Posted 26th May 2021.
There's no simple “one size fits all” step-by-step process for becoming seen as an authority. But there are things almost all authorities do that will massively increase your chances of becoming seen as one if you do them too.
In this episode of More Clients TV we look at what really lies behind becoming seen as an authority and what I've found is the most important thing you can do to get there.
Click here to watch the video »
Posted 6th June 2017.
There's no doubt in my mind (and my experience) that being seen as an authority in your field is the best way for people in expert businesses like consultants, coaches, trainers and other professionals to win more high-paying clients without having to become marketing geniuses or spend all their time on sales.
But of course, becoming seen as an authority is easier said than done.
Late last year I ran a survey asking what your biggest challenge in the area of building authority was. There were a huge number of answers which I then used to help me shape my Authority Breakthrough Program. But overall, three big challenges came out well ahead of the others:
Read about the challenges and how to address the biggest one »
Posted 21st January 2012.
One of the stories I hear the most often from struggling solo professionals or small firms is that they did well for a couple of years after starting up and then just kind of plateaued.
Usually what's happened is that work came in easily in the early days. Ex clients and colleagues heard they were now out on their own and sent work their way. They did a good job and got repeat business and a few referrals.
But eventually, they ran out of steam. The close circle of people who knew them well enough to feel confident sending work to them ran dry or was hit by recession, retirement or other factors.
Sometimes the steam runs out after 12 months. Sometimes after 18 months. Sometimes it can be as long as 2 or 3 years.
But eventually it will run out, unless you start actively marketing yourself and widening your network.
Clients buy for meany reasons. With clients who know you well, who like you, and who trust you and your capabilities, you don't have to do much active marketing or selling to them.
But this can trap you into complacency.
You see, the potential clients who don't know you so well – the ones outside your close circle – they see a different picture.
They don't have that history with you. That experience that tells them you're a safe pair of hands. So they look for external indicators that you'd be a good choice to work with them.
Are you a recognised leader in your field? If they google your name do they see lots of articles where you share your expertise? Are you presenting on your topic frequently? Can they find lots of testimonials saying what a great job you did? Does your website inspire them that you know the area they need help in like the back of your hand?
For most professionals who've been getting all their work from existing relationships and referrals, the answer is usually no.
Many of them are incredibly talented – but they've never had to showcase that talent to the world before. The clients who hired them already knew they were good.
And it takes time to build your reputation. To build your website and fill it with content. To build a portfolio of testimonials, published articles and successful speaking engagements.
So you need to start on this early.
When you first start up the majority of your business is likely to come from people who already know you. Ex clients and referrals. You need to focus and actively work these channels.
But you also need to adopt a parallel strategy of building your authority in your field. Writing, blogging, speaking. These are the things that will bring clients to you in the future and prove your capabilities for people who don't already know you.
In know this from my own personal experience. I went through the exact same pattern with the business from ex clients and colleagues largely drying up after a year or so.
But thankfully (and I have to admit, somewhat luckily as I'd done it out of interest rather than as a deliberate strategy) I'd been writing and blogging for over 12 months by the time that happened and was beginning to bring in leads via my website.
If you're just starting your own business make sure you do something similar. Don't rely on people who already know how great you are to keep you in business forever. You need to start working on building your authority and market position from day 1.
Image by the real kam75
Posted 19th April 2010.
You can't turn a corner these days without bumping into a marketing consultant banging on about the importance of a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and differentiation.
I've written on the topic before – and in my view, for most service businesses it's actually far more important to focus on creating compelling client value than it is to worry about being unique or differentiating yourself.
However, it's a topic I keep coming back to and thinking about. For while clients buy based on the value you can bring, they may well initially notice you, and remember you based on your uniqueness or differentiation.
So there's a challenge here: being different helps you get noticed and get remembered. But if you're different in a way that doesn't add value to a client then you won't get hired.
Now you can try to find ways of being unique and different that are also valuable to clients – but it's difficult. Competition being what it is, if something is valuable to clients, other people will notice and create and provide that service too. Unless you're very, very smart or a great reader of early trends – the chances are if you spot something that no other professional in your field is doing – it's because clients don't value it.
But there is another way to think about differentiation.
Too often, when we think about differentiating ourselves we think of what I call “horizontal differentiation”. We want to be viewed as doing something different to our competitors. As not occupying the same space in our niche.
But think of some of the most successful professional service firms. Do they really do something different to their competitors?
Is McKinsey the only firm that does Strategy? No.
Do Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom* or other top law firms really do law differently? No.
Do AECOM design different buildings from the rest of the profession? Again, no.
What sets these firms apart is not that they are differentiated horizontally. They don't really do anything different to the other firms in their niche.
They do things better.
They're “vertically differentiated”. Clients perceive them to be in the same horizontal space as their competitors – but above them.
That's the perfect positioning for a professional service firm. Delivering the same services as their competitors (because they're the services clients need). But delivering them better.
How do you differentiate vertically?
Well to some degree, the perception of superiority comes from delivering great results.
But all professional firms have a truckload of testimonials and happy clients. It's difficult to differentiate on that.
What allows these firms to stand head and shoulders above their competitors is perceived authority.
Being a consultant, McKinsey is the firm I know best (in my career, I've had to come in after McKinsey projects and pick up the pieces on more than one occasion – yet their reputation is immaculate).
I've asked McKinsey clients about why they perceive them as being better than their competitors. And I consistently get two answers.
It's the quality and depth of their thought leadership – and the insights their partners share when they meet with them.
Clearly these two are related. Face to face insights come from personal experience – but also from the thought leadership the firm produces. Thought leadership is usually grounded in the personal experience of the team.
But perceived authority isn't the exclusive domain of global giants. At a local level, there are consultants, accountants, lawyers, many professionals who are viewed as authorities in their field.
They're the ones who “really know their stuff”. Who get invited to speak at events, and who are the first to get the call when there's a tricky or out-of-the-ordinary issue.
They get the best work, and they charge the highest prices.
So next time you're thinking about differentiation: think about up rather than sideways.
* I could have named a different law firm – but blimey, I love that name!