Some people achieve the status of expert through degrees, licenses, prestigious job appointments or awards. A few people without those advantages have the mantle of expertise thrust on them without their going after it, through word of mouth and a reputation among a close-knit circle of customers. However, most people without conventional professional credentials need to anoint themselves as experts, and this effort may or may not succeed.
Earn the respect of your target market and take the uncertainty out of the process of becoming viewed as an expert by using as many of the following nine self-made credibility factors as you can.
1. Media coverage. When a large metropolitan newspaper or a well-known magazine writes positively about you, acclaims you as a trailblazer or even simply quotes your opinion, you acquire the beginnings of a public halo that adds a golden sheen to whatever you are doing. It’s much easier to orchestrate this than most people assume. Pick up a copy of a book on publicity, such as my own 6 Steps to Free Publicity, and implement the recommended tactics. When you do achieve media coverage, be sure to quote it prominently on your web site and elsewhere.
2. Carefully documented research. Your research can consist of surveys, observations, experiments or in-the-field tests. A couple of scuba divers with no scientific credentials who fell in love with giant sea turtles during their annual trips to Maui became regarded as experts on the honu (the Hawaiian name for this lovable sea creature) by keeping diligent written and photographic records of more than 750 individual sea turtles they encountered during their dives. When they attended a marine biology conference, they discovered they had learned more about honu habits than nearly all of the university-affiliated researchers there.
3. Collaborations with recognized, respected organizations. A British man without any medical qualifications cured himself of a serious psychological ailment and built up a business teaching his therapy method to others like him. One factor that elevated his reputation far above the level of a “quack” was the fact that England’s National Health Service sent their most intractable cases to him for treatment. Having any sort of official relationship with a government entity or prominent company, from supplying Microsoft or the Pentagon to being on call for your community ambulance service, boosts credibility.
4. A hype-free, professional tone. To earn respectability without credentials, you have to stay away from the kind of over-excited marketing pitch that’s characteristic of late-night infomercials. Go easy on exclamation points, exaggerated claims or promises, long stretches of capital letters, ungrounded superlatives and “buy now or else” demands. Fairly or unfairly, most people regard such sales techniques as unworthy of legitimate experts.
5. Publications. A hardcover book from an established publisher gives you the most credibility credits, with a paperback book from anyone other than a company you own clocking a close second. Not helping you much at all would be a self-published book that came out only in eBook format or a paperback that looked amateurly produced. Articles by you in journals, magazines or online publications that prospective customers respect count significantly as well.
6. Endorsements from individuals with reputations. A Baltimore-based alternative healer presented herself as a pioneer in a certain type of medical hypnosis. What she needed most to cement her expert reputation was quotes from people connected with the internationally well-known medical school in her city – Johns Hopkins. She and I brainstormed a list of seven different ways she could make her work known to health-care professionals with the right prestigious affiliations for possible testimonials or endorsements.
7. A well-reasoned, consistent and distinctive point of view. True experts rarely have same-old, boring opinions. Therefore it’s easier to be perceived as an expert when you have a website, blog, newsletter or advertising campaign that takes some kind of stand and backs up the position with facts and arguments. Don’t be bland or generic. If other experts begin to disagree with you respectfully, you are definitely on the right track.
8. Impressive, objective track record. If you’re a pest control company with a 96 percent success rate in getting rid of bedbugs without harsh or harmful chemicals, you can certainly claim expertise in organic or natural pest control. Precise numbers are key in this arena. Your relevant achievement might be anything from owning a collection of 457 Barbie dolls dating back to 1959, having coached three successful American Idol contestants or having homeschooled 11 children, including four with special needs.
9. Elimination of typos, errors and outdated information. Even people who are not highly educated or personally fussy take note and hold back their trust when supposed experts display sloppiness or get things wrong that they should know. According to the Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab, “Typographical errors have roughly the same negative impact on a web site’s credibility as a company’s legal or financial troubles.” The same goes for would-be experts.
Some of the above strategies require long-term effort. Even so, the payoff for perceived expertise in additional sales, more referrals and higher fees is huge. From conversations I’ve had with self-made experts who have implemented these tips, the effort is definitely worth it.
A bookworm as a child, Marcia Yudkin grew up to discover she had a surprising talent for creative marketing. She’s the author of more than a dozen books, including 6 Steps to Free Publicity, now in its third edition, and Meatier Marketing Copy. She mentors introverts (and those with other personalities) so they discover their uniquely powerful branding and most comfortable marketing strategies, and helps them create a promotional presence that attracts the kind of clients who make them happiest.
To learn more about the strengths and preferences of introverts, download her free Marketing for Introverts audio manifesto: http://www.yudkin.com/introverts.htm
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Meatier Marketing Copy: Insights on Copywriting That Generates Leads and Sparks SalesAuthor: Marcia Yudkin