Most businesses operate in a crowded marketplace with plenty of competitors to differentiate from. It can mean we sometimes just focus on a strategy built around price – discounting where we can to bring in our share of the business. In the long run, however, this can be really hard to sustain.
There is another strategy which can be more financially rewarding. It involves positioning ourselves at the premium end of the market and developing ‘expert’ status around our business offering. It is particularly suited to service-driven businesses although product-based ones can benefit from it too.
Security and reassurance
In tough economic times humans turn to those they know, they seek security and turn to the familiar. They favour those who speak their language and seem to understand what they are going through. They may choose to stick with a current supplier, but if that experience isn’t completely satisfactory in some way, customers will look elsewhere.
An expert who is very visible in our chosen communication channels and who speaks our language soon becomes familiar. We may even start to feel aspects of trust towards them, without even meeting them. If we:
- believe in their message or solutions and find them credible
- like the way they relay that message
we will be happy to engage with them. We may even seek out their expertise on a regular basis – we may in fact become a devoted fan, follower or customer of theirs.
It’s not just what you say but how you say it
Experts come in all shapes and sizes. Not all are the scientific-types, fuelled by statistic-led research or the results of their experiments. People also listen to experts whose thought and opinion is more experiential and comes through what they’ve achieved, studies they’ve conducted, their specific experiences and situations they’ve witnessed or trends they’ve observed. And it isn’t just customers who seek out experts. Ever diversifying media channels are constantly hungry for more and more content. People are drawn to those who give clear, practical insight and make sense of the world, the situation and how to cope with it. They like guidance and being told what to do.
Becoming an expert
It sounds obvious, but you need to be very clear what expertise you want to become well-known for. Ideally it should be fairly straightforward to convey to people, and if you aren’t clear in any way, it’ll be hard to convince others. Expert status is created over time and from a strategy which mixes in the best communication channels for the target audience you are trying to attract.
Your reputation as an expert will come from the credibility you build with them, and how consistent you are over time in your key messages/approach to them. It will also be strengthened (or weakened) by how well you evolve your expertise to anticipate and reflect changes, new attitudes and trends in that market.
Consider your target fan-base
An expert is only an expert if people believe in them and are prepared to listen and accept what they say. So you need to ensure you really understand your audience, followers or potential fans. What is their profile? What opportunities and challenges are they facing? In which sectors do they proliferate?
The more you understand the issues they’re facing, the more relevant help and commentary you can create. Remember that in our busy and noisy lives, we don’t just want issues reported, we crave guidance on what to do as a result of them. Solutions do not necessarily have to be completely new, we also like revisions or simpler and more practical ways to tackle a situation.
A multiplicity of channels
Compared with a decade ago, there are now many more channels through which to communicate your expert thoughts and opinions. In fact the rise of new channels has prompted a new breed of experts to evolve from the likes of blogs and social media. So if you are looking to build expert status, here are just some channel examples you can draw on. Of course it’s unlikely that one channel alone will build your credibility and your approach will need to factor in a few. Select those which your target audience most engage with.
- press comment and media interviews
- published articles, books, guides, fact-sheets, tips
- speaking opportunities – presentations, conferences, workshops, webinars, podcasts
- social media comment/updates/tweets
- blog and website
- published research
Experts who stand out in the current climate are those whose message is clear and simple. People will often pay a premium for expertise they see distinct relevance and value in. It means you also have to ensure the experience you wrap around your ‘expert’ business offering is of an equally high quality and worthy of its position at the premium end of the market.
Remember, those who easily relate to their target audience and adapt with the changes that audience experiences, will become long-standing and highly sought after experts. If you feel expert status could enhance your business offering or professional reputation then consider:
- What expertise do you want to be known for?
- How you will differ from other experts in the field?
- Which market/audience would you like to attract?
- What communication channels best serve that market?
- What do you need to do and say and how do you need to communicate in order to capture your audience’s interest and ensure they are happy to listen to you or continue to give you their time
- What needs to change in relation to your personal brand to make you appeal to that market – especially in terms of first impressions and then ongoing loyalty
And for Women Unlimited readers, check out further tips in our simple fact-sheet: Thought leadership tips – help yourself to become an expert