You are a professional. You possess specialized knowledge. You may have devoted yourself to extensive education. You may have several decades of experience. But when you introduce yourself or hand out a business card you’re just one of the crowd of that profession.
As in any profession, you get pigeon-holed, often unflatteringly and marketing yourself becomes an uphill battle to overcome a stereotype.
There’s a better way. Elevate yourself to “expert” in your field. It does not matter how small your specialty because as an expert you will automatically stand out from the crowd of other like professionals.
People feel more comfortable dealing with someone who they know is a specialist. They will seek out experts. Just make yourself known as one.
Here are 5 ways to becoming an expert:
1. Contribute articles to your local newspaper.
Newspapers are starved for content. Contact your local newspaper editor or head of the real estate section and offer to write on a specific topic you know best.
How-to’s, Tips & Tricks of the Trade work best. Send a sample of your work. You will be pleasantly surprised when one of your articles is accepted for publication. As a published author you have entered the expert arena.
2. Give a “How To” seminar.
If you do business in a particular niche, you know the finer points of the practice generalists may not. Share your inside information with the community for “free’ or for a nominal amount to cover the cost of the venue. If you have several colleagues who have other related expertise, join forces with them and give a multi-faceted presentation. Be as brief as you can be to cover the subject adequately and then take questions from the audience. After the seminar, be ready with handouts such as talk outlines (with your contact info), brochures and your business cards. You are now an expert people will call and refer others to.
3. Teach a course at the university, YMCA or local adult learning center.
If you are busy during the day, try night classes. A course can be a one or two day affair. This is just like 2. except the school provides the venue and you may even get paid. You will not be able to hand out your marketing materials afterwards but your students will know to contact you when they need an expert. Besides the satisfaction in being called professor, you garner the respect we all have for teachers.
4. Write a paper.
We’ve all written papers during college or for business reports. But most of those were on subjects we hated. Hopefully you are in a business or profession you love and what better subject to write on. Once written, give it away. That’s right—offer it for free in your ads, on your blog, in your office, on your business cards, anywhere. It will take on a life of its own as it gets passed around. In no time you become an expert on the subject.
Having a blog puts you in a class of professionals who are one step ahead of the competition, technologically speaking. Besides getting a forum to repeat what you’ve done above, it helps you build ongoing relationships with other professionals as well as your clients. If you are new to blogging, have no fear. Start with baby steps. Read other blogs to get an idea how others do it—then do it your way. Blogging shows your clients that you are knowledgeable (or at least know where to find it), interesting and passionate about your profession. Put your blog URL on your business cards and invite your clients to contribute by sending you links. Give them due credit. Highlight your clients’ accomplishments in your posts if they have no objection—and they won’t.
As a bonus you can use your blog to send “blogletters”. Unlike a newsletter, a blogletter is shorter and focused on only one topic—just like a blog post. Send them via e-mail (to subscribers) or as postcards. They will stand out from the crowd of the standard seen-it-a-thousand-times-before pre-packaged postcards. By sending follow-up blogletters, clients will get new information (and learn about your blog). Since you send out postcards anyway, try this educational approach.
If you perform any of the above well, you may get a spot on local television and reach the coveted “talking head” status where your only worry will be maintaining your humility.
TIP: You may be surprised to learn that you can get free cruise travel in exchange for teaching a course onboard the ship. (A great way to travel and gain 10 pounds.)
NOTE: Marketing yourself as an “expert” does not make you one. An expert’s true value lies in his or her serving the needs of their clients. Do this and their word of mouth endorsement of your expertise will take you further than any of the above.