Establish Your Expertise

Martial arts training teaches its students that size matters only in the sense that one should leverage a larger opponent’s size against him or her. More important than actual power and strength is how you use your knowledge and experience.

This analogy is useful for the start-up marketer. In many cases, the only assets you have to leverage are your smarts. You don’t have money, people, or massive market share to give you power in the marketplace. You may, however, be offering a service, technology, or way of doing business that is exceptional enough to merit a great deal of attention from your industry, potential customers, and the news media.

Coincidentally, many people out there would find it a great opportunity to leverage you as a resource to learn more about what or how you are doing on the front lines of business. This gives us our topic of the week: gaining expert status.

Why bother becoming an “expert” source of information? First, doing so imparts credibility to you and your organization. People tend to admire trendsetters and mavericks who take interesting approaches to solving business problems. Second, it’s a low-cost way of marketing your company and its services. So here are this week’s tips.

What Knowledge Do You Have to Share?

The toughest part of this entire exercise is determining what it is that you have to share with a potential audience that will be of interest. Think creatively and beyond the actual product (even though that may be strong enough by itself), and look at the methodologies of how you run your business.

For example, do you recruit, hire, and/or compensate people in an interesting way? Do you have a way of developing product and service offerings that creates great results? Have you developed a new way of delivering or distributing a product in your particular industry segment? Have you done something poorly and want people to benefit from the experience? (A friend of mine, Nicholas Hall, has turned Startupfailures.com into a huge success in just that way.)

You can also move more toward the everyday and commonplace and position yourself as a window to the inside world of your particular industry — much like how stock market, medical, and legal experts on television and radio try to demystify their worlds. Either way, you need to develop some point of view before you can share it.

Who Will Be Interested in That Knowledge?

Hand in hand with developing the message is determining what audience you want to share it with. Certainly, the goal of making yourself and your organization more credible is admirable, but it would be much better to increase top-line revenues as the same time.

That said, it’s not always easy to do both. Let’s look at my weekly column in this particular light. The audience for the most part is not made up of my company’s immediate customers. But the fact that I have an audience (and let me take this opportunity to thank you for reading!) might prove useful to me in pitching and securing potential clients. So there can be direct benefit to something that doesn’t go out directly to your core audience.

So it pays to paint with broad brushstrokes; small and large businesses of all types may be interested in your message, not just those within your industry. And in the end, that can create real value for others to learn from.

How to Share Your Expertise?

This column has frequently talked about the myriad ways you can communicate your message at little or no cost. Use them all to communicate your expert status. Write a column for a trade publication or an op-ed piece for the newspapers. Send speaking briefs to trade shows and conferences. Pitch yourself, and become a trusted source for print and broadcast media. (You might also want to take a look at the tips Marcia Yudkin gives for using an email newsletter to establish your expertise.)

One technique that works well with the news media is to send out a short note with a printed or electronic Rolodex card offering your informed insights on subjects they typically cover. Journalists are always looking for fresh resources on a wide variety of topics. And writers on deadline especially appreciate being able to find someone to provide a comment on short notice. Become that person.

Certainly, you will not be deemed an expert overnight. It takes some time and effort, but it will be time and effort well spent.

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