The Thought Leader Within
Many years ago, my grandfather (for whom I am named) owned a barber shop in North Arlington, N.J. It was a very busy place, four barbers and always a wait, especially on Saturdays. When I would visit there for my once-a-month haircut, one of the barbers, named Ray, would always great me the same way: “Hey, Joe, what do you know?”
I was reminded of that experience recently as I was having a conversation with a printing industry salesperson. We were involved in a coaching/goal setting discussion and we started to talk about his experiences. It seems that his primary customers for the past 12 years have been organizations involved in fundraising activities and campaigns. He does the printing, mailing, data base management, and web-based efforts for these campaigns including the high-quality magazines and annual reports that are directed toward the same audience as tangible evidence of all the good work being done with the money raised.
I mentioned that he must have accumulated a great deal of knowledge about direct mail fundraising campaigns. He said that was probably the case, but he really hadn’t thought about it all that much. He was simply focused on trying to get to the next campaign, magazine, or annual report and to get new customer accounts who were trying to do the same things.
I probed the subject a bit more and we came to the conclusion that yes, he really had developed a strong working knowledge about what an effective campaign looks like, how it is packaged, personalized, presented, when it should be timed, what should go in front of the solicitation piece (the magazine or annual report, for example). He acknowledged that while he is not a skilled copywriter, he does know what effective copy looks like.
In other words, through our conversation, he came to the realization that he really is a subject matter expert. And that expertise, if captured and offered in the form of content, can effectively position him as a thought leader about direct-mail fundraising campaigns.
He expressed concern that since he is not a writer by training, getting that valuable wisdom out of his head and into words would be daunting. I suggested that if he were willing to sit down with a skillful writer for 30 to 40 minutes and tell his story, a series of white papers, blogs, and/or special reports could easily be developed. Using these tools as high-value information pieces, he could potentially reach an important audience — not as a print salesperson selling production and distribution capabilities but as a thought leader offering unique wisdom and experience relevant to a target audience in need of leadership, innovation, and direction.
As we go about our day trying to get in front of customers and prospects, I wonder how many of us hold a wealth of accumulated experience and valuable insights in our heads that, with some guidance and assistance, could be used to create content that can easily and credibly position us as genuine thought leaders?
The question stands. What do you know?
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.