For your small business to stand apart from the competition and thrive, it’s a clever idea to gain a reputation as an expert and thought-leader in your chosen field. Our top-10 list will help to get you started
1 Who are you up against?
This is key to working out what your USP (Unique Selling Point) is to the clients you want to reach. Think about what will grab the attention of the people you are targeting against the competition.
2 What information will help potential clients?
The process to becoming a ‘go-to’ expert starts by giving helpful information to your target audience. This should be content that appeals to their wants, needs, and challenges. It’s also good to develop an anticipatory antenna: tune in to the frustrations and obstacles they might face further down the road and help head them off at the pass. Anything that makes their professional life easier, basically.
3 The world is at your fingertips…
In the digital age, there’s a wealth of ways to get on the radars of your client hit-list. Communicating with your audience is nothing new: Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers, was wise to the power of finding a platform to get his message out there. From humble beginnings as the son of a soap-maker to the best-known thought leader of 18th-century America, the wily Franklin gained close access to communication platforms. As an apprentice at a printing press, he sneaked letters into his brother’s newspaper under a pseudonym before becoming a newspaper editor, prolific publisher, printing press owner, and eventually the postmaster presiding over America’s first communications network. Your own ambitions may be on a slightly smaller scale, but you get the idea.
4 Get clued up about social media
Overwhelmed by the available choices? It may be an idea to focus your efforts on one platform to begin with, whether that’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Whatever you choose, you have an incredible opportunity to reach an audience. Share links to your blog posts, news, quick tips, opinions, and questions. As you gain in confidence, you’ll naturally include other platforms.
5 Get blogging!
This is super-easy way to connect with your audience, increase traffic to your website, and create the foundations for establishing yourself as an expert in your field. Aim to write two or three posts a week – regular blogging will help you clamber up the rankings in search engine result pages: essential for increasing your visibility. And don’t get paralysed by overthinking what you’re going to write about. If you think the subject is interesting and relevant to your audience, chances are they will too. To further increase your exposure, offer to write guest blogs on relevant industry websites. This feeds into forming strategic alliances: cross-promoting with other businesses.
Take blogging one step further by…
6 Writing an e-book
Authors are perceived as instant subject matter experts, so it’s a sure-fire way to put yourself on the map as an expert in your field. The self-publishing platform Amazon Kindle makes it fairly easy and make sure you drum up some publicity by approaching magazine and website editors. You can also consider breaking up the e-book content for a series of blog posts: a clever way to stretch original content further.
7 The likeability factor
OK, it sounds obvious, but everything will flow more easily if your audience likes you. The foundation for this is being authentic and building trust. In a digital world awash with wannabe experts and thought-leaders, your potential clients can sniff out insincerity in a nano-second. Be truthful and transparent in your goals and remember that nothing can replace that human-to-human interaction (even if it is virtual). Respond to comments, hold Q&As, and be present. The communication with your audience should be a two-way street and establishing an emotional connection is key.
8 Speak up
The words ‘public speaking’ might strike fear into even the most confident person but it is a very useful skill to have in your self-promotion kit bag. To get started, write a strong presentation pitch to send to local trade organisations and small-business networking events: anywhere you can locate your target audience. Not only will it increase your exposure, but it’s a great lead-generator, too. Mindtools.com offers a comprehensive guide to dealing with those pre-talk jitters. And it can also ripple across other areas: you’ll be more at ease creating a podcast for example or landing a guest slot on an internet radio show (a goldmine for business owners). Check out blogtalkradio.com and alltalkradio.com. You could also host teleseminars. It’s simple: with just a conference line and a phone you can host events where you lead a discussion, or you can invite guests to give speeches or interviews. Offer events for free in order to build your audience and grow your mailing list. For more information, visit instantteleseminar.com and freeteleseminar.com.
9 Stay current and know your stuff
Make it your business to know what’s going on in your industry both with trends and other thought-leaders and experts. Read books, listen to podcasts, subscribe to newsletters; anything that can help you stay on top of your expert game.
10 Own your expertise
Come up with a catchy tagline for yourself that explains what you do. It’s important to let people know what you have to offer, and this messaging should create a strong thread through your website, social media profiles, business cards and marketing materials. And remember that nobody starts out as an expert – it’s a process of learning and yes, making mistakes. But keep on keeping on and watch that momentum build.