How Can Agencies Do a Better Job with Thought Leadership?

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Positioning yourself as a thought leader can do wonders for your agency but do you have what it takes?

Think of it this way, if you need to hire a service, are you willing to pay more to hire an expert? Thought leadership is how agencies demonstrate their expertise in their niche.

I’ve been a digital marketing thought leader for over a decade. Recently, I’ve pivoted and have positioned myself as a thought leader pertaining to how to grow agencies. Because I’ve been growing and scaling agencies for so long, I decided to make things official and started The Campfire Circle, an agency for agencies. And to be honest, the majority of my clients found me through my thought leadership efforts.

In this post, I will fill you in on everything you need to know about becoming a thought leader and growing your agency’s image based on my own personal experience.

Why Should I Care About Thought Leadership?

Thought leadership builds credibility, credibility builds trust, and trust lands clients. Thought leadership is all about building credibility with the goal to land new clients who look to you and your agency as an expert.

The modern-day brand needs marketing and PR and they’re willing to pay more for the best. So, your target audience is doing their research before having a conversation with your agency. When they are researching you, what shows up? 

With 65% of businesses documenting thought leadership as part of their marketing strategy and 29% planning to do so, they’re doing it for a reason–it works.

Not to mention, 81% of thought leadership content results in organic traffic. That is a huge number demonstrating just how important thought leadership is.

Thought leadership is crucial when it comes to growing your audience and generating leads. From there, it’s up to your other marketing efforts to convert these prospects.

Defining Your Niche

Sure, you can go broad. I did that by being a digital marketing thought leader but without a niche until recently, I feel like going broad was watering down my efforts. So, I do recommend you choose a niche.

Find a unique angle or specific vertical that your agency is strongest at and go from there.

If you struggle with identifying a niche, you can scroll through your CRM and find commonalities between your leads and clients. You can even survey your current customers to find out what made them choose your agency and go from there.

I’ll be honest. When I decided that being a digital marketing thought leader was too broad, my business transformed when I chose to run an agency for agencies. Super niche and well worth the rebranding…

What Makes a Good Thought Leader?

Other than being an expert on a certain topic, there are a few components to keep in mind when building yourself up as a thought leader. In my opinion, the following attributes are critical:

  • A unique perspective when it comes to your agency’s niche
  • Constant posting on social media
  • Knows what information to share that intrigues their audience
  • Willingness to write and publish a lot of guest posts
  • Applies for speaking opportunities
  • Presents at webinars
  • Conveys a strong opinion
  • Highlights actual experience
  • Is transparent
  • Can think outside of the box
  • Engages with their audience

Are you up to the challenge when it comes to all the components of thought leadership?

Identifying Your Goals and Target Audience

Yes, being a thought leader will naturally grow your audience, but let’s hone it in more.

Understanding your goals with your thought leadership and having a firm grip on your target audience will give you the insights you need to go about thought leadership the right way.

If you haven’t already, create buyer personas with this template to ensure you’re meeting the desires of your target audience and that you are talking about topics they actually care about.

When it comes to goals, of course, you want to land more clients for your agency. But what are the steps a brand takes before arriving at your agency? Perhaps your goal should be to collect email addresses via a lead magnet to nurture? Or maybe you want them to sign up for a webinar about your agency? The possibilities from exposure to conversion are endless so you just need to check in with your buying cycle to identify your goals.

10 Ways To Become a Thought Leader

Whew, we covered the basics of thought leadership. Surely, you’re ready for some actionable strategies to become a thought leader in your space. Well, here you go:

  • Contact high-profile publications that align with your agency’s niche and ask them if you can contribute a guest post. Treat your guest post as informational instead of just promoting your agency. The goal is that brands read your guest posts and are inspired by your words so they either remember you for later or head to your website.
  • Speak at relevant conferences. At conferences, audiences love meeting the speakers afterward and it presents some great face time for you. Not to mention, you’ll captivate a ton of attention.
  • Stay active on social. Don’t just share your own content, share content that you know your audience would love. Engage with your followers and take the time to read what they are posting about. Comment on posts and re-share the most valuable ones. Thought leaders can’t stay stagnant. 
  • Research and analyze the thought leadership that already exists that aligns with your agency. This allows you to get a grasp on what is out there already and areas that work with your own strategy. Don’t forget to check out the thought leadership efforts of your competitors so that you’re in the know.
  • Don’t completely ditch blog posts but maybe mix them up a bit. Consumers love video content. Not only that, they love authentic video content. So just be you and create some videos with your phone and post them on your blog and social channels to humanize your agency. It can be as simple as a tip per week or a short monologue on why you stand behind certain business strategies.
  • Gather data and publish an industry report. Brands LOVE new data so if you can provide them with it, you’ll soar to thought leader status quickly. Survey your audience or your audience’s audience to gather industry insights and publish your findings in a report. Publications like Forbes and Entrepreneur love new data and it has been very easy for me to get them to feature my industry reports.
  • Identify businesses that actively do webinars and align with your own business goals. Reach out to them to see if you can be a guest on their webinar. Be sure to stick with your agency’s niche.
  • Set up Google Alerts so that you are kept in the loop about all things having to do with your niche. For example, I have mine set for “influencer marketing” and “marketing agencies.” This not only keeps you in the loop but provides timely content you can share with your audience.
  • Emphasize social proof. Third-party endorsements do wonders for agencies. Whether it’s a testimonial or a case study, leverage your social proof in your email marketing, on your website, for your social media posts, and in your print materials.
  • Share your personal journey about why you started your agency and how you made it happen. Anything that humanizes your brand is worth its weight in gold. This can be in a blog post, a video, a guest post, or all of the above. Consumers love when their agency relates to them on a personal level.

Examples of Agency Owners Who Are Also Thought Leaders

I don’t know about you, but I learn best from examples. So here is a list of my favorite 10 agency owners who are also thought leaders. I strongly encourage you to follow them so that you can glean inspiration for your own thought leadership strategy.

  • Ronica Cleary is a great PR thought leader to follow. She posts about crisis management and media placement. Follow her on LinkedIn here.
  • Megan Driscoll is an agency owner in New York and posts a lot about healthcare, dermatology, and prestige beauty. Follow her on LinkedIn here.
  • Casey Benedict owns a top-notch influencer marketing agency and is a thought leader when it comes to all things influencer marketing. Follow her on LinkedIn here.
  • John Cook is the co-founder and managing partner of an agency that focuses on financial services, cryptocurrencies, and technology. Follow him on LinkedIn here.
  • Joey Hodges is the CEO of a marketing and communications agency and he’s also an early-stage startup investor. Follow him on LinkedIn here.
  • Genna Goldberg Rosenberg is another agency CEO to follow. I follow her because she posts a  lot about social responsibility. Follow her on LinkedIn here.
  • Pilaar Terry specializes in entertainment PR and marketing. She posts a lot about corporate PR communications and brand strategy. Follow her on LinkedIn here.
  • Bill Byrne is great at getting media for his clients and offers a lot of strategies for other folks in the agency industry. Follow him on LinkedIn here.
  • Michelle Mekky owns her own agency and is a great example of a fantastic storyteller, which to be honest, we can all tell better stories. Follow her on LinkedIn here.
  • Courtney Sprtizer is the CEO of an awesome agency and really supports female founders and entrepreneurship. Follow her on LinkedIn here.

Final Thoughts: It’s Time For Your Thought Leadership Journey

It is probably obvious by now that building thought leadership is a slow build and it’s time-consuming. I’m here to tell you that it is worth the effort but if time is an issue, that’s why I created The Campfire Circle and part of what I offer is turning agency owners into thought leaders and you can book a free consultation call with me here.

If you have time to “own” your thought leadership efforts in-house, great! Be sure to find something unique to say and embrace a niche. From there, follow thought leaders that inspire you and start experimenting with one of the ten ways to become a thought leader at a time. That way, you can scale based on what you see resonating with your audience.

About the author


Kristen DeGroot

Kristen DeGroot created The Campfire Circle which helps turn agency owners into thought leaders. You can book a free consultation call with her here.