Written by our Master Bill Lewis
In this competitive world, you need an edge. Some entrepreneurs and businesses can step ahead of their competition: I will show you, and tell you how – in easy steps.
Are you an authority-based business? Can you gain further competitive edge by exploiting your expertise and authority in a (your) market? Should you change your strategy to encompass authority-based marketing?
What is an authority-based business?
In an authority based business there is an exceptionally high-level all expertise, knowledge, and experience – operating at mastery level in all cases – which underpins the organization’s core proposition. It is the attainment of this exceptional capability that opens up the possibility of positioning your business as THE authority based business in your field. How? By the adoption and incorporation of authority based marketing in your marketing mix. (Authority based marketing? I am coming to that, see below).
How does an authority-based business differ from any other?
In the conventional business, and in most models, the marketing approach is to see people as customers (instead of community members, which I will explain in a moment). When people are seen as customers, marketing is singularly focused on getting more customers, constantly topping up the pipeline, turning over order after order. There are various strategies to do this, including advertising, pushing out loads of content, cutting prices, revamping the website, employing search engine optimization, and social media and so on. All these activities generate enquiries, customers, potential customers, and a lot of churn. The cost to continue to refill the funnel with more bodies is significant.
How do you get customers to come to you?
For certain businesses, there is a more effective and solid way to get customers to come to you. Rather than finding customers, you set out to design and build a community. You may use some elements of the “normal” marketing approach, but the objective is different. The end goal is to create a community of people, who use, or will use, your product or service. This community sees you as the figurehead authority and the “go to destination” for advice and products and services, as a leader in your field.
First, and foremost, you will focus on publishing high-quality, focused content. In no time, potential customers come to you as an expert, and it is here the difference in approach manifests. The authority based business sets out to create a community which not only receives content from the subject guru – in the form of articles, blogs, posts, emails, webinars and updates – but the community is set up to enable members to gain value not only from the leading authority but from each other, and debate and discussion inside the community is encouraged.
The authority-based business occupies a leader position by virtue of the quality and regularity of its output and its acknowledged specialist expertise in a focused sector. In authority-based marketing speak, the business is seen as the “category leader”.
People follow the leader for content, and they stay for the benefits they receive as part of the community. The leader’s position is cemented and the leader becomes the natural go to destination for any work that arise in their area of focused expertise.
Authorities have global value – this is your edge!
We can distinguish between real authorities (we now know these are called category leaders) in a specific industry or sector and those who are, maybe, less qualified and can offer less value. The category leader has gained extensive experience from years in the trenches, being exposed to a wide array of situations, problems, and challenges and has had to create solutions in multiple, difficult environments. Contrast this with the majority of businesses, where the level of expertise may be described as” adequate for purpose” or “good enough”.
Category leaders have global value, they are the ones who are can guarantee the resolution of the situation in the most effective manner. They are the ones who, due to depth of insight and experience, understand not just today’s challenges but they anticipate the challenges tomorrow. In this way, they ensure that their clients, and the community, are prepared for developments that are coming down the track.
A need – authorities are acutely focused
Authorities (category leaders) are acutely focused on their sector, or domain of expertise. They do not trying to be all things to all people. They are on top of the game; they are a “learning machine” where they constantly create and / or absorb the latest thinking, trends, and developments, and set them in the context of their deep knowledge. They then set this updated knowledge in the context of their community’s challenges, fears, desires, and wants.
What you are going to do
Authority based marketing seeks to establish an entrepreneur, a professional, or an organization (in the latter case, through the expertise of one or a small number of in house gurus) as the source of deep expertise in a particular field. They are positioned as the primary voice on the topic he or she, or they, specialize in.
We know the people look for trusted sources and advisers to educate them and solves issues. People want to make informed decisions. By being positioned as the category leader at the epicenter of a category or niche, or sector, it is a natural outcome that potential customers seek you out, rather than you seeking them. They seek you out, not just for information and knowledge, but also to buy product and services.
How do I become a recognized authority or category leader?
To attain this position there are three basic steps:
1. Identify your specialty
Because true authorities are authorities on a specific topic or business sector or niche and the more differentiated you are, the better. Your credentials will be based on experience, knowledge, and your track record. (Side note, Google likes specialists and in the language of Google you become a “topical authority” – good for page ratings.)
Be specific, highly specific. Some examples:
- Leadership is a big topic. So you need to get specific. Why? You don’t want to be lost in a crowd, and, secondly, there may be very few people in your sub niche thus enabling you to stand out as the go to person / organization. For example, you may specialize in leadership in the maritime industry, or even more specifically your expertise is leadership in the management of offshore fleets.
- Entrepreneurship is another big topic but the category that I have chosen (based on a lot of work across my career) is “growing entrepreneurs who exploit technology”. This is highly specific.
- In the software sector, if you describe yourself as an expert in “building software apps” you place yourself in a large pond, and you are one of thousands, if not millions, of developers. However if you specialize in “embedded real-time communication apps” this provides the opportunity for you to emerge as an authority and leader.
Remember, the authority and leader becomes the natural “go to destination”. For someone wanting (in this latter case) to exploit embedded real-time communication the category leader is the natural supplier.
2. Demonstrate and communicate your Authority
To establish yourself (and / or your business), and to exploit the deep knowledge and experience that you have, you need these essentials to execute through authority-based marketing:
- A demonstrable, long term, deep track record in your specialized field. You will assess your expertise against other claimed authorities in your field, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and understanding where you are positioned
- You define a value proposition which differentiates you from other authorities
- You regularly publish high quality content (we know there is a plethora of noise on the web much of the content is intelligent entertainment at best and moving or printed wallpaper, at its worst)
- You will need to build a future roadmap of content; you will focus on the current and our upcoming areas of interest
- Your content will educate, challenge, and provide actionable steps to help people apply their knowledge to difficult situations
- Write a book. A book creates Instant credibility; it is a tool for sharing information. Don’t be alarmed; you do not need to write “War and Peace. The collection of well researched, quality blogs that you have published over a period can form a foundation of a book and can be a trusted go to source
- Speak and teach. Share your content virtually; or in front of an audience if you can. Use a variety of situations, workshops, and webinars. There is a caveat, the more senior the authority figure, and the more strategic and corporate the advice, the more focused is your audience,
- Connect with the media. Build your position as an authority by offering yourself as an expert source to media, Radio, TV, print, Internet. (You may find a useful resource is http://www.helpareporter.com )
- Manage your content. Large pieces of content such as a substantive article maybe broken down into micro blog posts, tweets, and sound bites.
3. Create a community
To start with, there are some basic questions. The fundamentals are:
- What is the objective and scope of the community? This directly relates to your expertise and the requirements of your potential audience and customers
- Is the community private (invitation only), or anyone can register?
- What type of interaction do you want to promote – do you want your members to start a discussion with each other – and host a forum? Do you want to publish content and have the discussion centered on your publication?
- What kind of people do you want in the community and what is their “tone of voice”. Is it formal or informal?
Once you have answer to these questions, you need to decide where and how you going to use to host the (Your) community?
There are a large number of community engagement platforms available.
One example is CMNTY (www.cmnty.com). This platform has a forum, a journal for one on one discussions, blog, stepboard for discussions, chat, news, pages – not cheap but comprehensive – see here for more details.
There are a wide number of other platforms, and a review and survey of available resources can be found here and here. And a seriously in depth compendium of resources can be found at Feverbee here and a free open source platform is myBB here .
Two key lessons:
- Becoming and being an authority is a process, it does not happen overnight. You need to be committed, understand the how and why this approach fits into your marketing mix
- Communities need activity to survive. Unlike social media, where users can go away for weeks or even months and just come back when they feel like it – and see a current stream or news feed, communities need activity and constant investment and attention. But the rewards are significant.
- Focus on adding value to your audience before you ask anything from them. Truly engage with them, care about what they care about, and be the solution to meet that need.
Are you a category expert? If so, then you should take a deep and hard look at authority based marketing.
Want to know more on this topic? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.