Whatever product you sell or service you offer, chances are you’re not the only one. How do you differentiate yourself from the next lawyer, chiropractor, florist, or widget maker? By putting yourself out there and establishing yourself as the foremost expert in your field. After all, someone has to be the reigning authority in your field, so why not make it you?
Here are five ways to position yourself as an expert in your field and build your niche market.
Step 1: Generate Good Content.
Providing advice and sharing valuable content in your field is one of the fastest ways to build a reputation as an expert among your niche, and there is a variety of ways to get your message out there:
Newsletter: Publish a regular newsletter and invite customers to subscribe from your website. The newsletter content itself can range from helpful checklists, to a “Tip of the Week,” to a full-fledged monthly ezine. Whatever you create, be sure that it’s something of value (as far as your readers are concerned) and not just a promotional piece asking people to buy your product or service. If your newsletter content is honest, conversational, and helpful, it will allow your readers to get to know, like, and trust you — which is the key to building your reputation and your success. Once you’ve earned your readers’ trust, you won’t have to ask for a sale; they’ll want to buy from you.
Blog: If you have time, consider starting a blog — it doesn’t have to be its own entity; rather, it can live within a dedicated section on your website. If that seems daunting, periodically offer up your services as a guest blogger to companies and websites relevant to your field. The fact that someone else is willing to share your content adds to your credibility. Start by researching blogs (like The Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Forbes Women) in your field of expertise and find out if they accept guest submissions.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn, the professionally oriented social networking site, gives all members the opportunity to publish their own content, whether it’s original or repurposed. If your target market is active on LinkedIn, take advantage of this free resource.
Step 2: Build a Presence on Social Media.
According to Jeff Bullas, 72 percent of all Internet users are active on social media; that likely includes your target demographic. But does it include you?
Social media can be overwhelming, so start simple: Research or poll your customers to determine which social media outlet (think: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) they are most active on and most frequently consult for product and service recommendations; then turn your attention there. Don’t try and tackle all social media platforms at one time. Just pick one and focus on it until you’ve built a following, then invite your followers to the next platform you explore.
Once you’ve picked the initial social media outlet you’re going to focus on, begin to build out your page and your brand identity, and post regularly. Facebook now allows you to schedule your posts six months in advance, and social media tools like Hootsuite allow you to schedule in advance as well. To begin, feature customer testimonials and any press mentions you have received. Customers also love to see behind-the-scenes activity, so don’t be afraid to pull back the curtain a bit and share what a day in the life of your business is like. People want to know there’s an actual person behind that website of yours!
If you’re not camera-shy, record a video on YouTube showing off your talents or, better yet, turn on your smartphone, and sign onto to live-broadcasting app Periscope, and share your expertise with the world in real time. YouTube and Periscope have both created overnight celebrities out of everyday people — Just look at Michelle Phan, the first woman to reach one billion views on YouTube (she recreates celebrity makeup looks), or YouTube’s Bethany Mota, who has more subscribers than Beyonce. And then there’s Periscope’s breakout star Amanda Oleander, a 25-year-old artist who became the medium’s “most-loved” user based on the number of “hearts” she’s earned from viewers.
Step 3: Be a Source.
Meet your new best friend: Help a Reporter Out (HARO), an online service set up for professional journalists to connect with the public to obtain expert advice and quotes for stories they cover. Sign up with HARO to become an expert and get your name out: It’s free to subscribe, and each day you’ll receive story pitches from journalists looking for sources.
There are a couple keys to maximizing your use of HARO:
When you see a post that you want to respond to, send the reporter everything he or she requested in the initial email. By the time you send the standard, “I’m interested and I fit the bill for your article” note, someone else will have already sent the journalist an email filled with print-worthy quotes ready for publishing.
Once you provide the requested information, set up a Google Alert for your own name and company to track any press mentions. These journalists are focused on their stories and deadlines. In my own personal experience, there have been times when the reporters haven’t had time to circle back to let me know they used my content, and I simply came across it on my own.
Step 4: Become a Public Speaker.
One of the best ways to position yourself as an industry expert is through speaking opportunities. To get started, volunteer to speak and share your expertise wherever you can, whether it’s at your local Chamber of Commerce or any professional club you are affiliated with. Better yet, host a lunch-and-learn for potential and existing clients (and encourage your regular clients to bring guests).
If this interests you, but you’re not sure you’re ready for the stage, sign up for a local public speaking class or course. Classes are offered at public libraries and local YMCAs. If you are ready to dedicate some real time and money to becoming a great speaker, look into the various Dale Carnegie Institute locations and Toastmasters programs throughout the country.
Once you’re comfortable in front of a crowd, you might even consider applying for a local TEDx talk. I gave a TEDx talk last year, and having that on my resume has opened many doors for me to share my expertise on networking and relationship-building.
Step 5: Explore Podcasting.
Maybe the stage isn’t for you, but you still have a message you’d like to get out there.. Podcasting is the wave of the future; you can start your own show in a few easy steps and launch it directly on iTunes.
If you’re not ready to commit to your own Podcast, research the shows that target your market, reach out to them, and offer to be a guest. Podcasters who use an interview format on their shows are always seeking experts in a variety of fields; it’s just a matter of finding the right match for you.
Whether you share your expertise through the written word, on stage, or behind a microphone, the experience gives you the added cache you need to rise to expert status in no time.
Jenny Powers is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.