One of the best parts of our jobs is that we get to help brilliant and capable professionals bring their knowledge to the world, to change and improve the lives of the people they are trained to serve. A component of this work is figuring out how to best market the knowledge that they have in a way that positions them as reputable, trusted industry experts. “Thought leadership”, a marketing buzzword, is a component of this broader content marketing strategy, which is sometimes called “visible expertise” or “shared expertise." In this post, we’re going to take a look at the process of marketing yourself (or your firm’s brand) as an industry expert, and gaining credibility and market visibility as a result.
Creating and implementing a strategy to market your expertise requires significant effort, so why do it? Let’s review the benefits:
- According to Hinge Research Institute,"visible expertise is the most important criteria for driving referrals to professional service firms."
- Being recognized as an individual (or brand) that knows your stuff helps establish credibility and trustworthiness
- Providing valuable content to your target audience online helps improve the chances that you will be found via web searches
In short, the knowledge you have and the skills that you apply every day in your workplace can be powerful marketing tools that can help attract people who are looking for what you provide. To succeed at this effort, there are two things you absolutely need:
- A really clear understanding of who you are best suited to serve and how they look for the things you offer (also known as an ideal client profile)
- Time-management skills that will allow you to allot the time required to do a great job at standing out
The former helps ensure that the expert content you develop will resonate with your audience, which will improve the chance that they will remember you, especially when they realize they need to hire someone like you. The latter is critical because marketing yourself, or building on your firm’s marketing strategy, can take a lot of work and needs to be thoroughly planned, with efforts and results carefully tracked to ensure a return on the effort invested. But remember, this kind of effort won’t turn you into an industry star overnight - it takes persistence and dedication over time.
Here’s the trick - you are already an industry expert! - you just might not be calling yourself that yet. But if you love what you do and can picture yourself speaking or writing about it, then you are the perfect candidate for this content marketing effort. In case you’re still trying to get an idea of what this looks like in action, here are some examples:
- You are a business lawyer who loves to work with entrepreneurs, so you develop a monthly educational event in your town in which you give free presentations to business owners on the essentials of business law for startups. Your presentation is chock-full of exactly the kind of information they would hire you for, but you’re giving it away for free to show them that you know what they need, you’re an available resource, and you’re on their side. Of course, they can’t do business law on their own, so when they need to turn to a lawyer to help them get to the next stage of their business, they’ll think of you first.
- You are a healthcare professional with a thriving private practice, but you sense that public awareness of your services and specialties isn't as deep as you'd like it to be in your community. You connect with the editor of a regional health magazine and offer to write seasonal articles on the most pressing health issues facing the area, presenting important information while indirectly marketing youreslf as a go-to expert. After a few publications, you start getting the recognition you were looking for, as people come to see you as a trusted source of health information that's relevant to them.
- You are a community bank in a town where there are a lot of families with young children, and you know that many of them need a solid college and retirement saving strategy. You host a seminar event in which you offer free tips and strategies to these families so that they know where to begin (and you offer free child-care at the event to increase the chances that they’ll attend). You meet as many as possible at the event, shaking hands and making personal, neighborly connections, even offering free consultations to get them in the door. When they’re ready to start setting up their saving accounts, they’ll think of you first.
Now that you have a sense of how this effort can create connections, take a look at the different ways you can start getting more value out of the knowledge and experience you have:
1) Consistently create valuable content
Publishing content that is valuable and educational for your target audience is a great way to show what you’re good at, demonstrate that you have a point of view, and establish some authority on the subject. More importantly, it can help bolster your lead-generation pipeline, as that content becomes a visible resource for people who are looking for it online. Check out our post on content generation strategy to learn more about this component.
It’s worth noting that content doesn’t necessarily mean blog posts, though that’s often a good place to begin. Forms of educational content also include e-books, white papers, Vlogs, infographics, webinars, and seminars, and can culminate in an actual published book.
2) Create content for reputable industry publications
Where is your target audience getting their latest news on important industry trends? Make your voice heard there! Put yourself, or your brand’s thought leaders, in front of potential clients by writing blog posts or articles that suit those publications' styles. It may take some research, but we recommend reaching out to the editor of the publication and sending them your completed piece along with an introductory pitch. If it’s published, be sure to share that post to show people the reach of your influence, via social media, email, and LinkedIn!
3) Speak at industry events
There’s no better way to get in front of your potential client’s faces than by standing up in front of them and commanding their attention. Industry conferences, trade shows and events are the perfect environment in which to share your expertise with a captive audience that wants to know what you have to share. Start aiming at smaller conferences first, to get some experience and grow a reputation as a strong speaker, before working up to the larger industry events.
4) Take case studies seriously
Case studies are a great way to showcase your expertise in action. They can be published online to live permanently on your website or can be written in the form of a Blog post, and can be used to support your claims when you apply to speak at industry events. Write your case studies to have a narrative flow that captures the challenge you were facing, your strategic approach to problem-solving, and the results of your work. People love reading stories, especially when they showcase the personality and flair of the person or brand who is writing it.
Our last bit of advice is this: while it’s important that your efforts to make yourself known are authentic and feel rooted in what makes sense for you as an individual and as a brand, it’s also important to realize that this is an opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone a little bit and try some new things. For many professionals in the legal, financial, healthcare and agency world, touting their expertise and marketing themselves can feel uncomfortable. However, in today’s marketing environment, it’s essential. Whether or not you like it, you already have a personal brand and an online presence, and what you don’t publish says just as much about you as what you do. So, take advantage of the opportunities provided by our increasingly connected, digital world, and make yourself heard.
It’s also important that the content you produce to share your expertise needs to align with your brand as a whole: its positioning, voice, marketing strategy, etc. We recommend checking out our e-book below so you can understand how this strategy fits into your branding strategy as a whole. Thanks for reading!