How to be seen as an expert (it takes more than degrees and professional memberships)

This is a valuable guest post by the wonderful Griselda Togobo – business coach and owner of small business advice firm

Griselda Togobo

“I found out the hard way that being an expert and being SEEN as an expert are two completely different things.

When I started out as an independent consultant, trying to sell my expertise without the support of a big corporate brand, I quickly realised that people did not care very much about qualifications or even the corporate experience. They had seen and heard it all before.  They already knew a lot of experts and were disillusioned by the so-called expert’s ability to really help them. I soon realised that all people wanted to know was whether I could really help them and if I truly knew what I was talking about. This required a different approach from what I was used to in corporate. Marketing your expertise as part of an established professional services firm is completely different from marketing your expertise as an independent or relatively young small firm or practice.

So how can you establish yourself quickly as an expert so you can start to be win more business with your expertise?

Well, actions speak louder than words and it’s even more so for today’s experts.

Experts outside the confines of the big corporate brand and established institutions are judged entirely on their actions. These days, experts are expected to be prolific creators and curators of content and they are also expected to be visible. People want to know the person (people) behind the brand, reports and the website.

Today’s experts are also expected to be human so I learnt to get more personal. People wanted to see me, the person behind the website and emails – something most professionals (including myself) are inherently opposed to because we want people to hire us for what we know and not necessarily because we loved football or not!

What being seen as an expert isn’t about

Being seen as an expert doesn’t require any further education.  Fortunately the only requirement is that we showcase more of what we already know.

Today’s professional is faced with a highly knowledgeable and well read audience. They’ve read the same books you have and are not easily impressed.  What they want to see are samples and evidence of your own thinking and work. Evidence that you are not one of the self-styled gurus and that you’ve done more than read the same books they have.

So, I did some research and put together a list of the 7 things I found the experts and gurus did that real experts needed to do in order for them to be seen as experts too.

I put this together is a little book and published this on Amazon. Funnily enough, I started being seen as an expert “on establishing yourself as an expert”! Publishing a book (one of the seven steps in my book) is a very powerful strategy in establishing yourself as an expert.  The fact that my book was self published and only available on Kindle seemed irrelevant to people. People still seemed impressed that I had written something! This confirmed my initial observations and set me on a path to publish more books.

Being seen as an expert – the overarching strategy

Step 1. Create content. This means that you become known for your works.  There are so many ways of generating content these days. Writing is just one of them. Creating audio files and videos all contribute in establishing you as an expert. Being seen as an expert means that you are likely to be regarded as one of the best if not the best in your industry hence your clients will be happy to pay a premium for your services. Everybody wants to work with the best. In my opinion being paid a premium makes up for the extra work you have to do to establish you as an expert and go-to-person.

Step 2: Leverage the work that others have already done. Share this with people who need it. There is so much information out there already. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. For most people, however, the availability of information is now becoming part of their problems rather than the solution. Its creating overwhelm. You can become a trusted source of intelligence and information for your clients and prospects – taking away the overwhelm. This second step is for those who really don’t want to create anything. It takes away the responsibility and pressure of having to create all the content yourself.

Step 3. Be visible. Being visible means that people can find you when they need you. It’s not only about you but it’s also about your clients and how you can serve them better. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve met an expert, whose details I couldn’t find when I needed to urgently refer their services. They hadn’t bothered to make it easy to be found or to stay connected with people. Being visible is easy to do these days. There are so many networks – rather than trying to spread yourself thin, you can just pick one or two and make those your home. Places that people could definitely find you if they needed your services.

Unfortunately only big brands have the earned the privilege to be faceless entities. You, on the other hand, are a small independent professional or firm and still relatively unproven, so you need to show them your worth by your works.”

Thanks very much Griselda for the thought-provoking post. Creating content, becoming a source of useful information and being visible – 3 things that are helping Sharon and me become known in our space, and I know your approach works for others too. As a simple example, I was trying to choose a fitness trainer to work with recently. I picked up two cards in the gym and checked out both their websites. One was packed full of the athletic achievements of the personal trainer; the other had a seriously helpful and well-written blog with useful training tips and ideas I could try. Guess which one I chose?

It’s not just independents and small firms who can learn from your approach. Experts inside large corporations are judged on their actions now and can no longer hide behind the corporate face of their firm – they need to become visible too. Even large corporates need to show their human side if they want to engage us. (Just have a look at what Valuable Content Award winners HSBC Expat are doing to win business and friends).

Discussion now open to the floor. What’s the best way to become seen as an expert in your field?

Other guest posts you might like:

On the visible expert subject, this guide from Hinge Marketing is very good too – Becoming a Visible Expert – a guide for professional services executives.

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  1. Griselda

    Thanks for publishing this Sonja & Sharon. Really appreciate it.

    Hi Everyone. Thanks for reading and sharing. Post any question in the comment section and I’ll be coming by to answer them. Look forward to hearing from you! Thank you.

  2. Heather Townsend

    Great article Griselda & good to hear from you.

    I totally agree with everything you put here. My thoughts on how to become the Go-To-Expert (my book on this subject is being published by the FT on 1st March 2014) are very similar to yours:

    1. Establish your personal why for wanting to be seen as The Go-To-Expert
    2. Then decide on your niche. Unless you have incredibly deep pockets, it will be very difficult to become the Go-To-Expert for a broad specialism or sector, e.g. SMEs
    3. Then package up what you sell to closely match the requirements of your target audience
    4. Then create a credible on-line footprint, including (as you recommend Griselda) valuable content
    5. Now work out how you will spread and distribute your content & build your profile, e.g. Writing a book, networking, speaking, PR, running events
    6. Now deliver on your promises to clients and deliver an extraordinary service, so your clients talk about you to others.

  3. Griselda

    Hi Heather, good to see you here. When it comes to establishing yourself as an expert, the devil really is in the detail. Good luck with your book!

  4. Paul McIntyre

    Great article, Griselda.
    You’re so right about creating credibility through a proven and visible track record. It’s about what “you” have done, not what the large consultancy you work for has done in the past.
    Also, I do so agree it’s about being an individual that people want to work with. No hiding behind a logo and a company name. Great content with personality really stands out.

  5. Griselda

    Thanks Paul. You really hit the nail on the head with “It’s about what “you” have done, not what the large consultancy you work for has done in the past.” Thats the key. Every content gives the potential client the extra proof they need to justify working with you. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Chema Uknome

    Spot on article… concise yet full of actionable information.
    Looking forward to reading your book.
    Thank you!

  7. Griselda

    Thanks Chema. Do let me know what you think once you’ve had a chance to read the book.


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