How can you be perceived in your market as the best in your field? How can you get customers to come to you already expecting to write you a nice fat check?
An example to prove my point:
Let’s say you need to visit a surgeon to have something done. It’s important that you get it done, but this isn’t emergency surgery, so you have time to do some research. In your area are two doctors. The first is a little cheaper, and you can’t find anything bad said about him. The second, however, is an internationally recognized expert in the exact type of surgery you need done. He is a bit more expensive, though.
Which one are you going to choose?
Do you see how important being an expert is? People are going to look around on the Internet before doing business with anyone in your field.
If they are given a choice between a recognized expert and someone else, you know they will choose the expert; so why not be that person? Here’s what you need:
1) A commitment to excellence
Now this one really is more than a little obvious. If you want people to see you as the best, you have to act like you are. You have to be the best at everything you do. If you’re going to do things “half way,” the market will see that, and then you can forget it.
2) A willingness to give your knowledge freely
Experts nearly always end up being seen that way because they share their knowledge. In fact, sharing what you know is really the way to being viewed as an expert. When you add that to your commitment to excellence, so that you’re producing great information of value to your market, this can make some serious things happen pretty fast.
Actually, let me back this up. Just being viewed as an expert really isn’t enough. You have to strive to be a thought leader in your field that helps to spark discussions, and even helps to determine the direction of your industry.
You see, here’s the thing: far too few people in any market actually even attempt to do this. That means it can be pretty easy to make something happen if you just go out and do it. Most people are just hoping they can advertise and sell their stuff.
The problem with that method of doing business is that in most parts of the first world, people are getting so ridiculously advertised to that their brains are beginning to tune it out as little more than noise.
Not only that, but the growth of social media such as Facebook and Google+ means that more than ever people are referencing back to people they know. If you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your field with those folks before they actually want to buy what you sell, it becomes fairly easy for you to be the defacto choice.
The issue is, how do you get that done? How do you build the perception in your market that you are the expert, the thought leader, for your field?
Before I continue and explain how to do that, let me be clear about something: each of these steps are meant to build on each other. You have to want to produce excellent content relating to your market, and you have to be willing to share it, for any of the rest of this to work.
3) Know your relevant keywords
Many times small business owners know this, but knowing which keywords are important extends to more than your products and such.
What I’m talking about here is understanding those keywords so that you can focus your content around them. You can create titles that use those words. Now you do need to be careful with this somewhat. You have to remember that people use the search engines. If you “over optimize” only for good rankings, then the people that will visit your site won’t like it.
Titles to your products/services and your content need to be 60% for the people that will be consuming that content or buying the product/service and 40% for the search engines. Later you will understand why there is a bias toward people.
That doesn’t change the fact that when you’re producing content designed to help you be seen as an expert by your market, it sure can help a lot if you’re cognizant of the search phrases for which you would like your content to rank well.
4) Know who the other experts are
Even though I said that there are far too few people trying to be experts, in any field those experts still exist. As an example, if you’re a landscaper then you could look to DIY or to any of the home improvement experts on TV. Experts are out there, and you need to know who your experts are.
Next, whenever they produce content, you produce some that talks about their content and expands on it somehow. You could either add to something they only talked briefly about, or you can disagree with something they said (thus sparking a discussion). In fact, in some of the markets that I play in, I specifically go around looking for areas of disagreement. I then explain (often in great detail) why I disagree. This creates areas of separation between me and the other folks — and reasons why someone should do business with me instead of them.
Often I’ll actually email them and tell them about it before I actually post it, exactly so that a discussion does occur. This way, the discussion is friendly, and it helps both of us.
The point here is to, in some way, expand on their content. Even better is to take content created by multiple experts in your field, combine it together into something even greater, and then expand on that.
Most experts (like anyone else, really) have an ego that will often practically require that they talk about people that talk about them. Now again, this nearly always assumes that your content is good! It’s why this whole thing starts with a commitment to excellence.
The idea here is to draw the attention of the other experts and get them to talk about you as well. This then puts you automatically into their circles of influence. People will see you at their level simply because they’re talking about you.
5) Compare Like Mad
This item is actually something Marcus Sheridan talks about in his article 7 Ways To Be A Blogging Rebel. (And if you notice, I’m following my own advice by mentioning him).
The idea here is to compare various products and services within your market. Then you say which you think is better, and why. You might draw some heat; in fact, hope you do. The heat will spark still further discussion, which will instill an even greater sense that you’re the expert.
Not only that, but head-to-head comparisons, done objectively, are of massive benefit to your market. If you want to be viewed as the expert, as the thought leader, then you will need to also be thought of as impartial while still giving an opinion.
When you do give an opinion, just make sure you back it up with something. It’s part of the reason why I like comparison’s so much. It makes it easy for you to give an opinion backed up with some good reasoning for it.
Not only that, but going back to the “sparking discussion” thing again: comparisons can cause people to agree or disagree with you, which causes discussion among those in your market, all based on your content.
6) Be tuned in
Between Google Alerts and RSS feeds, it’s pretty darn easy to know what’s going on in your industry, with your name, with your brand, with the names of everyone else in your industry, with their brands, and if there’s any news relevant to your industry going on.
It is nearly impossible to be a thought leader without also knowing what’s going on.
Once you set up those Google Alerts (just go to: http://www.google.com/alerts and save a bunch of search queries and have them emailed to you) your next step is to visit every single blog with almost any kind of relevance to your field and grab their RSS feeds. Personally, I use Google Reader for this and I check it every couple of hours for anything that grabs my interest.
Now that you’re tuned in to your market, it becomes pretty easy to report on the relevant news with in it, linking to/mentioning the folks you got the news from (remember my #3 point earlier).
What’s happening is that, through these steps, not only are you turning yourself into an expert and authority, you’re much more tuned in than anyone else — which also means you become the default news aggregation source for your industry as well.
This all ties back to that thought leadership thing again. You’re setting it up so that, in as many different ways as possible, people in your market look to you and your site for information of importance and relevance.
Further, because of how often you’re mentioning others, and they are mentioning you, the social media space is also being dominated by you as well, which automatically leads to you absolutely owning the search engine searches as well (especially if you’re paying attention to your keywords).
7) Don’t be bashful
Hey, you’re the expert! Say what you mean, mean what you say, and back it up with something. When you can state things in a way that shows you’re passionate, it helps others to be passionate as well.
When you can back that passion up with reasons for your passionate opinion, it cements in people’s minds that you know what you’re talking about.
However, it’s important to understand something: being an expert doesn’t automatically mean sales. Having your content spread all around the globe doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get any more traffic. Comments to your blog posts will not make you money.
Those last three sentences may seem a little odd, considering I just spent the last 1700 plus words convincing you how important it was for you to be the expert in your field.
My point is that your content needs to have “calls to action” that drive people from your content and into your sales funnel. Now, if you do your job properly, only a small percentage of the people that get your content, that share it and comment on it, will actually do that.
Social engagement (either on the social media sites on through comments on your blog) is designed to give your market the social proof it needs to see you as the expert/authority/thought leader.
The content itself should be designed to drive people interested in actually buying what you sell to drop into your sales funnel. Let me give you a live example of this. On my site, you can request a free strategy session from me. I’m the highest paid traffic generation and sales consultant on the planet.
Despite that, I’ll talk to you for an hour, totally free, no strings attached, no shenanigans; and give you exact tips and strategies to help you reach your business goals. All you have to do is visit my site and click the “free strategy session” link at the top.
Now, do you see how I did that?
The “call to action” is only going to be relevant for certain types of people. It’s only going to be followed by people looking for help getting more traffic and sales for their business.
People that don’t want that, won’t do it.
On the flip site a lot of people will read this article and might even share it out (thus spreading its reach). The number of people viewing me as an expert will grow. While some of them might not right now be looking for help getting more traffic and making more money, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be later.
When they do, I’ve already established credibility, trust, and proven that I’m an expert.
For more of my work, please check out http://www.mattgoffrey.blogspot.com/.