How to Market Yourself as an Expert to Clients
We are awash in information these days. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with data. Confronted with an unfiltered array of choices, opinions, and facts, we seek out experts to help us make sense of it all. Individuals we can trust to tell us what to do, where to go, and what to buy.
If you’re an expert in something – and good at marketing yourself – these are indeed good times. When the media wants to frame a story and add context, they turn to experts for third-party insight. Major industry conferences and trade shows track them down for keynote speeches and roundtable panels. And when businesses need to make critical decisions or solve thorny problems, they look for an expert who they believe will steer them right – the first time.
If you’re an accounting professional looking to build a reputation and attract new business, it can be frustrating to watch an expert attract all the attention with little apparent effort. They must be different, you think, much smarter or charismatic than me. But the truth is, they’re not.
The trick to becoming a high-profile expert is simple: learn how to be more visible in the marketplace. There’s even a proven process that many industry stars have used to market themselves and ascend from anonymity to prominence.
The Benefits of Visibility
Being a high-visibility expert offers many benefits for you and your accounting firm. Recognized industry experts attract new business, command higher fees, and help their firms build stronger, more successful brands. In fact, our research has shown that these individuals can boost their firms’ business significantly, enhancing their reputations, forging new partnerships, increasing billing rates, and driving additional revenue. This osmosis-like transfer of benefits from an individual to the firm is called the “halo effect,” and the results are clear – when experts rise to the top, they bring their firms along for the ride.
But exactly how do average experts turn into industry rock stars? At Hinge, we resolved to dig a little deeper and uncover their secrets of success. We started by giving these stars a name – Visible Experts®. Then we started to examine common traits, skill sets, and the tools they used to achieve prominence.
The Visible ExpertDefined
Every industry has a handful of professionals who seem to be everywhere. They’re headlining industry events, being quoted in trade publications, and contributing expert opinions to articles, blog posts, and broadcasts.
The funny thing is, these experts are not necessarily the smartest or even most knowledgeable individuals in the room – you may actually have more knowledge and experience than they do. The difference is, they’ve attained high visibility in the marketplace and a reputation for expertise. They’re the Visible Experts. And potential clients value them more than gold.
What Clients Look for in a Visible Expert
What gives Visible Experts their cachet? First and foremost, Visible Experts are outstanding communicators. They have a knack for explaining complicated topics in simple language. They also tend to have strong specialized expertise that makes them even more valuable to prospects.
For example, there are lots of accountants out there, but accountants with medical industry expertise are much more highly valued by medical device manufacturers. And these companies will pay a premium for this specialized expertise.
In our research, we identified the following key factors that clients associate with Visible Experts. The numbers in parentheses represent the percentage of respondents who identified each trait.
- They come highly recommended by friends and colleagues (57 percent)
- They’re effective communicators with the ability to make complicated subjects easily understandable (38 percent)
- They’re problem-solvers with a proven track record of success that’s highly visible (36 percent)
- They inspire confidence when they speak (31 percent)
- They’re published in prestigious publications (27 percent)
How You Can Become a Visible Expert
There’s more to Visible Expertise than marketing yourself. The process of become an industry star is less about blatant self-promotion than building a loyal following over time. How do you do that? By demonstrating your expertise every time you write a blog post, give a speech, or put on a webinar.
When you freely give away your expertise (even in small doses), people begin to recognize your mastery of the subject. And later, when they have a need for the types of services you offer, you are likely to top their list.
There are seven elements that any Visible Expert must master in their quest for industry recognition:
1.Commit to becoming a Visible Expert. Like any significant step in life, attaining a new level of prominence in your profession takes diligence over an extended period of time. The process doesn’t have to be grueling – in fact, many people find it energizing – but it requires a reasonable level of patience, time, and effort.
2. Develop a strategy for your Visible Expert brand. You aren’t going to get far very fast without a clear roadmap to take you from relative obscurity into the limelight. Fortunately, our free book, The Visible Expert, lays it all out for you.
3. Build visibility in a target market. Pick a target market and pursue it diligently. You’re going to need to develop an online presence, most likely by publishing blog posts, articles, videos, and the like. Eventually, you may add networking, public speaking, and building partnerships to your marketing activities.
4. Strengthen your expertise. While you don’t have to be the smartest expert out there, you do have to know your stuff. That means continually strengthening your skills and addressing your weaknesses.
5. Refine your communications skills. You won’t succeed if you aren’t a competent communicator. If your writing is weak, take a class or hire a consultant to raise your game. If the thought of speaking in public gives you hives, give it a chance – there are plenty of programs and organizations out there designed to help people like you become confident speakers.
6. Become a teacher. One of the defining characteristics of a Visible Expert is his or her ability to make complicated subjects understandable to a layman. If you can’t educate your audience, you won’t have much luck earning their respect and trust. Everything you write and say to the public is an opportunity to educate your audience – and establish your loyal base.
7. Get the help you need. It’s easy to get discouraged along the way, especially if you are trying to build a visibility program on your own. If you need help developing particular skills or handling an aspect of the program (and almost everyone does, at some point), go out and get the help you need. It can make all the difference.
Becoming a Visible Expert takes time and the mindset to see it through, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Now, don’t expect to become an international star overnight – reaching a global audience typically takes years.
Most of the Visible Experts you know ascended the mountain in stages – attaining local, regional, then national prominence first. The vast majority of high-profile experts in accounting started as ordinary people like you. Many of them struggled mightily as they discovered by trial and error how to build an audience. You actually have an advantage over them. Our research has uncovered the tools, techniques, and approach that will take you (and potentially others in your firm) efficiently toward a new peak in your career.
All you need to do is get started. Good luck!
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Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to...