Have you come across Red Adair’s quote “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur”? Red was an expert in the extremely dangerous profession of putting out fires in blazing oil wells. He must have been fairly good at it, as he lived to the ripe age of 89.
Luckily, blazing oil wells are not a problem most of us encounter in our day to day. However, many of us have found out the real cost of hiring an amateur for specialist tasks or trying to do everything yourself. The costs aren’t necessary direct – they can also take the form of time that could have been better spent, and missed opportunities by not doing things ‘well enough’.
After this discovery, there is a leap in understanding that hiring a professional is an investment rather than a cost.
But when you’re paying hard cold cash, is it enough just to hire a professional? Wouldn’t you want to hire the expert in the area you need help with? Someone who could give you the best chance of achieving a great result?
If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Most people who have committed to investing in a solution want to feel secure that they are choosing the best their money can buy – and this includes service providers.
If you are in the business of selling your services, it can be especially beneficial to establish yourself as an expert so that you can move away from the trap of competing on price. The right customers understand that paying for an expert’s services is an investment, rather than a cost. And the more expert you are, the less of an issue price will be.
Experts are professionals who have set themselves apart by demonstrating a special proficiency in a particular subject or area. Customers that value a high-quality outcome over a cheap price will want to deal with an expert because they trust that their investment will pay dividends far exceeding what they spend.
How to establish yourself as an expert in your field
Learning to establish yourself as an expert in your field helps draw clients to you and decreases the importance of cost as a deciding factor. This doesn’t just apply to traditional professions where expertise is expected, such as medicine, law or finance. You can succeed as an expert plasterer, graphic designer or even dog groomer. You’ll just need to consider the size of the market, need/demand for your services and how much a good outcome means to your customers.
Here are some steps to follow to establish yourself as an expert:
Focus on a niche and specialise
It’s very hard to establish yourself as an expert in a broad subject area because there are so many other people competing for the title. However, if you focus on a niche or specialist offer within your area, there are less people offering the same thing and more chance to dominate the market.
For example, instead of trying to establish yourself as an expert plasterer, how about becoming an expert in luxury polished or Venetian plaster finishes? If your services must be delivered in person within a particular geographic area, you’ll need to research whether demand for your niche service will be enough to sustain a business. However, if you are specialising in a skilled area where there is demand but few experts, you may be able to charge a premium price that would require fewer jobs to make a good living.
Don’t just be an expert graphic designer – in the online world you could be competing with hundreds of thousands of others internationally, with wildly varying costs and quality. Differentiate yourself by being the expert graphic designer for the vocational education sector or specialise in developing brands for organic products. Your greatest challenge (the ability for graphic designers to deliver their output anywhere in the world) could become your greatest opportunity. As an expert in a particular niche, your services could be in demand far from your actual location and with electronic delivery there is little to stop you in this particular field.
Once you find a niche, it’s not only easier to establish yourself as an expert and become the ‘go-to’ person in your field – it clarifies your marketing messages and helps you develop a much more targeted marketing strategy.
Commit to ongoing learning
You won’t be the only one who understands the value of being the expert in your area. To stay at the top of your field, don’t rest on your laurels. Commit to practicing your craft and refining your skills by taking advantage of opportunities to learn.
This may involve reading online content and books on your subject, staying up-to-date with the latest news and development in your area or attending conferences, workshops and training. Ongoing learning may take up a greater commitment in fields such as online marketing which are constantly changing, but if you are one of the few keeping up you will be in a better competitive position than those who aren’t.
Content marketing is one of the most valuable ways to position yourself as an expert in your field. Writing content for your own blog or on social media is one of the easiest ways to get started, but you can also ‘pitch’ your expertise to editors. For example, if you are a dog groomer specialising in breeds with woolly coats, you could contact publications such as Dogs Life Magazine about submitting or being interviewed for a ‘woolly breed grooming tips’ article.
Social media is also a publication platform. If your clients are generally other businesses, you can consider publishing content directly on LinkedIn to establish your credibility. Sharing hints and tips on Facebook is another opportunity to publish and get noticed.
Be generous with information and teach others what you know
Sometimes specialists have a fear of sharing their ‘intellectual property’ in case people take unfair advantage of the information. However, being generous and open with your expertise is one of the best sales tools in your arsenal. This is why free webinars and reports are such a powerful marketing tool for many experts. Rather than ‘stealing’ your information, potential clients will be impressed with your knowledge and grow to trust that you are the expert they are looking for.
Teaching is a formalised way of sharing information. Whether this takes the form of a presentation at a networking group or small business centre, or a short course; the more you teach, the more people will see you as an expert. This in turn will lead to bigger and better opportunities to present to larger and more selective groups of potential clients that you may not be able to reach through other marketing channels.
The other benefit of teaching or sharing information is that explaining a concept clearly to others can help us solidify our understanding and deepen our expertise.
Know where your expertise ends
Part of being an expert is understanding where your expertise ends. Be clear and honest about what you do and don’t know, and build relationships with people who have expertise in areas that you don’t.
That way, if you’re a graphic designer who specialises in branding for organic businesses, you don’t have to feel compromised when you’re asked to design an annual report for a mining company. You can simply refer the work to a colleague who specialises in graphic design for the resource sector and keep your own brand image intact. In the mysterious ways of karma (or the rule of reciprocity) the more relevant work you refer to others, the more you will attract yourself.
What if you don’t think you’re an expert yet?
There aren’t too many of us that wake up brim full of self-confidence thinking that we are the best in the world at what we do. And it does take time to become a true expert. In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladwell asserts that it takes 10,000 hours of consistent and high quality practice to become a ‘world-class expert’ in any area. That’s about 5 to 6 years of full time work for a normal person.
However, if we:
- focus on developing expertise in a niche in which we already have skills and knowledge;
- Generously share that knowledge with others, through discussions, publications and teaching; and
- Commit to ongoing improvement and learning
we too can be on our way to be known as the ‘expert’ in our own little piece of business. This focus alone can set your business apart from an undifferentiated mass of competitors, allowing you to clearly articulate what you offer and become the obvious choice for your target market.
Being an expert doesn’t necessarily mean making grand claims and bragging about your ‘expert status’. The most trusted experts may never call themselves that. They are known as experts because of what they offer, not what they call themselves. In fact, it may only be their clients who refer to them as experts – which is a much more powerful form of social proof than making that claim about yourself.
What will you do this week to establish yourself as an expert?
Do you need some evidence of your expertise?
Hook and Loop can write and design your professional marketing materials and website. Call us on 0404 086 140 or send us a message
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