Becoming a Respected Voice in Your Industry
Be the expert your industry and customers seek.
New business leaders look to thought leaders — informed opinion trendsetters — because they want to learn how to replicate their success and grow their businesses.
Simply put, if your clients view you as an expert, they are more likely to buy what you’re selling. And, you don’t need to be quoted in a well-known newspaper or appear on a huge media outlet to get their attention. You can start out with your own website, blog, vlog (video blog) and your own social network.
“Share your knowledge and people will find you,” says Spencer X. Smith, a marketing consultant in Madison, Wisconsin. Most businesses use their websites to explain when they were founded and why they’re great, but Smith says, “Nobody cares. They come to your site because you’re answering their questions.”
Smith offers these tips to help you expand your influence and grow your small business.
Know your customers’ pain points. In order to develop your personal brand and voice, you first need to know what your customer’s problems are and then provide solutions to those problems. It’s simple, Smith says: “Listen to them. Your customers will tell you what their questions are,” he says. “When thinking of topics to discuss, ask yourself, what question did I get asked more than once this week?”
Google Trends is also a good tool to find out what people are searching for. Use those trending topics to create timely, relevant, and engaging content for your audience and answer the most common customer problems.
Have a multichannel approach. Once you know what problems your customers are challenged with, go to your target audience’s preferred platforms and distribute the answers to their issues. That might be on your website, a blog, vlog, or your social media pages such as Google Hangouts. You may also want to consider podcasting, writing an e-book, white paper, creating a SlideShare presentation or offering a webinar on the topic in exchange for their e-mail address. Smith says this is a good way to get leads into your sales funnel because potential clients are more apt to provide you with their contact information when they feel they’re getting something of value. “You break through the anonymity that’s allowed on the Web,” Smith says. “You now have permission to talk to them because you gave away something of value first.” Once you find out what channels your target audience is most receptive to, you can then focus on distributing content to those specific platforms.
Seek out journalists. Reach out to local reporters and offer to be a source on the subject matter. Websites such as Help a Reporter Out and ProfNet are great places to get started. These online services help connect journalists with experts in a specific industry. News stories are free publicity, and building a rapport with local and industry-specific journalists can help you boost your business’ notoriety.
Speak at conferences and events. After you’ve built a loyal following and can prove that you can contribute to the events reach and engagement, start pitching yourself to speak on panels. This shows customers that you’re recognized as an expert by an authoritative source. “It does away with credibility concerns and that’s what advances you way beyond any first sale trepidation that people have,” Smith says. Make sure that your presentations are educational, entertaining, and don’t use the opportunity to just promote your product or services.
Before you start tweeting or blogging about industry trends, take the time to find out what information your audience is hungry for. They’re looking for leaders who can guide them to predictable success. When you understand your audience and learn to speak directly to their needs and solve their problems, you’ll gain their trust and respect.
“The key is to separate yourself from your competitors by being the very best teacher in your industry,” Smith says.