In a professional services business, you are all experts or aspiring experts. Ultimately, clients pay you for your technical expertise, experience and advice. As this infographic from Beaton Consulting shows, the Number One Driver of Consideration (i.e. why a client considers purchasing your services) is “Expertise in area of need”.
What makes a client choose your expertise over someone else’s? The key is visibility. The goal is to be known for your particular area of expertise and be highly regarded in that area.
Visible expertise is about being known in the market for your specific knowledge, skills and experience. In today’s highly competitive environment, where clients have a great deal of choice available to them, you need to differentiate yourself and your firm. Prospective clients are making purchasing decisions based on their perceptions of your expertise. You need to establish trust and credibility more quickly than ever before and it doesn’t happen as organically as it used to. Multiple online channels mean that clients are now savvier and better informed. A potential client can learn so much about you before they ever meet you in person.
In this highly competitive marketplace, how do you make sure that your expertise is visible?
According to Aaron Taylor from Hinge Marketing in his article “The Visible Expert®: How Ordinary Professionals Become Thought Leaders“:
“Visible Experts are teachers. That’s how they build their reputations. They willingly and openly share their expert knowledge without any jealousy or fear of revealing their secrets. In today’s Internet-fueled world, information on virtually any topic is a few keystrokes away. If you aren’t sharing valuable knowledge, then someone else will.”
It’s about openly sharing your knowledge, so your target audience become familiar with you and what you know. They’ll start to assess if this expertise is valuable to them. You don’t need to be known to everyone; you just need to be known as an expert in your chosen target market. Hinge calls it becoming a Visible Expert®.
The correlation between knowledge and visibility is illustrated below. If you have an adequate level of knowledge, and are only known within your immediate professional circle, you are probably a ‘good operator’. And, if you have adequate knowledge, but a high level of visibility, you might actually be ‘overrated’! You don’t want to be a ‘best kept secret’. Ideally, you want to have a high level of knowledge and be known for it. By becoming a visible expert, you can start to attract higher-yielding client work.
Becoming a visible expert involves specialising in a sector of the market or providing a niche service. One of the other Top 3 Drivers of Consideration, identified by Beaton, is “Understanding our business/industry”. Clients want the comfort of knowing that you have a solid track record in their industry or in providing a particular service. By specialising, you can develop clear criteria to identify clients who want you for what you do best.
2. Segment your market
These days, with all the available data, it’s easy to segment your market. A good marketer can help you identify your target audience. You can segment your target market by industry, business structure (e.g. private company, listed company, not-for-profit), size (e.g. mid-sized), or business lifecycle (e.g. start-ups, growth, transition, succession).
3. Develop a thought leadership content strategy
Once you have identified your target market, marketing can help you increase your visibility by using well-positioned content, including thought leadership, in your area of expertise. You need to develop relevant content that will resonate with that audience. It can help you ‘cut through’ and become recognised as an expert people will seek advice from. Content includes commentary, articles, infographics, videos etc. It can be planned and unplanned (i.e. reactive to topical issues) and it builds brand awareness. Thought leadership content includes presentations, articles, white papers, research reports, books, videos etc. It is more in-depth, and it is designed to demonstrate your expertise in this area.
The key is to develop a targeted, structured, and informed visible expertise strategy, including a detailed content calendar. A carefully planned strategy will allow you to actively build and achieve visibility, by focusing your efforts and removing the uncertainty from your marketing strategy.