by Susan Payton (MASHABLE)
Susan Payton is the Managing Partner of Egg Marketing & Public Relations, an internet marketing firm specializing in blogger outreach, social media, and PR. She blogs at The Marketing Eggspert Blog, and teaches marketing courses at Marketing EggSchool. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.
Today it seems that no matter what industry you’re in, your competition is stronger than ever. How do you stand out and get that sale when people aren’t as loyal to brands as they used to be? How do you get their attention in an ever growing sea of noise when they’re so often swayed by price rather than quality? One answer is to become recognized as an expert in your industry, someone other people seek out for information.
The most important part to becoming known as an expert, of course, is that you know a lot about whatever it is you do. That could be construction, public relations, HR, dogs — whatever it is, in order to gain the requisite knowledge to be regarded as a thought-leader in your field likely requires years of schooling or real-world practice, or both. In addition, when your goal is to be recognized as an expert you need to always keep learning, and to constantly share that expertise. But first let’s talk about why you might want to be an expert.
Benefits of Being an Expert
Being an expert in your field makes you the go-to person for your industry. There are many people that I trust inherently on different subjects simply because they know their stuff, and they’re not trying to sell me anything. They just want to be helpful in their own space. These are people that I learn from, but also whom I would buy from because I trust their knowledge and expertise.
Being an expert helps you:
– Establish yourself as an industry leader
– Help others
– Become a trusted resource
– Get interviews and media coverage
– Gain access (via conference/speaking invites, etc.)
– Convert followers to sales
Only a fool assumes he knows everything and can’t learn any more. No matter how much you know, content and ideas are changing, especially if you work in a fast-moving industry like social media. News happens, ideas shift, people try new things. It’s important for you to stay on top of the latest updates.
Though this list is by no means complete, here are some places you can turn to stay up to date on the most recent news, trends, and ideas in your industry.
Blogs & News – Blogs in your industry are a great place to find out the latest tools and news. If you’re not already reading blogs, do a web search for [your industry + blogs] (like Chiropractic Blogs, for example) to locate some blogs that cover your business niche. Find ones that you like and subscribe to them by RSS so you won’t forget to read them.
It’s not a bad idea to set up a Google Alert to search for news about your industry. Paying attention to news headlines is a great way to stay abreast of changes in your field.
Online Education – There’s no reason you have to enroll in college (again) to keep learning. There are a variety of online resources at which you can take free or cheap webinars or e-courses to keep the wheels churning.
If you’re looking for generic business information, the US Small Business Administration has free online courses for small business owners, for example, or if you want great advice on internet marketing, look to HubSpot. Search the web and pay attention to the blogs you read to keep abreast of opportunities for online learning.
Social Networks – Increasingly, social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, and Delicious are where people are sharing news and information that matters to them. By following the already established experts in your niche, you’ll gain access to the information they possess, which will in turn increase your knowledge.
Conferences & Events – Every industry has conferences, trade shows, and other events, at which other experts in the industry gather to share their knowledge. Attending these meetings can help you in your quest to continually learn new information. You can find out about conferences by reading industry blogs, searching events sites like Upcoming.org, or finding local user groups on Meetup.
Imparting Your Wisdom
By sharing your knowledge with others, you’ll quickly become known for your expertise. This can translate into sales, job offers, gigs, or other opportunities, as you build your personal brand as an expert. Here are some ways you can share what you know.
Blogs – The easiest way to start sharing is by creating a blog. Blogs are fantastic if you’ve got a ton of information in your head and need a place to dump it. The bonus is: you can help others through that information. Blog about what you know. Share news, offer advice, give your opinion, and make yourself the go-to resource for what you do. The key to successful blogging is to consistently put out good, original, and useful content that encourages readers to engage with you and with each other.
Social Media – Social media sites are designed for experts! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a question about something, tweeted it, and gotten free advice back, later, the people who provided me with expert advice are the people I buy from when I need their services. By providing free advice on Twitter or Facebook, you will build a base of fans that both trust you and look to you for expert advice. These fans will seek you out and recommend you to others seeking advice and information — in other words, by sharing your knowledge and gaining trust, your network will grow on its own.
Among the ways you can share your expertise using social media, are creating a lens on Squidoo that is home to all the great knowledge you’ve gleaned over the years, bookmarking blog posts and articles that relate to what you do on Delicious, and sharing those links on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, or Reddit, and responding to queries on Yahoo! Answers or LinkedIn Answers.
Create Online Courses – The benefits to teaching online are many, says Mike Volpe of HubSpot. “Leveraging inbound marketing with educational content is more efficient and a lower cost per lead than outbound advertising. Our inbound marketing programs are 5-10 times more efficient lead gen and sales channels than our outbound marketing programs.”
One way to offer an online course is through recently launched, Prfessor.com, which offers software that makes it possible for anyone to host an online school where they sell (or give away for free) courses on virtually any topic.
Video – Don’t underestimate the power of video. For those who do well in front of a camera, sharing free how-to videos on sites like YouTube or Vimeo can lead to increased awareness. It also demonstrates to television producers how well you do on camera, which means online expert videos can lead to television appearances.
Speaking Up – You should already be attending industry conferences, trade shows, and user group meetings, and you should make sure to assert yourself as a knowledgeable voice in the community while at those events. Whether that means lining up formal speaking engagements — which will be easier to do the more you grow your personal brand as an expert — or just networking and sharing your expertise with other attendees, speaking up is helpful in building your expert brand.
Consulting – Offering consulting services can do two things: first, it can make you a little money, and second, it can help you establish yourself among industry insiders as someone who knows their stuff. One consulting gig can lead to many based on referrals and having a list of business owners willing to give you a recommendation can be invaluable. If you plan to offer consulting services, put information about your services on your blog and in your social profiles, and consider offering phone consultations through Ether.com.
Build On Your Expertise
It takes a while, but you will see a snowball effect as you build your brand as an expert. More people will come to you for advice or consulting, and more media types will reach out to you for interviews. Learn to leverage your knowledge and convert it to sales. Speaking at conferences, teaching courses or seminars — both online and off, and consulting for businesses will help you grow your personal brand.