Every professional should aspire to being an Authority to their chosen audience in my view.
The ideal is you have top-of-mind-awareness with your target market of course, but more than just being the first person they think of when a particular issue arises, you want to be positioned as their only viable choice if they want it resolved properly.
That is the ultimate marketing position: Becoming the only viable choice for your ideal customers to turn to when the issue arises in which you are the acknowledged expert. The challenge for many professionals is figuring out how to become that authority.
The pathway is relatively straightforward, although not easy or swift. Before outlining that pathway though one thing we should understand is that becoming an authority figure in a specialist area is extremely difficult to do if one is focussed on being a superb all-rounder. For the general practitioner who has mastered a diverse knowledge set and has wide ranging skills it can be difficult (though not impossible) to position as an authority whilst also delivering holistic a wide ranging services. This means that for many professionals there will come a time where a fundamental career choice must be made:
- Become an authority, or expert, in a particular area. Or,
- Be a great general practitioner.
For those who wish to become an acknowledged authority we can take a lesson from the academic world. Professors don’t get tenure until their expertise is clearly acknowledged and accepted for example. Their pathway to that position obviously begins with learning and mastering their subject matter area of course, but once mastery of the topic is attained they still have a way to g before being acknowledged as an authority. Their next steps are “get published”. Conducting research and publishing the results and new thinking that arises from that research; publishing technical content for their peers; and then being seen as an expert in that area whom the general public or wider industry turns to for guidance or opinion is their pathway.
So it is with any professional if we think about it. This is where todays most effective marketing strategy intersects with professional aspirations: Content Marketing.
The path to becoming a thought leader in your field is through a combination of volume, or regularity, of content produced together with increasingly specific content. The beginning though is simply establishing a presence and becoming known in the wider world. Over time the content created and delivered should be increasingly focussed on your chosen area of expertise, with a particular emphasis upon demonstrating your mastery of the topic area. The volume of generic material will decrease in time as content becomes more specific to a target market need or specialist skill area. However the depth of the content produced in terms of its thoughtfulness and its potential impact on both your audience and the wider market will increase in magnitude.
At its most simple one could summarise this pathway by saying:
- to begin with, concentrate of getting your presence out there. Lots.
- then deliver lots of relatively straightforward, but useful and relevant, content for your target market.
- remember: build an audience while doing so, and make sure you capture that audience in mail lists or CRM systems.
- once you have an audience, begin to incorporate more technical content about your chosen area of expertise into what you deliver
- now bring your expertise to life with working examples and case studies and thoughtful opinions about the area of expertise
- you can then get publicity from wider industry or media about your opinions and published pieces.
- finally, begin to narrow your personal branding to that area of authority – give your personal branding authority in your chosen field.
Over time the type and volume of content you will produce will change, the key lesson though is that publishing content is the link between professional aspiration to be an “authority”, and actually getting to be one in the eyes of the marketplace.