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3 Steps To Becoming a Thought Leader in the Cannabis Space

A look inside the secret sauce of influencers.

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Have you ever seen content on your social media newsfeed from a consultant you know is absolutely crushing it? You can tell they're never desperate for clients because individuals and organizations constantly reach out to them for help (not the other way around). They don't seem overworked and underpaid, and every time you chat with them, they share with you how they're growing and scaling their business.

What's their secret ingredient? It's likely a combination of well-thought-out strategy and brilliant execution. However, one common denominator among consultants and service providers who achieve this kind of success is thought leadership.

What is thought leadership?

Many people confuse thought leadership with content marketing. Although content marketing is a way to deploy elements of your thought leadership, they're not quite the same thing. Thought leadership is when you tap into what makes you and your business uniquely qualified to address specific pain points and answer some of the most top-of-mind questions of your target audience.

The secret sauce in thought leadership doesn't necessarily lie in the sleek-sounding podcast or eye-catching visuals that thought leaders put out. The secret sauce is in thought leadership development when one takes the time to define their dream client avatar and what it is they're uniquely positioned and qualified to speak on and solve.

The reason consultants who seem to have it all figured out can scale successfully is that they understand they can't be all things to all people. Yes, sometimes this means turning down paid opportunities that don't align with their dream client avatars. As scary as this sounds, and as odd as it may feel turning down consulting gigs, your future self will thank you if you can stick to it and remain disciplined.

Related: 4 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Getting Into the Cannabis Industry

1. Define your dream client avatar

When you started your consulting business, did you take the time to identify who you want to work with? I'm not talking about just writing down or saying out loud, "I want to help companies who struggle with marketing." The same way you create an avatar of yourself or a friend in a video game is the same way you need to create an avatar of your dream clients.

Allocate time to think about their demographics and psychographics critically. How old are your clients? How much revenue do they typically generate annually? What keeps them up at night? What do they love experiencing? What does their day-to-day look like? Is there something that frustrates them regularly? Take the time to answer these questions about your dream clients. This will help you understand them better, recognize their true pain points, and discover how to more effectively communicate with them about the value you bring to the table.

2. Define what you're uniquely qualified to solve.

Once you outline precisely who it is you need to communicate to and how to communicate with them, it's time to identify what you're uniquely positioned and qualified to speak on and solve. What experiences and accomplishments do you have under your belt that give you a unique perspective and put you in a qualified position to speak on specific topics and lead the conversation? How does this qualify you as the go-to authority in your specific niche? Allocate time to think critically through these questions and answer them thoroughly and honestly.

3. Connect your dream clients' pain points to what you offer.

This is an essential step in thought leadership development that will help you immensely in your messaging, development of offerings, marketing, and sales. Connect the missing links between what you bring to the table through your experiences, accomplishments, accolades, wisdom, creativity, and your dream clients' pain points. This is a great exercise to visually map out how you can help your dream clients in various ways and how you might want to structure your offerings with the ability to scale those products and services down the road.

Related: Why Your Cannabis Business Needs an Exit Strategy Even Before You Enter the Marketplace

You can't be all things to all people.

This is where a lot of consultants slip and hurt themselves. When business is slow, consultants tend to grab whatever work comes their way. No matter what it is, no matter how much the gig pays, they'll be quick to take on the new project. There are a few problems with this Swiss army knife approach and saying you can "do it all."

Suppose you begin taking on random projects that don't fall into the scope of your defined core offerings. In that case, you'll have a tough time determining how much you should commission because you won't know exactly how long the project will take, what systems and processes will be required. You won't scale your business because you'll constantly be pulled in all different directions. Another issue with the Swiss army knife approach is that more often than not, you'll end up taking on lower-paying projects where you'll be underpaid and overworked. This results in less availability to bring on the types of projects you want to be working on with the people with whom you dream of working.

If you're looking for a way to attract more of the right clients for the right reasons, focus on a specific audience. Do your future self a favor and put yourself in a position to grow and scale your consulting business to not fall into the hamster wheel of being overworked and underpaid while constantly struggling to find your next client. Once you commit to developing a thought leadership platform, the only regret you'll have is that you didn't start sooner.