Business owners who become recognized experts in their field often have a distinct advantage over their competitors. Say you own a landscaping company, and you have a competitor whose work and prices are comparable to yours. But unlike your competitor, who relies on a yellow pages ad to acquire new business, you've been on the local news stations’ morning shows, written a book, and have established yourself as a landscaping icon. Who do you think everyone is going to want to hire to complete their landscaping projects? You, of course -- the icon.
It takes time and patience to become a recognized expert, and more than anything, it takes consistent action. Here are five steps you can take to build your personal brand and make the most of your expert platform for your business.
1. Start blogging.
If you're going to establish yourself as an expert, you've got to give people reason to believe that you actually know what you're talking about. There's no easier way to do that than with a blog. Blogging allows you to share your thoughts and knowledge on any topic, without having to spend much money or to convince a publisher or literary agent to take you on.
Related: How to Make Money As an Expert
This can seem intimidating for someone who's never written a blog before--but it doesn't have to be. If you know what you're talking about, it's just a matter of transforming that information into written content. One great technique for making blogging easier is to write as though you're talking to an audience of eager listeners. Pretend they can't wait for you to share your expertise with them, and then deliver what they came to hear…in writing.
2. Market yourself.
As an expert, you are your own brand. You become the product you are promoting, and that product is separate from your primary business. Even though you have a marketing plan for your company, you'll want to create a separate strategy for you as an expert. The marketing you do for your expertise and for your business can feed into one another. In other words, those who find you through your efforts to market yourself will find out about your business, and those who come to you through your primary business marketing channels will learn about you, the expert.
3. Create compelling content.
It's critical to give your audience something that interests them and leave them wanting more. You might not be the greatest writer. If you look around at some of the most successful blogs, you'll see that many of their writers cannot consider themselves expert authors. The idea is to create content that gets your blood pumping. If you're passionate about your topic, your enthusiasm will come across in your writing, videos, and audio content, and that's the most important thing you can communicate to your readers.
Keep in mind that if you struggle with grammar, spelling, and punctuation, you'll want to have someone edit your writing. You don't have to be Hemingway, but even if the message is strong and compelling, poorly written content can do more harm than good.
4. Create products.
Using your blog content as a base, you can begin creating products that people will be willing to purchase. Some examples of this include ebooks, audio and video programs, webinars, workshops, and books. It isn't necessary to wait until you have a large following or a flood of site traffic.
Also consider creating higher-end products to sell--books, multipart CD programs, workshops, seminars, boot camps. The list is endless. Once you have firmly established yourself as a recognized, respected expert in your field, you can also set up one-on-one coaching and consulting programs. The sky's the limit.
5. Take it to the next level.
There are innumerable ways to capitalize on your personal brand as it grows. Register as an expert to be found by media companies, corporations, and other organizations looking for expert commentators, public speakers, or consultants. Let people know through your social media connections, networking activities, and web site that you are available to speak and consult, either for free or for a fee. Plenty of experts who started out speaking for free to get their names out now command tens of thousands of dollars for a single keynote address.
It's easy to get inspired. Just look at anyone you consider to be an expert and know that you can do the same in your field as they're doing in theirs. Is it your dream to be on the Today Show or Letterman? You can be. Or maybe your goal is to be recognized as the go-to person within your professional community. You can achieve that, too. Whatever expert status means to you, plan for it and follow through.
This article is an excerpt from Small Business, Big Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right by Adam Toren and Matthew Toren ( John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2011).