You may have amazing insights to offer your clients, and the experience needed to turn those insights into benefits for them. But, if too few people know what you have to offer, you won’t get a chance to make your mark.

That’s what every post in this blog is about – giving the skills you need to show your expertise, so you get more of the work that you love to do. Working with clients in this area, I’ve found three key mistakes that many business professionals make, so that their hard work generating thought leadership goes to waste.

Thought leadership content can’t be a sales pitch

Many times in working with engineers and other professionals, I find them keen to present the services they offer. This means that sometimes in the articles I ghost-write for them, they think I’m not going far enough in furthering their interests. So they’ll add in self-serving sentences and phrases. That might include, “Based on our ten years’ experience in this field…” or “Our firm has ten years of experience …”.

I’ll always take those additions back out again. I justify this by pointing out that the publication’s editor will remove anything that sounds like a sales pitch, and may reject the whole article if it contains too much sales-type language.

However the deeper reason is that anyone listening to or reading your ideas is just going to tune out, flip the page or hit the ‘back’ button when she or he comes close to anything like a sales pitch.

And it isn’t necessary anyway. If you’ve demonstrated that you know the issues, and that you’re able to help your potential clients, your purpose is served. You don’t need to sell.

To see why, imagine that you’re at a conference where the lunch is sponsored by one of the vendors. You’re just sitting down with your colleagues, and the conference chair taps the microphone a couple of times. “Please be quiet for a presentation by the company that’s sponsoring this lunch,” she says. And you promptly tune out, check your messages or make some notes on the morning’s presentation while you’re forced to sit through a sales pitch by a vendor. It’s like that, if you try to slide a sales message into your thought leadership content.

Focus on helping your clients succeed at their work

The second big error I see is that business professionals generate content that’s more about what they want to say, than it is about what the prospective client wants to hear. If you want to get your ideas published in the client’s professional website or other business publication, remember that the client is there for one purpose: to learn how to do her or his job better. They’re looking for news and trends regarding their work. They want insights into cutting costs, boosting productivity, reducing uncertainty or some other benefit.

Your content will receive their attention only if it can help them gain those benefits, and succeed in their work. Yes, I know your clients are multi-dimensional human beings. They might care about their child’s diaper rash, about how to tie a ‘rusty spinner’ fishing fly, and how to drive a golf ball off the tee.

Nevertheless in your content marketing, you’re looking for topics that will help them do better at their jobs. So don’t just create content that’s of interest to you, or that shows how clever you are. Be sure that your topic passes the test: will it help my ideal client succeed in their work? If it will, go ahead. If it won’t, find a topic that does help them solve their problems (more on that, in blog post #28).

Choose a medium that your clients prefer

In years gone by, business professionals wanting to get their ideas in front of niche markets were offered a choice of business magazines … and business magazines. Those ink-on-paper media are still an excellent way to reach narrowly-defined sectors, and I’ve written extensively on how to find the right publication to reach your market. But they’ve been joined by a host of options.

The options include audio podcasts, webinars, online videos, websites, blogs, infographics and social media.

My personal favorites are feature articles in print, and audio podcasts. But I’m well aware that my clients and prospects may have other ideas. So, I guarantee that I put my ideas out there in a range of media, including infographics and slide shows. Some of these appear in social media such as LinkedIn and SlideShare.

Furthermore as I’ve said in a previous blog post, an area of skill I’ve been developing is video. One reason for this is because many younger demographics prefer to get their learning from YouTube, so I’ve put the effort into reaching them there.

You also need to be willing to stretch toward finding communication options that resonate with the people you want to reach. But don’t assume anything about your market’s preferences.

You need to unearth out how best to get your ideas in front of your ideal clients. In the days when print was the dominant medium, figures such as circulation (the number of subscribers) and readership (the circulation times the number of people expected to read each print copy) were clues as to the publication’s influence.

But social media offer much more granular data, such as the number of YouTube views, likes and shares; the number of podcast subscribers and reviews; and the number of followers on Twitter. So if you find a video on YouTube with content that’s close to what you’re thinking of offering, and it has an impressive number of views, that could be your cue that you should go ahead.

Just remember – it’s not about you. It’s about the people you want to serve as clients. Meet their informational needs, and they’ll come to see you as a trusted source of knowledge – and soon, a trusted service provider.