Small-business owners can benefit greatly by becoming thought leaders in their fields. That’s because, among other things, being trusted for one’s expertise tends to boost sales.
“If you are an authority on a subject, you gain the trust and confidence of your visitors and readers. People will speak highly of you and recommend you,” explains Zach Bulygo, a blogger for KISSmetrics. This word of mouth advertising is the kind of endorsement your marketing budget can’t buy.
The first step toward being recognized as an industry expert, of course, is to put yourself out there. Here’s how.
Choose a specialized niche. Rather than seeking to become known as an expert in “communications,” for example, narrow your area of expertise to differentiate yourself from other self-proclaimed gurus. In this case, you’ll likely get more traction by branding yourself as a specialist in “small-business social media marketing.”
Reach out to local media. Media outlets are always looking for people with special knowledge. Let editors and reporters in your community know that you’re available to comment on news stories related to your niche. There’s probably no quicker way to establish your industry expertise than appearing on a network news segment.
Design a specialized website. Create an official place online where you tout your expertise. On this dedicated and professionally designed site, include your headshot, your status as a social influencer (numbers of social media followers, subscribers, and fans, etc.), and a press page that showcases where you and your words have appeared.
Start blogging. Set up a blog on your specialized website. Write about topics trending in your industry as well as “how-to” posts that address common challenges your readers and customers face. (Remember, your goal is to help people, not just show off.) Share interesting news from other sources, adding commentary when appropriate. Contact the most influential bloggers in your field and pitch them original guest post ideas. When your content starts appearing on these sites, it’ll bolster your credibility.
Diversify into podcasts and books. Create audio and video podcasts of material based on your blog posts, then share them for free via YouTube and iTunes (or similar sites). Over time, you may collect enough blog content to put together a book — a time-honored path to gaining street cred as an industry expert.
Brand yourself on social media. Industry experts are constantly tweeting and retweeting material, starting conversations and offering advice on online forums, and sharing articles and video content from other experts. Many also maintain Facebook pages highlighting their specialties.
Contribute to a trade publication. Most industries have print or online publications dedicated to issues in their fields. As an expert, you’re well-positioned to come up with ideas to pitch to their editors (after closely studying each magazine so you know what type of content they seek). Try writing an article on spec — that is, without getting paid — and submitting it for publication. As with TV and radio appearances, one or two published articles are all that’s needed to cement your reputation.
Become a guest speaker. Businesses, educational institutions, and civic groups frequently seek speakers for conferences and public events. Do you know of a trade association gathering that’s scheduled six or eight months from now? Contact its organizers and offer to speak, give a workshop presentation, or appear as a guest panelist. Reach out to professors or department heads at local universities and community colleges. Get in touch with your Chamber of Commerce and offer to talk to area businesses. After your few first engagements, add a speaker’s page to your website that lists the topics you can address with authority.