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10 Tips for Building Your Reputation as an Expert in Your Field
by Kay Ross
People prefer to do business with people and companies they like, trust and respect. If you provide a professional service (perhaps you're a coach, a trainer, a massage therapist, a lawyer, a consultant…), it's especially important to build that "like, trust and respect" factor, because the success of your business depends so much on establishing and maintaining a good relationship with your clients.
So what can you do to attract and retain clients, without necessarily spending lots of money on advertising or glossy brochures? One strategy is to focus on building your reputation as an expert in your field. Here are 10 tips for doing just that:
1. Firstly, have the courage to claim a specialised niche.
Coaches, therapists, healers, trainers - they're all caring people; they tend to want to "save the world". So when they first go into business, they often say that their target market is "Everybody!". But you can't be all things to all people. It might feel scary, but a much more effective strategy is to specialise in one particular style of work, or one particular kind of client. What are you best at? What kind of clients do you most love to work with? When you specialise, you're seen as an expert; it's easier for you to identify and reach your target market, and it's easier for people to refer the right clients to you.
2. Write short, keyword-rich educational articles about your field of expertise and submit them to relevant online directories.
"Article marketing" is a simple, inexpensive way to market yourself as an expert, reach a worldwide audience and drive traffic to your website. (Google the term to find out more.)
The idea is to write short, informative articles offering practical tips. There's no need to start from scratch - you probably already have some material in your files that you can adapt easily. Be sure to embed relevant keywords that will help people search online, and give each article an attention-grabbing title.
It's not appropriate to use such articles to advertise your business blatantly - you get to "toot your own horn", and include a link to your website, in your biographical information at the end of each article.
Two online directories that I particularly recommend are http://www.ezinearticles.com and http://www.selfgrowth.com. Both sites publish thousands of articles about business, health and personal development. You don't get paid for your articles, but there's no charge to submit them.
3. Be generous about sharing useful information and resources.
It may seem counter-intuitive to give away your hard-earned knowledge, but if you show that you're up-to-date with the latest issues, trends and techniques in your industry, you'll build your reputation as an expert, and your generosity will add to your likeability and trustworthiness. The idea is to give people an irresistible taste of your expertise so they'll feel inspired to contact you for more information, become a client, buy your book, interview you, commit to a coaching programme...
On your website and in your e-newsletter, blog, articles, e-books, teleseminars, speeches and educational videos that you post on YouTube:
- share practical, useful tips,
- teach skills,
- discuss the issues,
- warn about possible pitfalls, and
- track the latest trends in your industry and how they're likely to affect clients.
For example, if you're a nutrition consultant, you could write and speak about "What the supermarkets aren't telling you about trans-fats". You don't have to give away ALL your secrets and solutions; rather, explain WHY the topic is important, outline the results that people will get from working with you, and describe the consequences of NOT doing so.
You can even share other people's material – if you spot a relevant book, article or e-newsletter by someone else that's likely to be helpful to a client or prospect, send it to them with a personal note (crediting the source, of course).
4. Present speeches.
Yes, I know public speaking is scary. But getting out there and being seen and heard by your clients, prospective clients or people who could refer you to prospective clients will help you to make personal connections. People will get a better sense of your energy, enthusiasm and personality than if they just read your brochure.
Before, during and after your speaking engagement, there are also many opportunities to promote yourself creatively and build your reputation. For example, be sure to have your speech videotaped (or at least recorded), and use some or all of the video or audio recording (or even a transcript) on your website or in an information product.
5. Volunteer on the committee of relevant professional bodies.
This will help you to become known as a leader in your field, stay up-to-date with the latest issues, and build goodwill amongst your peers.
6. Participate in relevant online forums and blogs.
The aim here is not to aggressively promote your products or services, but rather to be helpful, to express your opinion, to share your advice and suggestions, to recommend resources, to be a connector and to be seen as generous and knowledgeable. (However, every post you write should of course include a link to your website or profile page.)
7. Gather and use powerful case studies and testimonials.
People love stories. So in your brochure, website, speeches, media releases, articles etc., use case studies and testimonials that tell stories about your clients' successes. Such stories will demonstrate your expertise, likeability and trustworthiness.
For a case study, start by outlining the issue, problem or challenge that your client faced. Then explain how you worked with them to transform the situation. Finally, list the specific, measurable results. Be sure to include some emotion, not just the dry facts.
A testimonial needs to be more than just a warm fuzzy "John is a lovely person and I enjoyed working with him." It needs to demonstrate the difference that your work made in a client's life or business. For example: "Before I hired Mary as my coach, my business was going nowhere and I was ready to give up. Within three months I attracted three big new contracts and my income grew 400%. Mary helped me to focus on what's important, identify my fears and take action."
8. Get media coverage.
One of the best ways to build your reputation as an expert is to be interviewed and quoted by the media. Journalists have an insatiable appetite for interesting stories – they're always looking for charismatic experts to interview. Media coverage also has a lot more credibility than advertising, and it's free.
Send a media release to announce a newsworthy development in your company; to promote your upcoming event; to report on your results; to comment on a topical or controversial issue; to tie in with the Olympic Games or Christmas or the school holidays…
Journalists receive dozens of media releases every day, so make sure the title of your media release grabs their attention. "XYZ Accounting Limited Announces Launch of New Service" is boring; "Pay Less Tax – Legally" is not.
9. Interview, or be interviewed by, experts.
I'm not talking about newspaper, radio or TV interviews; I'm talking about teleseminars and podcasts, which are very popular training methods these days. Many professional service providers, in particular coaches, offer educational teleseminars as part of a monthly membership club.
Whether you're the host interviewing an expert or you're the "guest expert" being interviewed by someone else, participating in such events sends the message that you understand the issues, and that experts in your field respect you as a peer. It's also an excellent way to leverage your time and expertise.
Be sure to take the recording or transcript of your teleseminar and adapt it for other reputation-building purposes. For example, you could create an article, a media release, a blog posting, an e-newsletter, an audio product or e-book that you sell on your website…
10. Be seen and photographed with leaders in your field.
If you attend a conference or training workshop at which a respected leader in your field is a keynote speaker, have your photograph taken with him/her, then use the photo on your website, in your brochure and e-newsletter, with your media releases… It shows that you're committed to learning and self-growth, and some of the VIP's celebrity might even rub off on you (after all, marketing is all about perceptions).
Finally, in all of these activities, be fearless about expressing your opinions boldly. Have the courage of your convictions, because in marketing, there's nothing worse than being bland, boring and inoffensive!
Copyright Kay Ross
Kay Ross is a Hong Kong-based marketing consultant & coach, editor and copywriter. She devises creative marketing strategies and crafts compelling English-language marketing communications messages that translate into bottom-line results for her clients. To learn more, visit www.kayross.com.