What makes you so special? Why should anyone purchase your product or service or listen to your opinion over someone else in the same field?
As CEO of Epstein Financial Services in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Charlie Epstein saw a lot of competition in his field. So he skipped to the front of the line by writing Paychecks for Life (published by my company) and soon tripled the size of his business. In short, he created authority. While all other companies were (just) salespeople trying to win a deal, he was the expert. Epstein literally "wrote the book on it," and that inspired confidence and attracted business.
Misty Young is another example. She's the co-owner of Squeeze In, a California-based restaurant chain, which started life as a 39-seat restaurant known for its omelettes. But as Young's company grew and other restaurants asked her advice, she realized she had established authority.
Next, she published (again, for my company), From Rags to Restaurants: The Secret Recipe.
“As soon as people realize that I have written a book, I am immediately set up as an expert,” Young says. She has appeared in the New York Times -- twice.
And she has used her book to solidify her business ventures. “It helped us leverage investment money for our fifth restaurant,” she says. Young and her husband now own seven.
Establishing yourself, then, as the authority in your field is how you can dominate your competition. It positions you above others and opens doors, which is the most important responsibility of any business owner/CEO: to acquire and retain customers.
To develop that authority you need a solid presence in each of what I call the seven pillars:
Building brand isn’t just about building your company’s brand but also your personal brand. For your audience to recall your name, it must be clearly recognizable and associated in their minds. Distill your personal brand into what makes you unique. A few key factors will help you discover your unique brand: your personal mission, your philosophy, your journey and your community. Well-known leaders are very clear about who they are.
2. Content marketing.
Content marketing is the means through which you build your omnipresence. You need to commit to creating a significant amount of high-quality content written specifically for your target audience. It can come in multiple forms: white papers, articles, blog posts, webinars, podcasts or, like Charlie Epstein, a book. As you create appreciable content, you create a legion of fans who are excited to consume what you create.
3. Referral marketing.
If you’re doing them correctly, referrals should bring in a large number of new clients. In fact, 85 percent of small businesses get customers through word of mouth, according to one survey. But, you need to encourage your satisfied clients and customers to refer you to others. Client referrals are the most common and are an outcome of great service. But an often-missed opportunity is the referrals from influencers -- people who are in front of a group of your prospects every day. Research them, meet them. Impress them.
4. Lead generation.
What does authority marketing have to do with lead generation? Everything. It’s far easier to generate leads when you’re seen as an authority. As an authority, you can tell people what they need, and they’ll believe you. If you come at them looking and acting like a salesperson, they’ll ditch you faster than a toupee in a windstorm.
5. PR and marketing.
American humorist Will Rogers once said, “All I know is what I read in the papers.” However you feel about that statement these days, there is truth in it. People don’t believe what you say about yourself, but generally, they will believe what the media says about you. Whether it's coverage from CNBC or a local radio station, people will assume that you’re an authority; and that’s good for business. It’s irrational, but there’s nothing rational about the general public’s decision-making process.
Are you currently speaking to groups that consist of your target audience? If not, you need to be. Speaking, bar none, is the best way to enforce your authority position and generate high-quality leads. If what you say is competent and professional, you will connect with a subset of the audience as though you were lovers at first sight.
Events are where loyal tribes of customers come together. Be there with them. Or have them come to you. Holding annual events is one of the best ways to upsell, build additional loyalty and expose more people to your work.
Dr. Darold Opp, for instance, is a dentist who ran a successful practice in Aberdeen, South Dakota, but wanted to attract more patients. So, he created the town’s annual Smile Palooza festival, attracting thousands of kids in the region every year. “I became a celebrity in the community,” he told me.
People outside of Aberdeen may not know who he is, but that doesn’t matter. When local people think "dentist," they think Dr. Opp; and he has capitalized that into a multi-million dollar practice.
Then, there's author Jim Ziegler, a consultant to automobile dealers and someone I work with. He said something a long time ago that has stuck. "Adam," he said, "outside of the car business, nobody knows who I am, but inside the car business, I'm a freakin' rock star."
The lesson there is that you want to be famous to the people that can give you money. You have to be the authority in the industry, in the community, in the marketplace where you and your business live, because you need people who have the ability and willingness to give you money to see you as the authority. Anybody else really doesn't matter.