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5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry, With Connie Chi

Being a thought leader positions you in a unique way that allows you to deliver results to businesses/clients that some might not have thought of. If for example a business is experiencing challenges in generating sales, the first solution that many turn to is create content and cross market it. But thought leaders come up […]

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Being a thought leader positions you in a unique way that allows you to deliver results to businesses/clients that some might not have thought of. If for example a business is experiencing challenges in generating sales, the first solution that many turn to is create content and cross market it. But thought leaders come up with unique or organic ways to generate sales, maybe in the form of a personalized experience that speaks specifically to a certain audience or niche.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Connie Chi. Connie is a speaker who recently landed a TEDx Talk titled, Lonely AF: Lonely About Failure. Chi is also an author of Branding Without A Brand, podcast host of Humanizing Brands and founder of The Chi Group, an award-winning marketing and branding agency humanizing brands, turning brands into lifestyle brands.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I spent 16 years in corporate working for someone else’s dreams when one day I decided that I wanted to start my own business. I’m actually very proud to say that this lifetime I have 3 failed businesses under my belt. Started my 4th business in 2016, which is The Chi Group and have been living life on my terms chasing my dreams.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I started from zero not knowing how to position myself or what to do when in the way of marketing. So I spent a lot of time researching about brands and what makes customers want to purchase from one brand rather than another. I’m certified in Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) so have always been fascinated with how the mind works. I took my curiosity and put it into practice by speaking on stages about how to humanize brands and also using my knowledge to help brands create experiences that connect with their customers. By doing all this I was able to sharpen my skill set and become an expert in this area.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’d have to say it’s having 3 failed businesses in my career. It’s interesting because every failed business I learned so much not just about running a business but also about myself. To my surprise, I didn’t think I would be able to recover emotionally from having just 1 failed business but instead I was able to bounce back quite quickly so I was able to handle having 3 failed businesses.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made was when I met Sir Richard Branson. He’s one of the entrepreneurs that I highly respect and admire. Couple of years ago he came to NYC to speak and I had told myself that I was going to be courageous and ask him a marketing question. Needless to say, I chickened out at the time. Instead I waited for him to exit backstage and was going to ask him the question. Unfortunately the question I had planned for did correlate with what came out of my mouth. I blurted out “Richard, will you mentor me?” Branson politely declined and that’s when I decided to throw my business card into his lap as he was getting into the car. The biggest lesson I learned from that experience was that you should always be prepared because you never know when an opportunity will come up.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

A thought leader is someone who has a unique perspective or solution to everyday problems or challenges on a macro level. A typical leader is one who leads a team and harnesses each individual team members strengths to help them become leaders. For me an influencer is someone who is able to create content in the form of videos or photos to address everyday challenges on a micro level, ie: fashion hacks, beauty DIY’s, etc.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Being a thought leader challenges you to think outside the box and get creative in the way you solve problems. It’s a constant brain workout that allows you to be bold. So it’s imperative to constantly train that muscle and expand it to allow yourself the opportunity to continue to think differently.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Being a thought leader positions you in a unique way that allows you to deliver results to businesses/clients that some might not have thought of. If for example a business is experiencing challenges in generating sales, the first solution that many turn to is create content and cross market it. But thought leaders come up with unique or organic ways to generate sales, maybe in the form of a personalized experience that speaks specifically to a certain audience or niche.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

  1. Press: This is always a tough one in the beginning, but it’s a must in order to build you thought leadership brand. When I first started I reached out to blogs asking them if they’d be interested in having me write for their blog for free. Eventually that turned into getting quoted by major blogs within my area of expertise.
  2. Write A Book On Your Topic of Expertise: Compile your findings or learnings in a book format so others can learn from it. Not only did I write my own blog articles but I eventually compile all the information I researched and learned into a book so others can have the opportunity to use it to build their businesses.
  3. Answer Questions That People Might Have About Your Field of Expertise: When I first heard of this idea it was a foreign concept to me because I didn’t know where to find people that would have questions about the topic of my expertise. I started simply by answering questions for others on Quora.
  4. Be An Expert About Your Customers: Intently learn your customers, get to know their behavior, what are their pain points and desires are. This takes listening. In the beginning I knew which customers I wanted to reach so I read about these customers on blogs, books, and any article comments I could find. Eventually that moved over to social listening paying attention primarily to comments people wrote.
  5. Teach Others: The best way to commit new things you learned to memory is teaching others. The way I’ve done it is getting on stage and speaking in front of an audience to share my knowledge in a way that is unique to them.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

There are so many great thought leaders out there. I’d have to Richard Branson, he’s creatively smart, knows how to market his brands, and is always leading by example when it comes to giving back. The takeaways from his process would be that he does all this under the premise of simply having fun. What’s so great about this approach is that it takes the pressure off yourself and really allows you to have the room to be creative when it comes to sharing information.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I wouldn’t agree, it’s human nature to need some sort of benchmark or guiding post to work towards that we can call it something. The term “thought leader” allows us to have a clear example of who or what a thought leader looks like.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

You have to constantly recharge yourself, whether it’s carving time out to take a vacation, read a book or doing something that you love, it’s important to make sure you give yourself that. It’s also equally important to protect your energy, know when to say no to opportunities and when to doggedly pursue them. These 2 strategies will help people avoid burnout.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to inspire other thought leaders and entrepreneurs alike to be able to be more open about the mental challenges they face. Too often mental health is a topic that many shy away from due to stigmas and fear of being looked upon as less than. The mind and heart is so precious and when we cultivate a network of creative thinkers to share their emotions it can avoid a lot of mental hardships.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Successful people never worry about what others are doing. This is so true because in order to be a thought leader, you need to be the BEST in the game to be considered an expert. If you’re spending time worrying about what other people are doing then you’re losing time in sharpening your skills.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have lunch with Mark Cuban, I truly admire the way he does business. His story of how he lived out of his car eating ketchup sandwiches was such an inspiration to me because knowing that he was once on the bottom and seeing him now gives me hope.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram @_connie.chi_

Twitter @Connie_Chi_

Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/conniechi111

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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