’re willing to risk short-term disapprobation, you can ultimately make a substantial contribution to your field.
Clark provides us with a bunch of great questions to help us hone in on the big idea that we may become known for. She recommends that you find a slice of a niche and dominate it. Once you’ve achieved domination you can expand into the other areas that you’re interested in, but don’t spread yourself too wide to start. Remember that the more you do in a single industry or slice the more you’ll stand out, which means you’ll grow faster as a thought leader.
There are a few ways Clark says you can structure your content. One way is to provide new research in your niche. This may be talking to the non-typical person in a field, instead of always going to the regular popular interviews.
A second way is to combine all the ideas that are in your background into something new. Maybe you have extensive health care experience and can bring that knowledge to bear on a new industry that is ripe for the same processes?
Once you have your ideas ready to go, it’s time to start creating a framework you can be known for. Think of The 5 Love Languages or Getting Things Done. Both of these are frameworks and launched their creators into expert status in their fields.
With all of the content you produce, make sure it does double or triple duty. I do that with these book reviews as they become a written piece, a podcast, and then end up on YouTube. If you look for Getting Things Done on Amazon, you’ll see that the GTD content has been adapted for teens and there is a workbook and an audiobook. Don’t silo your content.
Now that you have your ideas ready to go, it’s time to build a following. According to Clark, this starts by looking around you at your colleagues and the existing network you have. You’re not looking at them to see how they can help you though, you’re going to see how you can bring value to them with the content you have.
This is a fairly safe space to start and get feedback because, at least in theory, these people like you. They’re going to sit and at least provide some feedback. If you’re heading to a networking event, don’t aim to be a business card machine gun. Go for depth instead.
Do you have enough people in your professional life who really know you? The bias in most discussions about networking is toward meeting more people, going to more cocktail parties, and trading more business cards. But sometimes depth can be as important, if not more so, than breadth.
Here you can use something my friend Philip introduced me to called trust velocity. Trust velocity is the idea that the closer you can get to shaking someone’s hand, the more they trust you. Look for these high value, face-to-face interactions as often as possible as you try to build your name as a leader in your field.
You have to move beyond those you can have direct contact with though. You will need to have some content that reaches out online so that many people can find you and interact with your ideas. Blogging is one of the easiest ways to do this because the barrier too entry is so low.
Your ideas can’t gain traction if no one knows about them; blogging is a way to reach others and get them on board.
For online networking, Clark says that you need to pick a network or two and then dive deep. Learn how to leverage it well and focus your attention on that network. Don’t scatter yourself around everywhere, focus on one that you enjoy and works for your niche.
As you build your community, always focus on the value you can provide. Make sure you’re connecting people, especially when there is no direct benefit for you. If you continue to focus on how to help others get what they want, you’ll get what you want.
The book finishes up with a focus on “how-to” tie this all together and become a thought leader. It starts by reminding us that we need space without distraction to have a good idea that’s worth building in the first place. If you’re wondering how to get that space, check out my Mullet Method or read Digital Minimalism.
Clark also reminds us that we can’t always be giving away our content for free when she says:
Unfortunately, for many aspiring thought leaders seeking to make a living from their work, it would be easy to devote all their time to writing free online articles, helping others tremendously, and building a powerful reputation — all while starving.
I rarely write anymore for free. I started this by simply asking what the budget was for anyone that contacted me for writing on their site. It felt like a bold move when I first did it, but every single person has come back with some budget.
Clark reminds us of a few things as she ends the book. First, your income will be a mix of a bunch of things. I earn income by doing a bit of freelance writing and coding, coaching, my books, and my Patreon. Don’t get stuck on one method as the only method you’ll ever have to make money.
Second, it’s going to take a bunch of work to get where you want to be as a leader in your field. Don’t assume you can just show up one day and be a leader. I’ve been writing for 10 years to get some of the opportunities I have now. It’s going to take you a bunch of effort, but it is worth if if you stay the course.
Before I give you a recommendation I want to say a word about “thought leaders.” In fact let’s start with Dorie Clark’s thoughts on them:
Some who impugn the concept of thought leadership seem to think it’s all about self-aggrandizement. That may be true for some, but real thought leaders have an idea they want to share with the world — one they know is important enough to fight for.
The idea of a thought leader sounds pretty lame to me, but mostly because so many people that call themselves by this name have little substance to their work. It’s all bluster and $499 courses that layer on crazy marketing tactics to get users to purchase things they don’t want or need.
Don’t be a thought leader like that…please.
Overall Stand Out, had a bunch of great advice for learning to further your ideas in the market place. It didn’t feel like a text that everyone must read, but if you’re looking to get a start in marketing yourself as a leader, it’s a good place to get that start.
You’ll need to supplement your knowledge after with books like:
If I was going to suggest a reading order it would be: