The online business space has rapidly expanded over recent years. However, consumers have become more sceptical. It seemed at one time that everyone was being told to be a coach. It almost felt like some weird pyramid scheme. “Coaches” running group programs to train others how to create their own “coaching business in which they coach others to run their own coaching business”. Bit of a head spinner, right?

But this meant there were many entering the arena who had little understanding, experience or understanding of coaching OR creating a coaching business. It was simply a case of “this is the method. All you need to do is go and apply it”. Frustrating for real experts in the field, to say the least.

But buyers are also now wiser – sadly, because many of them have had their fingers burned. This has meant that audiences have become more sceptical and resistant to spending money on programs in case it’s more of the same. They tend to take longer to invest because they’re working out who the real experts are.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, it represents a real opportunity for you to step up and stand out from the crowded market as your marketing content can demonstrate your expertise and authority.

Content is often seen as something that needs to be churned out to keep you ever present on social media platforms and to improve your SEO ranking. While the “know, like, trust factor” has become something of a mantra, there is perhaps a lack of focus on how content can develop the trust element.  There’s no doubt that content can be a great lead generator. However, by moving focus from volume to quality, you can create content that establishes you as a leader and authority within your niche. This speeds up the “trust” journey and attracts you premium clients more quickly.

By looking at some of the skills associated with emotional intelligence and leadership, we can see how these same qualities can be applied in order to create thoughtful, intelligent content that demonstrates you’re at the forefront of your niche.

Criticism as an opportunity to learn

Not everyone will agree with us, and indeed, we wouldn’t want them to either. In fact, it is the job of our marketing to repel the wrong people as much as it is to attract the right ones.

But that doesn’t mean we should close our minds and banish all criticism and opposing views. Successful leadership requires you to listen to criticism and opposing views and to see it as an opportunity to further your learning.

It involves taking on board what others say, exploring what it might offer and assessing the information alongside the evidence to see if you can improve things further. Criticism is your opportunity to learn further and if necessary, adjust your viewpoint accordingly. It allows you to expand and solidify your expertise.

As an expert and authority in your niche, you will already be familiar with this from your studies and experience. When you were honing your craft and identifying what would work best for your clients, you will have most likely, looked at a range of evidence, different ideas viewpoints and approaches, and then synthesised and evaluated these to come to your own individual approach.

And yet, when it comes to sharing content, that hard work has traditionally been omitted. Instead, “gurus” have told business owners to make everything as simple as possible. They preach that content should be written for the level of a 7-year-old. The result has been that intelligence became unfashionable. What has been left is a marketed opinion or standpoint with all substance removed. The background as to how you’ve developed your approach is lost for the sake of marketing.

The danger here is that there is no obvious difference between you and someone who just provides a step by step instruction that somebody else has taught them or that they happened to stumble upon. Any rigour or expertise you have becomes invisible. Leadership and authority are replaced with marketing gimmicks that make it easy for the inexperienced to compete and hard for experts to excel.

Your content is an opportunity for you to counter this. By taking an intellectual approach, you can include the different standpoints and justify your approach. This will demonstrate that you’re a leader in your industry rather than a follower and will help you to stand above the noise and attract premium clients who are looking to work with those that are an authority in their field.

Empathy

It’s hard to talk about leadership or emotional intelligence without mentioning empathy. The definition of empathy is “being able to understand and share the feelings of another”. Essentially it allows you to build a relationship with other people, to gain trust and to successfully move through life – something I talk about in more detail in my discussion on the power of storytelling. In business, showing empathy can increase our chances of converting audience members into clients.

A great leader will use empathy to identify the real issues that are holding people or a business back and then work to find the right solution – not a single solution, but one that will work for the people or circumstances involved thereby increasing likelihood of success and transformation. It’s also worth mentioning, that when people feel understood, they are far more likely to be engaged in what is going on and to be loyal. Again, as business owners, this is what we really want from our audiences. We want them to engage with our content and offerings, and we want them to be loyal followers and clients.

You too can show your audience that you’re an emotionally intelligent leader by including empathy in your content. Traditionally, many marketing gurus and copywriters have advocated “agitating the pain”. In other words, find the pain point and extend it, showing the worst-case scenario of where it could lead so they feel they have no option to buy. However, this is hardly empathetic and neglects to take into consideration what is best for your ideal client. Hardly the sort of thing we’d associate with leadership and someone who is genuinely at the forefront of their niche for the right reasons!

An alternative is to tackle your content and copy with an empathetic approach – to share your audience’s feelings and consider how you want to make them feel as you are writing. This allows you to demonstrate that you understand their difficulties and obstacles and that you can therefore help them with a solution that works for them. You can even offer advice that moves them one step forward, making them feel more positive.

As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. Therefore, when writing your content, it is useful to think about how you want the reader to feel and then to check your writing against that to ensure you have got the tone right. It’s not something you can do without empathy!

Learning

Today, we are faced with an ever-changing landscape in the online world. Technology is progressing at breakneck speed and constant updates are being made to platforms. It feels like nothing lasts for long. What once worked 6 months ago, no longer gets the same results.

In this climate, the ability to learn, adapt, assimilate and reflect is crucial. Just being able to recall information and repeat it, is not enough. Our learning needs to be on a deeper level, and we need to be able to apply it to different areas.

Successful leaders understand and appreciate this. Not only do they ensure they are continually learning and developing the skills needed, but they also encourage and inspire others to develop and further their learning too. Rather than just passing on information, they’ll encourage discussion, evaluation, justification, exploration, prediction, questioning and reasoning. In essence, their minds are open, and they encourage others to be the same.

Sharing your own dedication to learning in your content will help you to further establish yourself as an expert. Consider sharing some of your own in-depth learning and try to show ways in which you adapt learning from one area to apply it to another. For example, I’ve written about storytelling and applied it to business. In this article, I’m taking some learning on leadership and applying it content writing.

Perhaps you could share some of those high order thinking skills by making predictions about changes that will come in the future and justifying the approach that you will take when that happens. Alternatively, you could encourage a conversation around an important topic asking others to share their views and asking pertinent questions that will get them thinking and developing their learning.

There are of course many other leadership qualities that you could include in your content but hopefully these examples have given you a start. If you’re wanting to build your reputation and attract more premium clients, stop hiding your brilliance and start showing it in your content.

What do you think – What qualities are important for leadership? Do you show this in your content? Is there something else you feel is important?