The Elements of Expertise
By Steven Van Yoder
Bill Connington is a New Jersey-based financial advisor who is actively working to position his firm, Connington Wealth Management, as a specialist in helping physicians deal with investment, retirement planning, and money management issues.
Bill publishes articles about investing in magazines like Physician's Money Digest and Dermatology Today. He is creating a special report about investing for doctors, and has assembled a client advisory board that meets once a quarter to discuss how he can better direct his firm to the unique investment needs of physicians.
He also hosts monthly seminar/wine- tasting events for clients and prospects, and volunteers for a nonprofit comprised of physicians.
As one of my clients, Bill has embraced a core Slightly Famous marketing strategy: target your best prospects, and boost your visibility and credibility, by becoming a recognized expert within that community.
After only a year, his efforts are paying off.
Bill now gets calls from physicians all over the country who read his articles. His wine-tasting events are a big hit, and Bill's increasing visibility within doctors' communities in his area has grown his reputation in a way that attracts new clients.
The Expert Advantage
Not so long ago, expertise was equated with the number of years you were in business, or the college diploma that hung on your wall. That has changed; people are now more interested in the results you can produce than in whether your career started 25 years ago, or whether your degree is from an Ivy League college.
As an expert, you'll be sought- after. You will get more business with less effort, and command higher fees. Journalists will come to you for information. You will be asked to speak at conferences. You will out-position your competitors because you know more and will be recognized as knowing more.
You don't have to be appointed by anyone other than yourself to become an expert in your field. If you can deliver to your prospects' unique needs, people will be interested in you, no matter how brief your business experience or how few diplomas grace your walls. Becoming an expert takes work, but it's within your reach. You don't need a special degree, but you do need a willingness to learn.
Niche Your Expertise
Slightly Famous businesses focus on distinct target markets they can realistically hope to dominate. Why? Because market niches are, above all, manageable. You can get your mind around them effectively enough to design a marketing strategy that speaks in personal terms to real prospects.
You need a deliberate strategy to help you understand all you can about your target market. It would be impossible for you to know everything, but you certainly need to be considerably better informed than most. Being able to keep yourself in this position is a process that never ends.
If you're new to your niche, you may need to play catch-up. You can follow several steps to develop a good general knowledge of your best prospects, and then pursue a long-term strategy to stay up-to-date about where your target market is going.
Read Everything You Can
Experts set aside time to read a variety of media that affect their target market.
Start with trade and special interest magazines that cover issues affecting your niche and provide focused, up-to-the-minute information. You might be able to find them in a library, or read back issues on the publications' Web sites.
Subscribe to e-mail newsletters, news services, and specialized publications. These sources enable you to take the pulse of your industry.
Make frequent trips to a good business bookstore, and look for books that address your industry, niche, and type of work. Develop a reference collection you can turn to for immediate, dependable information.
Articulate a Distinct Viewpoint
It's not enough just to be an expert. You need to use your knowledge to deliberately distinguish yourself from your competitors.
Plug yourself into every possible outlet that influences your niche. Assess what others are doing, saying, and writing about your industry. Your goal is not just to be fully informed, but also to develop a keen perspective that sees links between your industry and the larger world.
Experts know that they must actively seek out new evidence that impacts their theories and assumptions. You don't need an ultimate truth, but you do need to articulate your position clearly and have relevant facts close at hand.
You Are the Resource
Becoming a resource within your target market starts with sharing your knowledge.
Publishing articles and giving talks are powerful techniques to establish your expertise. Writing and speaking pre-sells others on your abilities, and exposes you to thousands of prospects. And reprints of published articles make excellent, low- cost sales literature, replacing expensive but less targeted brochures, mailers, and newsletters.
The more you become known as a source of expert information, the more potential customers trust you. You become part of their world, a center of influence, and because people like to do business with people they know, or know of, you will be their first choice.
Keep It Going
Your expertise will also be the foundation of a strong business that delivers great service. This will generate word- of- mouth referrals that attract clients with less effort because you have proved that you deliver results that people seek, want, and need.
Maintaining your expertise is an ongoing process. If you persist, becoming a recognized expert can serve as your most effective marketing strategy.
The process starts with you. Once you begin to see yourself as an expert, others will see you as an expert, too!
Steven Van Yoder is author of Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort. Visit http://www.getslightlyfamous.com to read the book and learn about 'slightly' famous teleclasses, workshops, and marketing materials to help small businesses and solo professionals attract more business.