So, you are the proud new owner of a small business. You’ve figured out your target market/audience, your USP, your accounts and forecast, you’ve got a business plan to boot. You’ve analysed the competitive landscape and figured out your niche, so now how do you set yourself apart from the crowd? How unique can you be?
Yes, there is advertising, promotion, and you can organise a PR campaign, but what you really want is to tap into the concept of Thought Leadership. What does this mean? Thought Leadership is a long-term approach whereby you promote yourself and your business by setting yourself up as a leader in your field – if people learn to trust you and your advice, in turn, they will trust your business.
This all sounds great, but how do you apply it? Let’s use an example of two brothers – we’ll call them Mario and Luigi. They’re both 30, they both own Italian pizzerias on Battersea High street, and they both make a mean marinara. How can Mario set himself apart from Luigi?
Mario needs to find a concept he can use to his benefit and become an expert in – he needs to find an idea that echoes his brand values, and that he can jump on board with.
So, to do this, Mario scours the press. In his case, he realises there is a lot of coverage coming out on the Slow Food Movement.
What does he do next? He starts sourcing locally-grown, organic food for his dishes and he monitors the press, putting himself forward for comment whenever a story breaks about food. When the horse meat scandal breaks out, Mario is first on the phone promoting himself as a Slow Food expert, commenting on the need for stringent monitoring and the quality of the food served in restaurants. This brings him coverage, he starts establishing himself as an expert. From here he builds his profile further, signs up for speaker positions, gives speeches and lectures, attends various food and restaurant industry events, promotes the importance of locally-sourced, organic food, and quality control, and promotes the Slow Food Movement in his restaurant.
Walk the Talk
Mario then contacts the Slow Food Movement to see if he can become a UK representative of the cause, so now he’s not just Mario, owner of ‘Mario’s Pizzeria’, but he’s Mario, UK Representative of the Slow Food Movement, and its values and benefits are echoed in his food.
Meanwhile, Luigi hasn’t thought further than placing some ads in the local newspapers, and he’s using frozen foods and imported ingredients for his pizzeria. The menu is still the same as Mario’s, as is the care taken into creating the dishes, but Mario’s reputation is growing, and his food is now tastier as a result of his quality sourced-ingredients, while Luigi’s still cutting corners.
Meanwhile, back at Mario’s Pizzeria, he’s now on to conducting polls in the restaurant and doing surveys. Mario releases the information to the press under his name as a Slow Food Movement representative; people are approaching him for expert commentary on food quality.
Become the Go-to Person
Mario has become more than a pizzeria owner; he’s become an expert in the Slow Food Movement. Customers think: ‘Mario is an expert on quality food; therefore his restaurant must also serve quality food’. This, in turn, increases business at his restaurant.
By positioning himself as an expert and a Thought Leader, Mario has used a subtle way to market himself with a much longer shelf-span than traditional advertising or short-term goals.
This blog post was originally written for Square Social blog, with the Mario and Luigi story presented as a lecture at King’s College. For more information and the full lecture, please visit: